Tag Archives: Danny Granger

When it falls down, who you gonna call now?

lucidtech | Flickr

Noam and Amin try to break down what’s going on with Miami, where Indiana’s future is taking them, and how teams can be successful over the long haul.

Noam: This Heat-Pacers series has been something of a basketball treat. All games have been competitive, excepting those in which Udonis Haslem goes 8 of 9 from the field (which, incredibly, amounts to more than one game). Paul George and Roy Hibbert have made themselves household names. Chris Andersen LITCHERALLY hasn’t missed a shot. And that LeBron guy is pretty good. Having seen these two squads matched up two years in a row, I would gladly sign up for another four or five.

You posit an interesting question on Twitter, though: could the Pacers possibly be considered as favorites in any future permutations of this series? Of Miami’s core, only LeBron, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are on the right side of 30. More importantly, Dwyane Wade, supposedly among the younger-oldies at 31, has seen fluctuations between his prime self and a sadder, broken down version happen frequently and violently. On the other side, Indiana’s starting wings are 22 and 23, with latter doubling as a third-team All-NBA premier wing defender. Roy Hibbert is 26, George Hill is 27.

But Indiana, for all its up-and-coming appeal, does have a major age concern. That would be David West, 33 by the time 2013-14 will tip off. He had ACL surgery two years ago, and while he seems to have recovered admirably, he plays a very physical game. Indiana’s strength is in their five man unit, but if one declines sharply, are we sure that balance isn’t irrevocably disrupted? Could growth on the wings, as well as the incremental improvements Hill and Hibbert project to make as they hit their prime, be enough to offset West’s age?

Amin: First of all, I don’t want your Chris Traeger reference to go unacknowledged. Well done, sir.

Second of all, yes my question is interesting. That’s sort of what I was alluding to. Indiana’s core–aside from West–is on the upswing. I could see West decline (as you said, he’s 33, he had ACL surgery, and he plays a tough, low-post game), but he looks like he’s declining gradually. I think that’s kind of the most ideal situation for any player in any sport, but especially for a guy who plays how he does. West will be slightly less effective next year, but he won’t have a stark drop off. Hibbert should improve, right? Will he make up for any potential deficiencies in West? Will Indiana let Hansbrough walk and pick up a backup PF who has a little more offense up his sleeve? Maybe Indiana can pounce on Thomas Robinson’s availability and play him heavy minutes behind West? Wowee.

Then, you’ve got the potential re-addition of Granger. Assuming Granger can play at even 75% of his former self… that’s pretty good. Granger is an effective scorer and a great defender. He gave LeBron fits during their intra-division CLE-IND series a few years ago. Granger also doesn’t seem like the type of player who would be difficult to fit back into a Pacers-style offense or defense. And based on the Pacers’ slower offense and their need for a wing upgrade over Gerald Green, slotting Paul George at the 2 (with Lance Stephenson behind) and Granger at the 3 seems like it would make the Pacers really good without causing extra stress/undue injury to Granger and his recover. And when I say “good” I mean “really really good.”Back to Miami real quick: Even with a very effective post game, LeBron + a bunch of other guys is probably not a championship team, right? That’s what existed in Cleveland, and it was proven time and again that LeBron needed a bit more reliability from the rest of the roster. That reliability came in Miami in the form of 1 guy who can get to the free throw line at will to close any gap (Wade) and another guy who is essentially guaranteed to make any shot if he’s wide open (Bosh). Those two players were not available in Cleveland. I am saying this as an unabashed Cleveland homer and someone who is rooting for a team with TYLER HANSBROUGH to beat the Heat.

Sorry about the Cleveland-aside. FOCUS. Ahem, OK. So, what I’ve noticed during this series is that the Pacers have been VERY good at preventing LeBron and Wade from living at the free throw line. As Derek alluded to in his piece, they’ve also effectively neutralized Chris Bosh’s impact by drawing him away from the basket on nearly every possession and contesting every shot he puts up. Miami has been relying on LeBron (as it should) and a 20-point performance by random role player X on any given night. Last night, it was Udonis Haslem. Haslem played really well, and the Heat needed every bucket he made–if not for their points then for their momentum.

