1. Slow Pacers and Mahinmi’s Shooting: At the end of a ponderous 2014-15 season, Larry Bird and the Pacers decided there needed be changes in style of play. In the context of whether the Pacers wanted big man Roy Hibbert next year, coach Frank Vogel said that “there’s a possibility that Roy’s role will be diminished, if we’re trying to play faster and trying to play smaller.” The Pacers then just gave Hibbert away for a second-rounder after the season. The trade made sense. Hibbert’s offense had been pretty weak the last few years and the Pacers could save some cash if they dumped him without having taking back salary.
Part Two of Bird’s and Vogel’s plan was to run a bit on offense. How’s that going so far? We’ll let’s take a look at those Pacers team numbers and see what we can discern:
-2014-15: Pace 93.2 (19th), Offense 103.5 (23rd), Defense 103.2 (7th)
-2015-16: Pace 95.4 (22nd), Offense 101.0 (25th), Defense 100.7 (10th)
So….not fast as of yet. Superficially, the new Pacers look more offensively inclined. Monta Ellis was acquired and Paul George is back. In addition, they have replaced Hibbert with more minutes for Ian Mahinmi (a pretty fast big man) and picked up Jordan Hill (a good offensive player). The end result, so far, however, is much of the same.
How has this happened? George has been great but Elis has been terrible so far (12.6 PER) and the Hill/Mahinmi combo has been about as effective as Hibbert on offense. Mahinmi has been solid defensively but his free throw shooting is making him hard to play. Before last season, Mahinmi was a decent foul shooter (391-601 for .651%). But for some reason, Mahinmi cratered last season to .304% from the line (31-102). It’s hard to overstate how bad that was. Mahinmi had literally the worst free throw shooting season in NBA history for any player with at least 100 attempts in a season. Yes, even Chris Dudley, Ben Wallace, and DeAndre Jordan were never this bad.
Mahinmi followed up that with an even worse shooting this season. He is 4-20 from the line (.200%) so far, a number that would shatter his 2014-15 performance. Mahinmi’s other rate stats are plenty respectable but his shooting will no doubt lead to regular Hack-A-Ian and will force more playing time for Hill. Maybe Hibbert would’ve been better.
2. The Worst FT Shooters: As a side note, here are a few lists of some of the other bad foul shooters. First, let’s start with the bottom worst foul shooters in a season with a minimum of 100 attempts:
-Ian Mahinmi, 2014-15: 31-102, .304%
-Chris Dudley 1989-90: 58-182, .319%
-Ben Wallace, 2000-01: 80-238, .336%
-Ben Wallace 1998-99: 47-132, .356%
-Brendan Haywood, 2010-11: 64-177, .362%
Now, here is are the worst foul shooters with a minimum of 1,000 minutes played in a season:
-Larry Smith, 1990-91: 12-50, .240%
-Olden Polynice, 2000-01: 17-65, .262%
-Kim Hughes, 1976-77: 19-69, .275%
-Lorenzen Wright, 2006-07: 9-32, .281%
-Ian Mahinmi, 2014-15: 31-102, .304%
Smith is an interesting parallel to Mahinmi. Like Ian, Smith was just a regular mediocre foul shooter in the first part of his career before the bottom dropped out at age 30 when he shot .407%. Unfortunately, Smith only got worse from there. Polynice was a similar story but his free throw collapse came at a bit older age but he, also, never recovered. Both are bad signs for Mahinmi.
Finally, Hughes is the only player to shoot under 30% from the line in more than 2,000 minutes. Hughes was a hustling big man who could block and board a little (sort of a proto-Eric Montross). He rarely ever got to the line but had no clue once he was there.
3. A Quick Kobe Note: One of the biggest chatting points for bloggers and writers is the sadness they feel in watching Kobe Bryant struggle to accept that he can’t play like he used to be able. I certainly understand this point but a quick interesting stat note: Kobe’s actually been much worst defensively than offensively so far. According to BPM numbers, Bryant is 0.9 on offense but a terrible -3.9 defensively. Objectively, Kobe has looked really bad on offense so far and small sample size caveats apply, but just interesting to note there are alternative ways to view his season so far.