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The easiest thing for any fan or even media member to do after two NBA games is draw grand conclusions about the fate of whichever team they follow. Look around Twitter, and you’re sure to find an avalanche of overreactions to a season that is a little over 2 percent complete.
For the Pacers, there’s no question it has been an inauspicious start. They’ve dropped both games to open the season. But rather than hit the panic button, I’ll offer a few areas that appear worrisome at first glance but are likely to stabilize. And to be fair, I’ll highlight a few very early concerns that could prove to be legitimate.
Don’t Worry Too Much About This
Monta Ellis’ limited impact: Ellis has scored a total of 18 points on 6-of-23 shooting in the first two games. I don’t see any need to worry. He’s a proven scorer in the league, carrying a 19.3 career point per game average. Given some time to adjust to new teammates, new coach, new surroundings, he’ll be fine.
Paul George’s poor shooting: George has shot 9-of-32 in his first two games. Much like Ellis, George is adjusting to a vastly different style of play, not to mention a new position (well, sometimes, maybe, sorta, he’s a power forward, right?). His talent is prodigious, and his previous success is well-documented. He will trend back to the mean soon.
Defensive struggles: Tough to offer a bright side when the team has given up 34 and 39 points, respectively, in the fourth quarter alone of the first two games. The silver lining, though, is effort. Aside from Ellis spending a bit too much time complaining instead of defending, this team will work hard on defense and eventually find its way.
Team identity: The Pacers’ commitment to a smaller, quicker style of play is a work in progress. It might seem hard to believe, but perhaps not enough attention was given to how difficult it is to overhaul a roster and a philosophy in one offseason. Early season stumbles, though tough to stomach, are inevitable while Frank Vogel works out rotational and systemic kinks.
This Might Be an Issue
CJ Miles’ prominence: Miles is a nice role player with career averages of 9.5 points, 1 assist and 2 rebounds. He’s never been a foundational piece of any great team. Yet in the first two games this season, he’s hoisted 22 shots, just one less than Monta Ellis. If Miles continues to be relied upon for significant offensive output, the Pacers will struggle.
Bench depth: This roster is top heavy with Paul George, Monta Ellis and George Hill. In the preseason excitement over how those three would spearhead a more exciting brand of basketball, perhaps what was under-assessed was the lack of depth beyond them. In particular, the bench crew of Chase Budinger, Lavoy Allen, Jordan Hill and Rodney Stuckey are a cause of some concern. Moving CJ Miles to the bench and counting on the emergency of 19-year old rookie Myles Turner may actually be the Pacers’ best bet to raise the bench’s productivity to respectable levels.
Jeff Kasler covers the Pacers and NBA for Amico Hoops. Twitter: @JKaslerHoops.