When you look at the Heat’s roster, LeBron and Bosh are still in their primes, Cole and Chalmers are still young, and pretty much everyone else is a dinosaur in NBA years. Also, Chris Bosh is still possibly a dinosaur, but for other reasons (JOKES!). Going into next season–and more important the next postseason–if you have this same roster, you have LeBron still in his prime, a Bosh that people can figure out, an OK Chalmers/Cole backcourt (OK in Miami, average or less elsewhere), a Wade whose bad nights are starting to outnumber is good nights, a Ray Allen/Shane Battier combo that not doing its only required task of making open 3s, a revolving door of bigs, and Udonis Haslem. That’s… not gonna cut it.

Sorry, guess that wasn’t quick. But as it stands now, Indiana’s got options and are generally moving uphill. The Heat are still going to be good, but with their cap situation, they’re really only going to be able to make changes around the edges… and right now, their potential long term problems are with their core.

What do you think the next step for both teams will be to make sure we’ve got a rematch of them in the ECF next year?

Noam: It’s hard to throw out a foolproof ECF plan just because so many things can go wrong – injuries, luxury tax, injuries, random bounces, injuries, Nate Robinson catching fire, injuries. My gut says Miami is pretty much fine staying the course, as Erik Spoelstra would say, using the mini-MLE to get another 3-and-D guy (but maybe a less decrepit one this time, eh?) and gambling on a few minimum deal bigs. Indiana might be more interesting – I think convincing cases can be made for both keeping and trading Danny Granger, West is a free agent and could potentially come out of this summer either overpaid or in another jersey, the Pacer bench is epically horrendous. Also, after they refused to give up the 23rd pick in the draft for J.J. Redick, I demand that they either sign J.J. Redick or find a way to draft an immediate contributor with that pick. DEMAND IT, I SAY. HEAR ME, DONNIE?! However, I will immediately turn on my designation of Indiana being more interesting than Miami and ask you this question: is Miami’s run for a repeat title a historic abberation? This whole Wade business creates a unique vibe around the Heat – the way they came together and the mere existence of a 28 year old LeBron James makes them seem dynastic, and yet, as covered earlier, they might just be headed for a decline. We’ve seen teams win the title in a manner that seemingly dooms the following decade (Jordan Bulls, Duncan Spurs, any Laker title team ever), and we’ve seen teams win titles while giving the impression that they’re about to fall off from that level (the 2011 Mavs are a prime example of that), but do you remember any other team ever looking like it may just be both?

Amin: There are three important variables in this evaluation: 1) The CBA and salary cap, 2) Are any of the things that LeBron/Wade/Bosh do things that other players can do? and 3) What is Miami’s draft outlook looking like?

If you want this 3-man core to be dynastic, then the ret of the roster needs to be filled out in the same way as San Antonio’s. You gotta draft, develop, and trade your way into good parts that fulfill some of the tasks (or cover the deficiencies of) your core guys. And you gotta have the money to do it. If you do, you start to play your core guys fewer minutes as they get older, but the system is locked down. Alternatively, you can do what Dallas does and break the bank, stack, and reload the roster later around 1 or 2 pieces.

Right now, the Heat have a lot of good players, one great player, and two guys in between that are injured so are playing as good-level. Now, San Antonio has definitely recovered from a situation like that, but they’ve also consistently had draft picks and a well-managed cap. There’s a good chance Miami can pick up the same great play next year–like 99% certainty if Wade is healthy–but the nature of the Heat’s management of those 3 Spursian variables points to them not being able to turn this team into a 3+ championship dynasty like they hubristically promised.

In today’s CBA, is 3 rings the best anyone can do? Will the Spurs be terrible after their core retires/leaves? Can any team maintain contender or semi-contender status for 10+ years anymore? 5+ years, even?

Noam: The Thunder will be the ultimate test case for that, won’t they? They’ve hit all the theoretical checkpoints by drafting a transcendent star in Durant, finding another all-star to flank him in Russ, and being good enough early enough so his prime isn’t wasted. It’s what the Cavs couldn’t do with LeBron – they got to the Finals in his fourth year, one year ahead of the pace Durant set for OKC, but they did it with a supporting cast that was mostly veterans and role players. As LeBron continued to grow, they wilted instead. I think that’s the point that makes San Antonio so unique – David Robinson sitting out in 96-97 gave them their two cornerstones as a starting point, and they capitalized even further on that by inexplicably picking up two more in Tony and Manu. Without discrediting their developmental system, there are only so many such players percolating through depth charts, and grabbing several of them closely enough to have them all hit their primes together (or, in two different batches) requires immense amounts of luck.

