What in God’s Name Are the Pacers Doing?

Monta Ellis Sucks

Let’s recap the past two Pacers moves:

  • Trade the league’s preeminent three-and-D point guard for a shorter point guard who does most of the same things offensively as their current shooting guard and neither plays defense nor shoots three’s.
  • Gave up a first round pick and their max cap space for a stretch-4 who doesn’t stretch the floor.

Look, in a vacuum, I can understand the idea of adding Jeff Teague or Thaddeus Young. Teague brings a lot to the table as a drive-and-kick point guard who can actually finish at the basket, and Young enables a ton of switching defensively and can at least hit mid-range jumpers. These are useful players.

But together, with the roster Indiana has, these moves don’t make much sense. Why? Well it’s pretty simple. The Pacers are trying to get smaller and faster… except they’ve done it without having a single worthwhile three-point shooter in the starting lineup.

No, really. Here are the career three-point percentages for their expected starting five:

Teague: .355%

Monta Ellis: .313%

Paul George: .364%

Thaddeus Young: .319%

Myles Turner: .214%

No one there is within even a percentage point of Harrison Barnes, the guy who just went 3-for-infinity in the finals. Only two of their players produce even 1 point per possession on three-pointers, and it’s the two guys most likely to have the ball in their hand. How are they supposed to generate spacing? You can’t just spot up Paul George all game. He’s Paul George. That’s a waste.

There’s a really simple solution here: just dump Monta Ellis on a cap team. Then go sign a three-and-D shooting guard like Kent Bazemore with the extra cap space.

Ellis makes little sense on this team. He was a nice fit with Hill, a point guard who didn’t need the ball, but now that Teague is in place Ellis becomes redundant offensively. He can’t shoot and he’s a miserable defender. There’s no real point to having him on the team, and a team like Philly could actually use him. They don’t have any guards, so they’d probably be thrilled to take on his contract. How else are they going to spend that cap space?

The Pacers just aren’t going to be able to find enough spacing with Ellis in the lineup. They aren’t too far off, George and Teague create more than their percentages would indicate because of their driving. They warp the court towards the hoop. They only need a competent shooter who doesn’t need the ball. Evan Fournier, Bazemore, Courtney Lee, even Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith if you want to stretch the idea of not needing the ball. There’s no shortage and they’re all over the price spectrum.

But the Pacers don’t seem to be interested in moving Ellis at this point. They’ve chosen speed over shooting. You can do that in bits and pieces, but the Pacers don’t shoot well enough to survive as a small-ball team right now. They’re betting on a second-year center to anchor their defense, which also happens to have two dreadful defensive guards. They’re extremely isolation heavy in the half-court and they don’t have much of a bench. As currently constructed these Pacers are worse than last year’s version. If they want to take a real step forward they have to move Ellis.

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