With a season that has not lived up to preseason expectations, Indiana Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel decided to shake things up even further. His recent demotion of D.J. Augustin to third string point guard in favor of Ben Hansbrough doesn’t come as a surprise, but it shows just how many issues Indiana’s bench has had through the first quarter of the year.
“Our bench as an unit has been struggling,” Vogel told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “D.J. is not in any way solely responsible, but I don’t want to change the whole bench and throw everybody upside down. We’ll change one part and see if it has any impact.”
Augustin, a summer free agent signee, was expected to fill the void of Darren Collison, who ended last season as the Pacers backup point guard but was traded away for backup center Ian Mahinmi. Augustin has failed miserably to live up to expectations, at times hardly resembling an NBA-caliber player. He’s averaging career lows in points per game (3.2), field goal percentage (.266) and three point percentage (.213).
The Hansbrough promotion is just the latest move by Vogel to jump-start the bench. He moved Gerald Green back to the bench after starting him in injured small forward Danny Granger’s spot to begin the season. Green was replaced by Sam Young for three games, who has since been replaced by Lance Stephenson, which moved Paul George to small forward.
Vogel has mostly shied away from lineups that feature all five bench players in recent games. He has reworked the rotation to keep at least one starter on the court for the majority of games. The numbers back up this strategy. The Pacer bench has regressed from last year’s unit in points per game (29.8 to 26.9), field goal percentage (.405 to .380) and efficiency (31.4 to 28.5). Indiana’s bench has the third worst efficiency difference in the Association, while the starters have the seventh best. (Stats provided by hoopsstats.com)
I don’t expect the Hansbrough move to make that much of a difference, but the Augustin albatross had run its course over the first 21 games. It may be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but at least Vogel is willing to make changes to ensure this average season doesn’t turn disastrous.
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