The Indiana Pacers are the best defensive team in the NBA in terms of points allowed per game. On that basis, pinpointing underrated defenders on their team may be an odd route to take. However, considering that Roy Hibbert and David West get a lot of credit for creating an interior presence and rebounding the ball, the tandem of Paul George and Lance Stephenson gets overshadowed.
George, the 22-year-old first-time All-Star, has burst onto the NBA scene this season. He’s receiving strong consideration from pundits around the league for the Most Improved Player Award, mainly due to his offense.
Despite the praise, George isn’t having an overwhelmingly good year from an offensive standpoint. He’s shooting just 42.9 percent from the field with increased minutes (a career-low shooting percentage for the youngster), and his three-point shooting percentage is about the same as it was last year.
Defensively, however, George is holding opponents to an 11.1 player efficiency rating, according to 82games.com, while nabbing a career-high 6.7 defensive rebounds per game.
His 17.8 points per game is a nice number, but it’s also a stat that undermines his defensive prowess.
As for Stephenson, Bill Simmons of Grantland.com wrote in a recent column, “Thanks to Danny Granger’s injury, Stephenson somehow evolved into a fearless defender/athlete/wild card for a suddenly dangerous Pacers team.”
Additionally, Simmons pointed out the points per 100 possessions and plus/minus stats for the Pacers' lineup of George, Stephenson, Hibbert, West and George Hill compared to other most-used lineups from NBA contenders. The numbers were as follows:
Hill-George-Stephenson-West-Hibbert: 877 mins, +240, 1.10 scored, 0.96 allowed.
Westbrook-Sefolosha-KD-Ibaka-Perkins: 852.4 mins, +147, 1.10 scored, 1.01 allowed.
Chalmers-Wade-LBJ-Bosh-Haslem: 445 mins, +120, 1.14 scored, 1.01 allowed.
Parker-Green-Leonard-Splitter-Duncan: 222.8 mins, +104, 1.08 scored, 0.85 allowed.
Paul-Green-Butler-Griffin-Jordan: 519.2 mins,+73, 1.13 scored, 1.06 allowed.
As you can see, the Pacers' team of five has a plus/minus nearly 100 points better than the next-best lineup. Indiana is my dark horse pick to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year.