The Scouting Report: at Indiana Pacers
Projected Scouting Report: George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibber
Key addition: Andrew Bynum, signed last week.
Key injury: Shooting guard Lance Stephenson will be out Friday versus the Blazers.
Dominant. Driven. Defense. Dedicated.
These are the Indiana Pacers, coming into Friday with the NBA’s best winning percentage and are three games ahead of the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Nothing has really changed about the overall look of the Pacers since they visited Portland in December and played in one of the best games of the NBA season. The Blazers outlasted them behind great play from Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and a host of foul shots against a defense that usually gives up nothing from the zones Portland likes to score from.
Portland’s midrange game with Aldridge, Lillard and even Wesley Matthews in the post is a good counter to Indiana’s ICE pick and roll defense, which is the ideal version of the defense Portland runs. Indiana just does it better than anybody else in the league and have the league’s envy when it comes to defensive personnel.
Paul George may be the best individual perimeter defender in the league, George Hill is a 6’6” point guard, David West is smart and strong as an ox and they have the league’s biggest x-factor in center Roy Hibbert.
With the signing of Bynum, they’ve taken a chance on one of the biggest wild cards in recent memory. Sure, the Pacers are the best team in the league and it runs the risk of not working out but Bynum still may be able to give them quality minutes for 15 minutes a night.
When he was in Cleveland, he was a starter but with his knee problems and his tendency to lay back away from the spotlight the fit as a bench player with the Pacers may suit him more. Doris Burke of ESPN suggests that an ideal situation would be Bynum playing a role like veteran big man PJ Brown played for the 2008 Boston Celtics who won an NBA championship.
Brown wasn’t the best player, or even one of the six best players on the team but made plays that helped win them a championship at key times.
It looks like the casualty in the rotation is veteran big man Ian Mahinmi and Bynum is a much more talented offensive player and could give Indiana’s bench more of a scoring punch alongside Danny Granger when Stephenson is back. However, my predecessor Candace Buckner over at the Indianapolis Star reports that the Pacers won’t even consider putting Bynum on the court until after the All-Star break.
Luis Scola is a savvy veteran with big-game pedigree and a good midrange game and CJ Watson is a definite upgrade from DJ Augustin who was Indiana’s back-up point guard last year.
After the previous meeting in Portland, Roy Hibbert and Paul George both lamented that they committed so many fouls against the Blazers which allowed them to squeeze even more out of their offense. Lillard and Aldridge made plays late which cancelled out a spectacular 43-point game from George.
The Pacers come in winners of three straight even though they won’t have Stevenson on Friday, expect that defense to continue running like the finely tuned unit that it is.