How the Indiana Pacers Use Their Post Guys to Set Up Other Opportunities

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How the Indiana Pacers Use Their Post Guys to Set Up Other Opportunities

Just like last year, the Indiana Pacers are winning ball games mostly on the strength of a smothering defense that ranks as the best in the league.

Roy Hibbert has got "verticality" down to a T; Paul George is one of the handful of best perimeter defenders in the NBA; Lance Stephenson wreaks havoc on the wing; George Hill has the long arms and quick feet necessary to keep point guards out of the paint without fouling; David West is strong and always in position. We knew this would be the case before the season started, and it indeed has been the case thus far. 

Also like last year, the Pacers are somewhat struggling to score, even in the midst of a 7-0 start. Indiana's 100.4 offensive efficiency sits 16th in the league as of this morning, per NBA.com, just three spots ahead of last year's finish.

Some of this can be explained away by mitigating factors: The Pacers thought they'd have Danny Granger back at full strength this season, and he's yet to play a game; Hill missed three games with a hip injury; and then bench is one again underperforming

The flow of the of offense has changed just slightly. George and Stephenson have been handed some extra ball-handling responsibility, whether Hill has been on the court or not. One thing that hasn't changed is that the Pacers love to utilize the post.

On 13.6 percent of Indiana's plays a post player ends up taking a shot, drawing a foul or turning the ball over, according to the video tracking service mySynergySports, but those plays have generated an average of just 0.63 points, down from 0.87 last season.

But post players aren't the only ones who can score once the ball is entered to the block. Indiana is still making creative use of cuts and screens to generate looks for Hill and George (among others) once the ball is passed to the post. 

This has become a standard Indiana set over the last couple of seasons. The only thing that changes is the principals. After some initial action to get the defense moving, George Hill winds up with the ball on the wing. From there, he throws an entry pass into the post. On this play it's Paul George on the block, but it could just as easily be Roy Hibbert, or David West or Luis Scola

While many teams will have the man who threw the entry pass cut through the lane to the weak side to clear space for the post-up, the Pacers love to have Hill sneak around to the top of the key, run his defender's back right into a flare screen and get a look at the basket from three.

Hill shot 38.9 percent on above-the-break threes last season, and this is a clean look. That it doesn't go in is less important than the fact that he got it in the first place. Generating looks like that will help generate efficient offense sooner or later. (Here's the same look with Hill and George in opposite roles).

Paul George's star has exploded this season. He's averaging 25.1 points per game on 46.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. He's making things happen all over the court. Though his off-dribble game still needs a bit of work, he's become pretty masterful at moving without the ball to find shot opportunities. This set allows George to pick from a few different lanes where he'd like to receive the ball. 

Once he enters the ball into the post, George just cuts directly at the man with the ball. From there, he reads the three other players involved in the play (his teammate with the ball, his own defender and his teammate's defender) to decide whether to A) receive a handoff and take it to the basket B) cut past his teammate's shoulder for a backdoor pass (like in the video above) or C) stop in his tracks to lose an overplaying defender for a short jumper

There's also the standard V-cut option available. Here, George enters the ball to Hibbert in the post, then feigns as if he'll cut across the baseline to the opposite side of the court, only to wheel around and come past Hibbert for a hand-off, screen and look at the corner three. Kyrie Irving falls asleep for just one second and gets caught. George misses a shot, but again, the process generates a good shot. 

Not all of these shots go in, but they're all good looks for players in spots on the floor where they excel. That's the key. Without a traditional off-the-dribble creator at point guard, the Pacers have to get creative in how they generate shots. These plays are simple, but effectively result in open looks. Once the shots start dropping at a better rate, they'll be deadly.

Jared Dubin works for Bloomberg Sports, writes and edits for the ESPN TrueHoop Network sites Hardwood Paroxysm and HoopChalk, is a freelance contributor to Grantland, and is coauthor of We'll Always Have Linsanity.

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