Pacers looking to change their style

The league trend toward 3-point shooting and the perimeter game could impact team's decisions in Thursday's NBA Draft.

When Indiana Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard spoke in generalities about a quality player being available when they pick 11th in Thursday’s NBA Draft, he also mentioned the team had some flexibility based on position.

That’s because, as President Larry Bird previously alluded, two-time All-Star Paul George is versatile enough to play forward, the “four” position, to be precise. Bird wants the Pacers to be more in quick step with today’s NBA, which has shifted toward the perimeter game and 3-point shooting.

Pritchard reiterated it’s still about taking the best player available — which is what every front-office guy says before a draft — but the Pacers have their eyes on “four or five” players and are confident one will be there in the first round.

It will be interesting to see if the best-case scenario unfolds, where the Pacers can select someone they consider the best player available and that player addresses a need position. That doesn’t typically happen. A versatile forward or point guard would make sense, the latter because Bird is convinced George Hill can be an effective shooting guard.

The Wednesday news that forward David West intends to opt out of the final year of his contract could impact the team’s decision-making. Will the Pacers place a greater need on replacing West in the draft to ensure rebounding and post defense? Or is that something to be addressed in free agency?

Bird and head coach Frank Vogel spoke after last season ended about changing the team dynamic to be current with a league trend toward “small ball,” where more versatile players exploit weaknesses in an up-tempo game and are 3-point threats. The Pacers had been known in recent years for striking a balance between pounding the ball inside and perimeter shooting.

Pritchard touched on the same trend in his press conference, saying, “The biggest reason is a few years ago the league changed the way you could defend the post and the perimeter. There used to be hand-checking. Now there’s no hand-checking. So if you face up a guy, you’ve got opportunities to drive a lot more.

“We put a premium on shooting. If you put five guys out there that can make plays and shoot, no matter what you’re doing on the defensive end, offensively you’re tough to guard. And in the post, you can one-arm and arm-bar in the post, so it’s just harder to score in the post when guys can get physical when you can’t on the perimeter. That’s one of the big reasons you see some of these teams going deep in the playoffs without much size.”

He added that in todays’ game, based on analysis of point production per possession, “3-point shooting is a premium.”

The Pacers also have a second-round selection with the 43rd overall pick. Pritchard said the team likes the second-tier players in this draft and is confident they will select one in the second round.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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