Could it happen again? Sure, in theory. It’s hard to say if there are any other candidates for such a run, though. The Pacers are trying, but Paul George isn’t LeBron or Durant, and Hibbert is more Ibaka than Westbrook. Since this has somehow become a heavily anti-Cleveland exchange, we should point out that Kyrie might be that kind of transformative talent, and is being smartly surrounded by players his age, though none of the Waiters/Thompson/Zeller(/Nerlens Noel?) seems to be of the Westbrook caliber. There are some other tandems that one might throw out there – Chris Paul/Blake, Rose/Noah, Rubio/Love, Harden/Morey Acquisition X, Andrew Wiggins/Whoever Is On The Roster That Drafts Andrew Wiggins – but all are stretches, whether because they are dependent on unknown qualities, or because the known qualities have so far been lacking.

Is that CBA-designed or just plain happenstance? I would call it the latter, but it’ll be hard to tell without the benefit of hindsight. After all, this Spurs stretch is an outlier not just for the 2010s, but throughout NBA history. Outside of Red Auerbach being decades ahead of the curve, the Lakers continuously getting hall of fame centers, and the greatest player of all time existing, these things tend not to happen more often than they do. Again, the viability of the model could hinge on where OKC lands, with the Harden trade as the potential turning point. It’s an interesting wrench in that it simultaneously rid them of a third all-star, but brought in some assets that, if maximized, could theoretically bring in some of those young assets to develop in the Spursian manner you mentioned. If their run is cut shorter than we envisioned when this team came together, the Harden trade could become the turning point in NBA dynasty building.

Which brings us back to the Heat. They seem to be staring down some financial issues of their own – they’re scheduled to be repeater tax payers the moment such designations become available. If Wade’s knees don’t ruin everything, could his contract? Could Bosh’s? Are they due for a Harden trade of their own? Or, conversely, LeBron walking next summer before his supporting cast is torn apart? God, these would be great questions to discuss retroactively during all the free time we’ll have in the 2017 lockout.

Amin: Game 6 seemed to exacerbate all the same questions we had after Game 5. It’s going to be tough to figure out what Miami needs to do, but they need to do something. Be it a Harden-type trade, a use of the amnesty provision, any other type of trade that creates some complementarity and reliability… something. I don’t think they anticipated their core becoming unstable like this so quickly. And I don’t think any of us did either.

Danny Granger’s Lost Season Breeds An Uncertain Future

In the summer of 2008, three young small forwards signed hefty long-term contracts with their incumbent teams.

Restricted free agent Luol Deng got 6 years and $72 million from the Bulls, overcoming both contentious negotiations and an injury plagued 2007-08 campaign in which the team inexplicably slipped from an up-and-coming juggernaut to a 33-49 mess.

Fellow 2004 draft mate and RFA Andre Iguodala got 6 years and $80 million from the Philadelphia 76ers, who had just completed the free agent snatching of Elton Brand and were hoping to unleash a monster two-man tandem on an unsuspecting conference.

Meanwhile, Danny Granger, drafted a year later than those two, got a 5 year, $60 million extension from the Indiana Pacers right before the October 31st deadline, spared the need to muck through the waters of restricted free agency and cemented as the team’s post-Jermaine O’Neal cornerstone.

Over the following seasons, these three players (and some might add Josh Smith, another 2008 RFA) became something of a symbol of the perils of paying the supporting actor like the lead. Deng played just 49 games in 2008-09, as the Bulls turned their attention to Derrick Rose; Brand broke down instantly, leaving Iguodala to shoulder too heavy a load and take too large a portion of the blame; and Granger’s Pacers wallowed in mediocrity, firmly entrenched as the best Eastern team outside the playoff picture, even as Granger made his only all-star team in 2008-09.

A few years later, the narrative has flipped for two of the three. Deng, health re-discovered, had the burden of a cornerstone lifted, fitting in perfectly as an indestructible workhorse that does everything Tom Thibodeau asks him to. Iguodala lead the Sixers to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since that other AI, and was then shipped out to Denver, where an ensemble cast magnifies his strengths and covers for his weaknesses. If you were to press enough, you would still hear admissions that they are overpaid, but it no longer defined them.

