My player review for the 2010-2011 season will resume shortly, but in the meantime let me share love for Paul George in ESPN's latest 5-on-5 in which they discussed NBA shooting guards.
One of the questions was "Who's the most promising shooting guard in the NBA?". While most predictably picked Indiana native Eric Gordon, the Pacers' own Paul George got some mentions too.
Mark A from ConnII, the only TrueHoops guy that did not pick Eric Gordon, wrote: "Paul George. He's 6-foot-8, is extremely athletic, has range, can take you off the dribble and his defense on D-Rose in the playoffs was probably second to only LeBron. He has got tremendous potential. You could see him in a dunk contest and/or a 3-point shootout very soon."
Noam Schiller from Hardwood Paroxysm picked Gordon, but also mentioned George and Evan Turner as players he has affection for.
Not bad for a kid that averaged just 7.8 points in his rookie year. The question is, are they overrating PG's potential? Sure he long, athletic, defend a little and is a silky smooth finisher at the rim, but he still has a long way to go in terms of finding consistency on his jumper and learning the nuances of the game. It's entirely up to him as to whether he can live up to the lofty expectations.
Since the NBA has locked out its players, the only news we have on the Pacers is the hiring of the coaching staff and front office personnel. And if you believe coaches have a significant impact on the team, then Pacers fans certainly have something to be excited about.
First of all, interim head coach Frank Vogel will now be the official head coach. He wasn't perfect as Jim O'Brien's replacement but he was certainly better. He got the team to play hard and play 'smash mouth' basketball, reduced the reliance on outside shooting and got players to play to their strengths, and rejuvenated some of the youngsters, especially Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. That said, Vogel is still young (38), inexperienced and needs help.
In comes Brian Shaw, who was a part of 5 championship teams as either player or coaching staff with the LA Lakers and was widely tipped to succeed Phil Jackson until Mike Brown took the spot from right under him. Shaw is known as a player's coach, a great locker room presence and an all-round super dude. Working with and under the Zen Master for all those years should be a big help, not just with the Xs and Os but also in dealing with personalities, egos, attitudes and player confidence. Interestingly, instead of assistant coach, Shaw has been given the title of associate head coach. Whatever that means. Vogel himself said that it will be like having two head coaches. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing because that has the potential to divide players. I guess we'll see.
Rounding out the final two positions on the coaching staff are Dan Burke (who was re-signed) and Jim Boylen (new addition). Burke brings back with him 16 years of experience on NBA benches and will be hugely beneficial to a relatively inexperienced head coach like Vogel. Boylen had been the head coach at the University of Utah for the last four years and will bring tons of college and NBA experience (11 years with Houston, Milwaukee and Golden State) to the Pacers.
From a coaching perspective at least, the Pacers are starting to look real good.
Oh, and another thing I forgot -- Pacers hired former Portland Trailblazers GM Kevin Pritchard as 'director of player personnel' for one year. Sounds like an eventual replacement for Larry Legend if you ask me (despite their refutations). Pritchard's reputation is a mixed bag, but he's done some good for the Blazers over the years. I think he will be an asset in the long run.
Once again, the Pacers aren't getting a lot of respect from the schedule makers. They start their first two games on the road against the Pistons and the Thunder, before opening at home against the Celtics. And even before the first month is over they will begin a killer road trip that includes the likes of Phoenix, Denver, Utah, Portland and the LA Clippers.
No one is surprised about this one, nor should they be, considering it was a foregone conclusion. Sources claim that the Indiana Pacers will announce Frank Vogel as their next full time head coach, removing the 'interim' from his current title. It will be a 3 year contract (relatively cheap, I assume, considering even Larry Legend took a paycut) with the 3rd being a team option, and apparently there will be incentives involved.
Rumblings on forums suggest that the Pacers did Vogel and themselves a disservice for taking this long to give the job the Frank, which they felt he deserved to get immediately after taking the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, finishing the regular season with a 20-18 record and pushing the top seeded Chicago Bulls to 5 games, with the first 4 being super competitive.
I don't necessarily agree. Sure, Frank did do a good job, but with the lockout looming (and now a reality), what was the rush? The last thing the Pacers should have done was rush out and sign a head coach with only 43 games of NBA coaching experience. It wasn't as though Frank was perfect either. The Pacers still had lapses on numerous occasions and there were rumors that he was too lax with the players in practice. And as is the case with young, rookie coaches (Vogel is the youngest in the NBA at 38), you just never know how the team will perform after the initial excitement wears off. If say a Jerry Sloan was to put his hand up for the job, the Pacers would have been foolish to not consider it.
In any case, I think they ultimately made the right choice. Frank deserves the opportunity, and with Brian Shaw as his assistant, they have a stellar backup even if Frank flutters and fails.
The bigger question remains: will Frank even get to coach a game next season if this lockout continues?
The lockout has everyone a little depressed, so I have decided to do another more positive player review: Tyler Hansbrough.
A lot of people viewed this as Tyler Hansbrough's 'first season' because he only played in 29 games last season due to an assortment of injuries and illnesses (including this bizarre inner ear infection that messed up his balance). If that's the case, then Hansbrough had a pretty decent season. He played in 70 games (starting 29, mostly after Frank Vogel took over from Jim O'Brien) and averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. Under Vogel, he averaged over 14 points in 38 games, but that also corresponded with significantly more playing time and allowing Hansbrough to play to his advantages. He missed a few games here and there with little things and a bout with pneumonia, but for the most part he was healthy.
