The Indiana Pacers in 2005-06

In 2003-04 the Pacers won 61 games, which was the best mark in the NBA that season. The next season the team suffered the Ron Artest incident and corresponding suspensions. The distraction and loss of playing talent contributed to the team only winning 44 games. In 2005-06 the team appeared to decline a bit further, ultimately only winning 41 contests.

Surveying the 2005-06 Pacers – listed HERE – and one can see why the team was about average. The Pacers last year were dominated by average players, with just a few very good players. Surprisingly, one of these was Jeff Foster who led all Pacers with 10.1 wins. Now how can a player who scored fewer than six points per game be this productive?

Earlier I offered some explanation of Wins Produced HERE and HERE. For this post I want to revisit the determinants of wins. As reviewed in The Wages of Wins, wins are determined by offensive and defensive efficiency. Each efficiency measure is a ratio. Offensive efficiency is the ratio of points scored to possessions employed. Defensive efficiency is the ratio of points surrendered to possessions acquired.

A team can improve its offensive efficiency by improving its shooting efficiency, increasing its offensive rebounds, or decreasing its turnovers. Often people focus on scoring, but as noted, efficiency is also impacted by rebounds and turnovers.

The same story is told for defensive efficiency. Again, rebounds and forcing turnovers limits the efficiency of a team’s opponent. In sum, scoring is of course good. But so is rebounding, as well as avoiding and forcing turnovers.

Foster does not help score, but he does help rebound. The average power forward or center will get one rebound every four minutes played. Across his career, Foster has averaged one rebound every three minutes played. So his offensive and defensive rebounding – he is above average on the boards on both ends – helps the Pacers improve both its offensive and defensive efficiency.

Foster’s lack of scoring, though, has limited his playing time. Jermaine O’Neal’s playing time in 2005-06 was also been limited, but in his case by injury. If he is healthy in 2006-07, his wins production will increase with more time on the court.

As noted before, an average player will have a Wins Produced per 48 minutes of 0.100. O’Neal’s WP48 was 0.151 last season. O’Neal came to the Pacers in 2000 and from 2000-01 to 2004-05 had an average WP48 of 0.157. So O’Neal has been consistently above average and if healthy, should produced 10 to 12 wins in extended playing time.

Of the remaining above average players in 2005-06, only Danny Granger and Sarunas Jasikevicius will play in Indiana next season. So a fair amount of production has left the building. The good news is that Granger looks to be an excellent small forward. Plus newcomer Marquis Daniels has been an above average guard. Finally, although an injured Jamaal Tinsley was not very productive last season, in past seasons he has been well above average. So it is possible that the Pacers will have at least one player at each position that is above average.

Of course, as noted HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE, adding Al Harrington to this roster is probably not going to help much. And Stephen Jackson has also failed to post any above average seasons in his career, so he is not likely to boost Indiana’s win total much either.

In sum, this is a team that has lost much and apparently added little. Still, if Granger produces at small forward and Tinsley makes a comeback, this team might be able to overcome the expected problems adding Harrington will bring. And if this team wins more than 41 games, we can expect people to exclaim how important adding Harrington was to this franchise. Still, the numbers will likely tell a different story and I will probably tell that tale when the season ends.

– DJ

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