Granger, done for the season all of 5 games in, is a trickier story. Even last season, when he was still leading his team in scoring, he was easy to criticize for his declining percentages and all-around contributions. He did not have the luxury Deng had, of a well-defined role in the shadow of a superstar, and he is not nearly the defender Iguodala is, which often helps us excuse players on account of showing effort. Both Deng and Iguodala made the all-star team last year, for the first time in their careers; Granger was left on the outside looking in despite posting the best offensive numbers of the three and his team performing well, as Roy Hibbert took the token Pacer spot.

Now, as the Pacers battle for second place in the conference without him, Granger has become downright dismissed. In reality, the Pacers improving without Granger is a congruence of many orthogonal factors. In no particular order, Paul George’s emergence as an all-star caliber player, Lance Stephenson’s emergence as an NBA caliber player, David West being another year removed from surgery, George Hill being given the keys to the point guard position full-time, Roy Hibbert’s defensive improvement, and the overall ineptitude of the East have all played tremendous roles in the Pacers flying high.

Additionally, it should be noted that while the Pacers may be winning more than they did last season, they are doing so by jumping from the league’s 10th best defense to its best, bar none. Offensively, Indiana has slipped from the league’s 9th best offense at 103.5 points per 100 possessions last season, to rank 19th at 101.7 this season. While the offense has improved as the season has progressed and Hibbert’s post game has come back from the dead, there’s a whole lot of no-Danny-Granger in those offensive numbers.

Granger was the team’s primary offensive creator last year, and those 19 points on 15 shots went a long way for a team that struggled to score without him. But even if his shot attempts can be given to other players, the spacing he creates is sorely missing without him. Those 08-09 percentages can be long gone, but opposing defenses note Granger is a constant scoring threat, and tilt accordingly. No matter how good Lance Stephenson has been this season, he doesn’t get that same attention. It’s no coincidence that Indiana scored 8.3 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court last season, or that the team’s offensive rating gradually improved throughout last season in accordance with Granger’s own scoring numbers.

But the main point here isn’t the Pacers – they’ll be fine, with an exciting young quasi-star in George, good pieces around him, and a lot of flexibility going forward. The main point here is Granger, and a career that is suddenly careening towards the unknown. While constantly reminding that we know nothing of anything, it’s hard to feel optimistic about the future. Knees are fickle beings, and Granger, at 29, is somehow already 4 years removed from his best year, on a roster that could use him but is also doing well without him.

It’s unfair, to say the least. Granger arrived just as the O’Neal-Artest dynasty that never was fizzled away. He persevered as the franchise bid its sweet time, providing as convincing a facsimile of a franchise player as he could as trade rumors danced around him. In a perfect world, he too would complete the transformation Iguodala and Deng have gone through, hitting his prime just as this new core rises, settling in as a player who, depending on the given night, ranges from first to fourth option on a semi-contender. Instead, with one more season on that contract extension, there are only questions.

Statistical support for this piece from NBA.com.

Pacers in Peril?

St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Wallyg via flickr

And so ends the luck of the Pacers.

Yesterday, it was announced that Danny Granger will miss three months  after getting an injection to deal with his injured left patellar tendon, bring an end to a remarkable and oft-remarked upon string of good fortune for the Pacers. Last season, Indianapolis’ main line up of Collison-George-Granger-West-Hibbert played together for 985.97 minutes. The second closest starting line up? The Phoenix Suns, at 744.88. That number, and the fact that Indiana managed to remain so healthy for an entire season despite back-to-back-to-backs, is nothing short of miraculous. It was also, as most predicted and as evidenced by this very injury, nearly impossible to reproduce. 

Granger’s injury is a serious blow to a team that many thought to be the second best team in the East, and stood a puncher’s (a very small puncher, like a 5 year old against Ali in his prime) chance at dethroning the Miami Heat. Granger is capable of scoring in a myriad of fashions, from sinking threes (attempting 5.2 a game with a 57.2 eFG%, according to Hoopdata) to driving to the rim (3.2 attempts at 55.7 FG%). It’s certainly not a coincidence that, in Granger’s absence, Indiana has struggled mightily to score from both of those areas, or really any area. Per Zach Lowe of Grantland:

A lot of their pick-and-roll game was basically David West just cutting down the middle and catching a pass from Hill; there wasn’t much aggressive dribble penetration. But there was some, especially when Collison came into the game. About 10 percent of Indy’s possessions ended with a pick-and-roll ball handler finishing the play last season, and another 9 percent were isolations, per Synergy Sports. Those numbers are both way down this season, and the Pacers can’t make a shot or hold on to the ball out of those play types — at least so far. They are also ice-cold on spot-up jumpers, many of which come via the pick-and-roll. Basically, the downgrade from Granger/Collison to Green/Augustin has robbed them of a lot of individual creativity. Can they adjust?