He had some big games -- the back-to-back 29 and 30 against the New York Knicks in March (which was actually part of a very good month where he averaged 16.8 points) and the big game 1 againt the Bulls (22 points) -- but like many 'rookies', Hansbrough was ineffective at times and wildly inconsistent.
That said, one of the most decorated collegiate players of all time is already proving a lot of people wrong -- the people that claimed his style wouldn't translate well to the NBA. Granted, Hansbrough is a little one-dimensional in his style -- terrific off the pick and roll because he can be automatic with that mid-range jumpshot from 12-18 feet, gets to a line a lot with his aggressive play, and has a tendency to flip in tough shots close to the basket that don't look great but can be effective. His post play is really just the turnaround fadeaway along the baseline or barreling to the hoop. He is super strong and has underrated athleticism, but isn't quite a high flyer like a Josh McRoberts.
Against the right defender, Hansbrough can be a devastating player, as he showed in those Knicks games, but when his jumper isn't falling or he is taking on a crafty defender who knows his tendencies, Hansbrough can struggle mightily. Because he is not much of a defender (yet) and isn't a great rebounder, Hansbrough can occasionally become a liability, though he often makes up for it with his tremendous hustle. Hansbrough's goes all out on every possession, and I think he learned throughout the course of the season that he won't be able to do that forever and must gauge the flow of the game better.
Still, the Pacers must consider this a relatively successful season for Hansbrough because of all that he's been through. Even though he had been starting under Frank Vogel, the Pacers hope they can eventually bring him off the bench as an energy guy who can change the flow of the game. For now, Hansbrough must continue to work on all facets of his play, especially his defense and rebounding, develop a few more most moves, and learn how to channel his aggression correctly. There is no reason why the 25 year-old can't improve sufficiently to become the power forward of the future on this team. It might take a bit of time but if Hansbrough can become more consistent next season and average a few more minutes per game I think he'd be very capable of being a 15 and 7 kind of player.
As the NBA heads into an indefinite lockout, I now have plenty of time to continue churning out these player reviews for the 2010-2011 season. This time, it's Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Remember in the 2007-2008 season when Mike Jr averaged 19.1 points per game and everyone was gushing about what an intelligent and efficient offensive player he was? Then came the injuries and the surgeries, and Mike was no longer the player he once was -- and most probably never will be. In the 2009-2010 season, Dunleavy returned to average 9.9 points in 67 games, the lowest since his rookie season. But that was understandable because he was returning from a long lay off and was struggling to regain his legs and his form.
This season, however, marked the return of the 'real' Dunleavy, or so we were informed. It wasn't fair or realistic to expect Dunleavy to return to being a 19 point scorer -- after all, he is 30 years old and the Pacers are stacked with younger talent at his position -- but was 14-15 effective points per game out of the question? Considering how much Dunleavy earns per season ($10.5m in 2010-2011), that it was a contract year, and how bad he was defensively, surely that wasn't too much to ask?
Well unforrtunately, it was. This season, Mike played in 61 games (starting in 44), averaged 27.6 minutes and 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. On paper, even though Dunleavy wasn't spectacular, he was certainly pretty good. Compared to Brandon Rush, Dahntay Jones and Paul George, Dunleavy appeared to be the most efficient offensive player. He shot over 46% from the field and 40% from 3-point land, plus 80% from the line. For a 30 year old role player with surgically repaired knees, that's rather impressive.
The thing with Dunleavy is that his defense is woeful. Even though he is a lanky 6'9", he lacks the quickness, lateral movement and strength to defend anyone. As a result, teams often exploited Dunleavy on D, especially in isolations. To be fair, he did work hard and was an adequate team defender, but he simply didn't have the physical tools necessary to lock down his man.
So Dunleavy is what he is. A streaky shooter with a high basketball IQ -- he often made good quality cuts to the basket for pretty finishes or made the right pass to a cutting teammate -- but when his shot was off he was a huge liability. It was the reason why (along with Paul George's stellar D) that Dunleavy only played 14.4 minutes per game in the 5 playoff games against the Bulls. The excellent Bulls defense neutralized Dunleavy's shooting and consequently he only averaged 5 points per game on 35% shooting.
Dunleavy's best game came in that 144-113 drubbing of Denver that everyone will be talking about for years. In that near-perfect third quarter, Dunleavy was the star, scoring 24 of his team high 31 points, including making all five 3-pointer attempts. That was Dunleavy at his absolute best. He had a few of those types of games and a few 2-11, 3-10 shooting nights here and there -- he was like a box of chocolates -- you just never knew what you were going to get.
Now Dunleavy and his mammoth contract is finally off the books, and his future is unclear (even without the lockout). The Pacers have indicated that they would like to bring him back with a much smaller salary that better matches his output, and I think that's not a bad idea. I certainly don't have a problem with bringing him off the bench for a few minutes every game and see whether he gets it going. When wide open, Dunleavy can still be an asset. If he's struggling, take him out and put one of the younger guys in. At this stage of his career, it's up to the coach to utilize his strengths and hide his weaknesses.
As for how Dunleavy performed this season? I guess there's a few ways you could look at it. On paper, he was the Pacers' fourth leading scorer (behind Granger, Collison and Hibbert), and he did shoot at a relatively efficient rate. On the other hand, he was a defensive liability and he earned more money than anyone on the team other than Granger, which he clearly didn't deserve. I'd like to think that overall, Dunleavy was an asset for the Pacers, and all things considered in perspective, I suppose you could say he had a fairly good season.