After years of being defined by their insistence on sticking to traditional big man roles, the Indiana Pacers appear to be headed for big changes in 2015-16. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Thursday that his projected starting lineup features Paul George making a full-time switch to power forward.
“An idea on paper is to have a starting lineup of George Hill, Monta Ellis, C.J. Miles, Paul George and Ian Mahinmi,” Vogel said, per Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.
“I’m not thrilled on it,” George said about the change on 1070 The Fan, Buckner.
Sam Amick of USA Today provided more comments from George:
Um, you know it’s, uh, I was open for – to try it out. It’s definitely a change. It’s something new. We’ll see how it goes. As the season goes, it might be better for me to just be at my regular position. But I told them I was open to the situation and (we’ll) see where it goes.
It’s just being outmatched strength-wise with guys at the four spot is really the only concern. It’s not really the concern for one game. It’s the concern just over the course of a season just how my body would take it, especially coming off the injury that I had and a whole year of rehabbing. Just not sure of how it’s going to take it. (We’ll) start camp, see how camp goes. Again, I’m not too thrilled on it, but it could change the more comfortable I get at the position. But we’ll see. But again, I could very much end up loving it, so it’s all up in the air. I’m open to the position.
George, 25, has primarily played small forward and shooting guard during his NBA career. The two-time All-Star is in the midst of working his way back to full strength after suffering a broken leg last summer at a Team USA scrimmage. The injury forced him to miss all but six games of last season, during which he averaged 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds while obviously performing at less than 100 percent.
“It’s tough to say. I’d say he’s 100 percent healthy and 90 percent back to the explosiveness, rhythm and timing,” Vogel said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) “That hitch in his step seems to be gone. He just needs to get over that last hump with his rhythm and timing.”
George’s move to power forward is perhaps the most glaring sign yet of Indiana’s roster upheaval. Gone are stalwart big men David West and Roy Hibbert, who had manned the Pacers’ middle together since 2011.
West opted out of the final year of his contract to take an eight-figure pay cut in San Antonio, indicating the organization’s treatment of Hibbert played a part in his decision. Hibbert, a defensive fulcrum turned polarizing figure, was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for flotsam over the summer. That left a hole at power forward and center that the Pacers are hoping can be filled by George and Ian Mahinmi.
It’s also a realization of an organizational push to play a more uptempo style, which has been a talking point since last season ended.
“I’m excited about it,” Vogel said in April, per the team’s official website. “We’ve been in the bottom third offensively for a couple years now. Our style of play is based on how our roster is set up and playing to personnel strengths, but using Paul at the four spot some could, A, make us faster and, B, give us better spacing.”
As for whether the plan would work, expect opinions to differ. Small-ball fours have become the NBA’s latest trend, but George would be pushing the plan to a new extreme. He’s listed at 6’9″, which is fine from a height perspective, but he is also a lanky 220 pounds. The bulk that allows LeBron James and Draymond Green to thrive at the 4 is nowhere to be found.
With George also coming back from a career-threatening injury, it’s at the very least curious that Indiana is so bent on pushing him hard immediately.By Tyler Conway,