Friday, February 7, 2014
Are the Pacers the Seahawks of the NBA?
By John McTigue
The Indiana Pacers have the league’s best record this season (38-10). The Pacers boast the NBA’s top defense and one of the brightest young stars in Paul George.
The way the Pacers were built, coupled with their performance this season, is similar to the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks.
Years in the making
Neither the Seahawks nor Pacers were built overnight. The bases of each team were built through the draft, and supplemented through trades and free agency.
Paul George was taken 10th overall in 2010. Lance Stephenson was taken in that same draft with the 40th pick. Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger were both taken with the 17th pick (Hibbert in 2008, Granger in 2005).
Add those players to trade acquisitions George Hill and Luis Scola, plus free-agent David West, and you have a formidable, deep team.
The Seahawks were built in a similar fasion.
Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were all taken in the third round or later. Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin were acquired in trades.
Key pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were signed this past offseason, luxuries the Seahawks could easily afford because of the money they saved by using their late-round draft picks well.
Cheap star power
Hitting on a lower draft pick can lead to cheap production, freeing up money for other players. The Seahawks hit big with Wilson. The Pacers hit big with George.
Wilson cost only $681,085 against the Seahawks’ salary cap in 2013. There were 53 quarterbacks with a higher cap value in 2013, including Wilson’s backup, Tarvaris Jackson.
George’s cap hit for the Pacers this season is just more than $3.2 million. There are 189 players that count for a bigger hit against their team’s cap, including Granger ($14.0 million), who has averaged 8.2 points per game this season.
Win with defense
The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, allowing 14.4 per game. The Seahawks’ defensive efficiency was also best in the NFL (+7.2 expected points added per game).
The Pacers have allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA this season (90.2) and the fewest points per 100 possessions (93.9).
The Pacers host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight (ESPN, 7 Eastern). The Blazers average 107.7 points per game this season, the most in the NBA.
This isn't the first time this week that the top scoring offense in a league has met the top scoring defense. In Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos had the top scoring offense in the NFL.
That game worked out well for the defense, as the Seahawks beat the Broncos 43-8.
Doug Clawson contributed to this post.