INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #6 – Indiana Pacers 1993-94

The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.
For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.
Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.
Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.


DEFENSIVE CHANGE: In 1992-93 the Pacers allowed 110.1 pts (21st) per 100 possessions then in 1993-94 they allowed only 104.2 (8th).

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: Depsite being 21st overall the Pacers were the 9th best team defensively in EFG% in 92-93, they were 24th in forcing turnovers, 18th in defensive rebounding and 24th in FTA/FGA (pr foul rate) . In 93-94 they stayed about the same 6th in EFG% but improved in forcing turnovers to 7th in the NBA and 12 in defensive rebounding. Their foul rate was the exact same. Interesting how important defensive rebounding continues to be in these case studies

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 92-93 Pacers started Pooh Richardson, Reggie Miller, Detlef Schrempf, Dale Davis and Rik Smits. The primary bench players were Vern Fleming, Sam Mitchell and George McCloud. The next year they traded Detlef for Derrick McKey who was a long and good defender at the 3 and 4. Haywood Workman became the point guard instead of Pooh Richardson, who was injured. They added a physical Antonio Davis to the roster.

COACHING: The big change happened with the coaches. Offensive minded Bob Hill, one of the better offensive coaches in the NBA, was replaced by defensive task master Larry Brown.

CONCLUSION: This is an interesting case study because the team jumped from 21st to 8th defensively dropping 6 points per 100 possessions based on rebounding and forcing turnovers. My guess is they got tougher with the addition of Antonio Davis and Derrick McKey and defensive minded. Bob Hill was an offensive coach and Larry Brown brought a different mindset.

The Pacers organization has a pattern of a new head coach leading to a defensive improvement and then over time they struggle defensively until they get a new coach. It happened with Hill to Brown then Brown to Bird it happened again and from Bird to Isaiah it occurred and a huge drop from Isaiah to Carlisle. Jim O’Brien ignored defense and Frank Vogel has rectified that.