INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The month of January has not been kind at all to the Indiana Pacers. So far, the Pacers have posted a 5-7 record and have found themselves losing five of their past six games. It has been rough for Indiana, but this trouble shouldn’t be hard to justify. Nine of their past twelve games have been on the road, also, this stretch has included two separate four-game road trips. That is a disaster for a team that struggles on the road, has been missing a few key players, and has had their star experiencing fatigue problems. It might have been a rough January so far, but there is still hope to salvage the remainder of the month.
Ian Mahinmi is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers with an ankle sprain. Rodney Stuckey will miss Tuesday’s game with his ankle injury, but he will be evaluated later in the week by team doctors to determine a possible return. George Hill is expected to return to the team’s starting lineup after a three game absence from the team and a one game absence from the starting lineup. Hill missed time in order to witness the birth of his child, but now he is back with the team and is expected to return to his normal role against the Clippers. It is important to implement these players back in the rotation in a way that can effectively help the team.
With the likely return of Ian Mahinmi and the fantastic recent play by Myles Turner, it appears that the Pacers should look to balance out their front court rotation. Jordan Hill has been playing a lot of center throughout the season due to absences by Turner and Mahinmi, but that isn’t necessary anymore. The team should look to move Jordan Hill back to the power forward position, which is where his skills would best benefit the team. Starting Hill and giving Turner heavy minutes off the bench would allow for the second unit to have an offensive focal point. Meanwhile, Hill could best benefit the starting lineup by being a complimentary power forward to the rest of the unit.
Jordan Hill at the starting power forward position would allow for Lavoy Allen to return to a better fitting role with the second unit. Allen has really limited the offense of the first unit because teams don’t respect his offensive capabilities at all. Defenders choose to over commit in help defense when Allen is playing off the ball, as a result, it eliminates attack lanes for key players like Paul George, Monta Ellis, and George Hill. Eliminating attack lanes for George, Ellis, and Hill creates a major offensive problem and that typically results in tough shots and turnovers. This problem has been able to be masked by great pocket passes by the ball handler in the pick and roll, but it is quite clear, Allen’s presence in the starting lineup hurts their offensive capabilities.
A starting unit of George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Jordan Hill, and Ian Mahinmi would be an all-around balanced lineup with cohesive pieces. Jordan Hill is athletic enough to defend stretch four power forwards on the perimeter and he is big enough to bang down low with traditional power forwards. Indiana has had a problem with chemistry since they have had to match-up with the other team, as well as due to injuries. However, they would be able to use this lineup on a nightly basis and finally build that much-needed chemistry prior to the playoffs.
Since the Pacers don’t expect to contend this season and want to contend during the 2016-17 season, it is important that they get some of their young players like Joseph Young some valuable playing time. Young has more than proven in this recent stretch that he should be considered in the future plans for the franchise. The bench unit has had problems making plays from individual offense, but having Young along with Turner and Stuckey could really boost the offensive capabilities of the unit. It’s important to give minutes to players that are in the future plans for the franchise.
The lack of overall offensive consistency from Solomon Hill and Chase Budinger have really hurt the team’s offense, but having Joseph Young in the rotation could balance it out and prevent this from frequently happening. In this situation, the second unit could be made up of Joseph Young, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Lavoy Allen, and Myles Turner. Miles has been incredibly poor shooting the ball lately, which really makes it hard to play him since that is his specialty. However, a lot of these problems have been from being forced to take either contested, or simply tough off the dribble shots. He is simply at his best when he has quality catch-and-shoot scenarios, which could frequently happen from the play making abilities of Young, Stuckey, and Turner.
Indiana stated that they could reduce Paul George’s minutes to help fight the increased fatigue that he is dealing with. This rotation would allow for that to happen since C.J. Miles can play both shooting guard and small forward. As a result, that could mean Paul George playing 32 minutes and not 36 minutes, which could better utilize his energy and make him more effective during the time that he is on the court. If this ends up happening, it could cause a chain reaction that opens up more minutes for Joseph Young since it would force Rodney Stuckey to play more time at shooting guard. Which in return would help balance out the rotation from the point guard spot all the way to the small forward spot.
There is an interesting situation with the front court positions as well with this hypothetical rotation. Myles Turner would play whenever Ian Mahinmi is on the bench, but there could be times where plays alongside Mahinmi at the power forward position. Since Jordan Hill is starting at power forward and will get more than half of the minutes at the position, Myles Turner and Lavoy Allen could split the remaining power forward minutes. That would allow for Turner to gain experience as a power forward since there is a possibility that he could play that position more frequently in the future. This would mean that Lavoy Allen would get less minutes, but it is what’s best for the future.