The Scouting Report: Indiana Pacers
Projected starting line-up: George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Lavoy Allen, Ian Mahinmi
New arrivals: Monta Ellis, Joseph Young via draft, Myles Turner (injured) via draft, the old Paul George
It is true. Paul George is back as one of the best players in the league, an MVP candidate and as the leader of one of the better teams in the league. After last night’s victory over the Clippers, the Pacers are 12-5, good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference and winners of six straight games.
Many, including George himself, scoffed at the idea of playing him at power forward. And while the Pacers have scrapped that idea to start games, they still lean on that new identity and the only person unhappy with the Pacers going small last night was an exasperated Blake Griffin. George guarded Griffin and the Pacers as a team were able to focus all of their resources towards stopping him with Chris Paul out to injury. The Pacers added another road win to an impressive start to the season that should put the rest of the league on notice.
George has been phenomenal, averaging 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game on 46 percent shooting from long-range. The Pacers decided that they were going to change their identity in the offseason and build around George, forcing him to be more versatile. They drafted Myles Turner, a big man who presents rim protection potential but is also a capable jumpshooter. They jettisoned Roy Hibbert to the Lakers after he had become a shell of his former self.
What the Pacers have now is a team that fits the direction that the league is going. One that can shape shift against any given line-up and force teams unwilling to adapt into uncomfortable places. The Pacers most-used line-up is one with George at power forward along with sharp-shooter CJ Miles, Hill and Ellis. Ellis gives the Pacers more off-the-dribble creation than they’ve had in past seasons.
The Pacers are also a surprisingly deep team, too. Rodney Stuckey is a solid player off the bench, especially when it comes to scoring the ball. Jordan Hill is a solid back-up big man who can provide rebounding and the occasional midrange jumper.
The Blazers will need a big night from Lillard and McCollum. It will be interesting to see if Stotts decides to match the Pacers’ small-ball looks or try to punish their smaller line-ups by sticking with two big men. Portland has struggled offensively late in games and the Pacers will almost certainly go to their small-ball line-up, which will create more problems with their quickness and “switchability.” If Portland doesn’t figure out their offensive woes late in games, we could see another rough finish against a hounding Pacers defense.