Lowe’s end point as to whether the Pacers can adjust is vital to Indiana’s success. Fortunately for Vogel, the Pacers are not a one-man team, and the coach has at his disposal a few options to compensate for the loss of Granger.

One option is to essentially move the starting back court of Paul George and George Hill up a spot, so George becomes the small forward and Hill becomes the shooting guard, with Augustin assuming the starting point guard role. Hill has had success at the two spot. According to 82games.com, when Hill played the two last year, his eFG% per 48 minutes rose from .465 to .576, while his points per 48 minutes increased from 17.0 to 19.7. Trouble arose, however, on the defensive end, as bigger shooting guards were able to take advantage of the smaller Hill, evidenced by opponents’ eFG% per 48 rising from .387 with Hill at the point to .461 with Hill at the two.

Paul George’s production as he switches positions is a mixed bag, as his points (18.6 to 21.8 per 48) and free throw attempts (3.7 to 6.2 per 48) both rise, while his fouls (4.4 to 5.4) and opponents’ rebounds (5.9 to 8.5) both experience an uptick.

Another option for Vogel would be to keep Hill and George at their current positions and insert Gerald Green as the starting small forward. While Green has certainly matured since he first came into the league, this is certainly the riskier option. The Pacers desperately need shooting, and Green is only shooting 28(!) percent from three per 36 minutes, according to basketball-reference.com

Still, we should hesitate to declare Indiana’s season a lost cause. It’s not as if Indiana is completely devoid of talent after Granger. Paul George continues to grow in every facet of the game, Daivd West’s mid-range jumper is still as reliable as a Kevin Garnett illegal screen, and Roy Hibbert is arguably the second best center in the East. They’ll struggle, yes, and it seems as if the Collison/Augustin trade may have been a mistake, but the Eastern Conference is weak at the bottom, so there’s no reason to think that the Pacers can’t still make it into the playoffs.

A Horrible Brand Of A Wonderful Type Of An Awful Kind Of Really Good

Photo from johnsam via Flickr

The Indiana Pacers had quite a bright outlook coming in to this season. They were coming off a well-fought playoff series as your plucky young 8th seed. They made some really nice moves both before and after the lockout, bringing in a 3rd guard who is somehow both proven and youthful in George Hill, a former all-star at the tail end of his prime (albeit coming off major knee surgery) in David West, and even pulled off a minor trade that I really liked even though it will probably end up being completely inconsequential in the Brandon Rush for Lou Amundson trade.

And generally, it has worked out. The Pacers are sitting atop a fine 9-4 record after foolishly blowing a large lead to the Kings last night, and have developed upon the feisty persona that ultimately wasn’t enough against the superior Bulls. The Pacers rank an impressive 4th in the league at defensive efficiency, and it seems that Frank Vogel is doing a fantastic job at managing his merry men. With depth at every position, and such long-limbed luminaries such as Paul George, Danny Granger, and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers are getting their hands on everything and everybody.

What’s truly been incredible, though, is the Pacers’ offense. Because as good as their record has been, a team so incapable of scoring should not be capable of winning at this rate.

The Pacers are shooting a remarkably bad 41.5% from the field. Just think about that. The Pacers, as a team – the entire team – can’t even make more shots than Chris Duhon. CHRIS DUHON!!! How does this even happen?! The only teams who have been worse in the entire NBA are the Kings (woof), the Wizards (wooooof), and the Knicks. Those poor, poor Knicks. They’ve actually been nearly as good at shooting from behind the arc, going 37.2% from 3 point range, which is good for 7th in the league, but because they haven’t been attempting many 3 pointers at all (25th in the league at 14.1 a night, though some of the teams directly above them play much slower), their effective field goal percentage is still an atrocious 44.7%. Again, only the Kings and Wizards are worse.

