How Effective Were the Indiana Pacers' Backup Bigs This Season?

By Dylan Hughes
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers are only about a week off their Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat and are getting ready to get into the 2013 off-season. Indiana obviously had a pretty successful season after taking the defending champion Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but maybe they could have gone further if they had a stronger bench, specifically stronger backup big-men.

Indiana’s primary backup big-men are power forward Tyler Hansbrough and center Ian Mahinmi. Hansbrough has been around a few years after being drafted by Indiana 13th overall in 2009 and was pretty productive coming into season. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds his rookie season, then jumped up to 11.o points and 5.2 rebounds a game the very next season.

Once the team signed veteran David West, Hansbrough went to the bench where his stats obviously dropped. Last season, he averaged 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a game off the bench. These numbers are pretty good for a backup power forward, but this season, he averaged just 7.0 points and 4.6 rebounds a game, which were disappointing numbers.

Hansbrough’s rebounding numbers jumped a little, but his points per game dropped by over two. Not only that, but he had somewhat of a jumper and good free throw numbers his first thre seasons, but seems to have lost both this season. His FG percentage was second best of his career at 43 percent, but that is only because he attempted less jump shots and scored more in the paint than in the past.

If you watched Hansbrough over his career, you could see his jump shot was a great part of his game, but he noticeably lost it this season. Also, his free throw percentage was worst of his career at 72 percent.

Unfortunately for Hansbrough, this was a contract season. He is awaiting a new contract from the Pacers, but I just don’t see it happening. His numbers aren’t helping his case and Indiana has better options they could look at in the upcoming draft.

Mahinmi on the other hand, is different. This season was his first in Indiana after a sign-and-trade between the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana last summer where the Mavs received point guard Darren Collison and small forward Dahntay Jones, and Indiana got Mahinmi.

He didn’t necessarily have a strong year numbers-wise as he only averaged 5.0 points and 3.9 rebounds, but honestly I don’t think it was his fault. Head coach Frank Vogel ran a nice system during pre-season where they had Roy Hibbert and Mahinmi on the floor at the same time and no one could stop the duo.

Although it worked, Vogel never did this during the regular season. If Mahinmi had been given more of a chance to get on the floor and had players around him that trusted him with the ball, he could have been much more effective. He is tough to stop in the paint with his athleticism and also can kill you with his jumper.

He still has three years left on his contract, so that’s not a worry right now, but he will need to find a way be more effective if he wants to stay a Pacer, but hopefully Vogel and the coaching staff do that for him with a system that plays into his favor.

As a duo, Hansbrough and Mahinmi were terrible together in the playoffs. Hansbrough averaged 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds a game, while Mahinmi averaged a measly 1.6 points and 2.3 rebounds. Indiana’s bench as a whole is what caused them to fall short of the NBA Finals, but I think their backup bigs were the biggest problem.

With Hansbrough hopefully being replaced by someone who can score more, defend better, and Mahinmi more involved, Indiana’s backup bigs problem should be solved and the Pacers could very well find themselves back in the Eastern Conference Finals next season.

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