Stats & Info: Michael Bennett

Are the Pacers the Seahawks of the NBA?

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
9:49
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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).

Looking ahead

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.

Big plays on first down helping Georgia

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
10:57
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(No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks host the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday at 7 ET on ESPN.)

One of the most marquee games on Saturday is the SEC East showdown between Georgia and South Carolina. And the spotlight won’t shine any brighter than it does on the explosive Georgia offense. The Bulldogs' 43 plays of 20+ yards (26 pass, 17 rush) are six more than any other FBS team and 15 more than any other SEC team.

Something that might exacerbate the issue for the home Gamecocks is that they have been vulnerable to big passing plays, having allowed 17 completions of at least 20 yards (tied for third most in the SEC). The Gamecocks have been much stingier against the run, allowing just two runs of 20+ yards, which is tied for the fewest in the SEC.

Georgia has also had a great deal of success on first down, averaging an FBS-best 9.6 yards per play -- including 14.0 yards per pass attempt. When the Bulldogs throw on first down, they have converted first downs 49.2 percent of the time, best in FBS.

Statistically, that should suit Georgia just fine since the key to moving the ball against South Carolina on first down is throwing the ball. The Gamecocks allow just 2.0 yards per rush on first down; however their defense allows 7.5 yards per pass attempt on first down. That ranks 11th in the 14-team SEC.

SOUTH CAROLINA’S BEST HOPE
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the key for South Carolina up front. Clowney is second in the SEC in both tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (5.5). He had his breakout game last season against Georgia with two sacks and a forced fumble that Melvin Ingram returned for a touchdown.

If South Carolina can slow Georgia down and force it into converting on third down, then the Bulldogs could be at a disadvantage. That's because Georgia lost leading receiver Michael Bennett to a season-ending knee injury on Tuesday. QB Aaron Murray often looked to Bennett on third down this season, completing 19-of-32 throws on third down with eight of those completions going to Bennett.

The loss of Bennett hurts, but the return of WR/CB Malcolm Mitchell to offense on a near-full-time basis should help replace Bennett’s third-down production. Last season, Murray was 14-20 throwing to Mitchell on third downs, with all 14 completions going for first downs.

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