This is especially striking because the Pacers have quite a bit of players who should, on paper, be making their money on the offensive end. Granger leads the list, as the small forward who efficiently shot himself towards a 26 ppg all-star campaign just 3 years ago, is finding the bottom of the net on just 1 of three times, a truly appalling figure; David West’s surgically repaired legs clearly aren’t there yet – he’s making only half of his shots at the rim after standing tall at 66% last year, with his preferred 16-23 foot range seeing a drop from 47% to 42% as well; Tyler Hansbrough is really tired of hearing about how little Nick Young passes, apparently, as he’s posted just 5 assists in 13 games, instead choosing to barrel himself towards the rim in order to miss 61.2% of his ill-advised flings.

Luckily, the Pacers have been somewhat compensating for their utter inability to knock down anything with a strong combination of free throws and occasional glimpses of brilliance drizzled around their roster. Indy has complemented their bad shooting with a mediocre turnover rate, but they’re rebounding their own misses an insane rate 30% of the time (3rd in the league), and are 7th in the entire league in free throw rate; one has to think the two are related, as players often grab the caroms off their poorly missed chucks and go right back up into a poorly positioned defender. Hansbrough in particular has made an art out of this, shooting an impressive 5 freebies a night to his 9.3 field goal attempts (and making 82%). All in all, the Pacers are posting 98.3 points per 100 possessions; while this would be an atrocious mark in a non-lockout season, it’s good enough for 21 of 30 this year. And while that’s hardly a good mark, it’s not hard to delve into it and see good signs.

First and foremost, we are witnessing a second straight scorching start to the season from Hibbert. Hibbsy is using the same amount of possessions as last year, but his TS% is a full 5% higher. Why, you ask? Two words – Hook. Shot. Hibbert was always impossible to block with that 7’2″ frame in full sweeping motion, but the lack of defensive pressure was never enough for that baby to go in. So far this year, it looks beautiful, as Hibbert’s 54.7% from 3 to 9 feet (up from 42.5% last year) will attest. It makes one wonder why we don’t have more centers develop the mostly lost weapon – Kareem Abdul Jabbar didn’t become one of the greatest players of all time by perfecting a semi-effective shot, after all. The next step is maintaining this pace, after an MIP caliber November left the Georgetown product bending his knees and gasping for air through the entirety of January and most of the two months sandwiching it.

Next up, the Pacers have been getting help from other youngsters as well. Paul George still has to either stop dribbling or learn how to do so, but at 50% from 3 point land, the improved long stroke looks great next to those improved long limbs, and is posting a great “Messiah per minute” figure of “totally the Messiah”; George Hill was slumping just as hard as his teammates, but he snapped out of it to re-assert himself as a very strong bench scorer; and while Darren Collison’s numbers won’t exactly blow you away, he’s dramatically cut down his sky-high turnover rate while upping his assists closer to his New Orleans days, while making a scorching 50% of his threes himself.

This isn’t to say that the Pacers are guaranteed to experience a vast improvement in the short term. Despite situationally nice pieces, the offense not only fails the eye test, it makes the tester want to throw up. Vogel has yet to show an actual understanding of how to run an offense, and his insistence on giving actual minutes, no matter how few, to the likes of Dahntay Jones and Lance Stephenson can only be described as a blindly vitriolic attack on everything that is pure and Rubio.

But given what this squad has shown so far, for better and for worst, cautious optimism gingerly rises to the top of the emotional spectrum. The discouraging shooting from such stalwarts as Granger and West is bound to eventually rise back to their reasonable averages, or at least close to them and though this team was constructed with full knowledge that a combination of Granger and West in their primes isn’t enough without substantial internal improvement from the young core, that improvement seems to be coming. Slowly, yes, but it’s there, both individually and collectively. This team fights for each other and knows where to find each other. It’s hard to find a single basketball fan that didn’t salivate when this happened:

[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEmAeHnOiWg&list=UUqeOiTn8d4rrMygdy6YoEWw&index=7&feature=plcp]

Hibbert is a rare specimen of a passing big man, and George is a supreme athlete. But there’s a big difference between fitting strengths on paper and truly playing to them. These two, so far, have shown it – this highlight has hardly been an isolated matter – and it’s something to be excited for.

This pairing shouldn’t be unique for this roster. Between West’s pick-and-pop game, whatever is still left of the deadly scorer in Danny Granger, the Collison-Hill waterbug routine and Hansbrough’s headfirst dives into players and floors alike, the Pacers posses quite a bit of seldom-found, fine-meshing talent. Though a glance at their record indicates a better team than we’ve seen so far, a glance at their numbers indicates a much worse team than they can very quickly become.