Part of Larry Bird’s retooling of the Indiana Pacers‘ bench included not re-signing backup point guard D.J. Augustin and instead finding a suitable replacement. C.J. Watson – a six-year veteran – won that prize, and the mere fact that he even registered on Bird’s radar should tell us everything we need to know.
Watson has bounced around the NBA – Pacers are his fourth team in seven years – but has proven himself to be a valuable backup. Out of 385 NBA games, Watson has started 67, which means he has a clear understanding of the backup position and will be less likely to cause any issues when it comes to playing time. And when it comes to playing time, Watson should see a good amount as head coach Frank Vogel should be looking to limit the amount of minutes his starters play this season, something that you could see affected them in the playoffs last season.
The nice thing about Watson understanding his role as a backup is the fact that the Pacers know from day one what to expect from him. He is a player who can drop 40 points on any given night but will typically stay in the seven-point range. And when it comes to passing, Watson has only averaged 2.5 assists per game for his career, which isn’t great, but given the pedigree of the team he will be playing with this season, it should be a foregone conclusion that his assists per game will climb.
He also handles the ball very well. Watson sports a 1.1 turnovers per game average which is a huge upgrade from Augustin who averaged 2.0 last season and 2.2 for his career. The Pacers need to really limit their turnovers this year – 16.4 per game last year – which many could argue cost them a chance at playing in the NBA Finals last season.
But let’s not forget that Watson is also a decent shooter. He shot 41 percent from three-point range with the Brooklyn Nets last season and has a career 42 percent field goal average. He isn’t going to shoot a lot – 6.4 attempts per game for his career – but he will get the opportunity to show off his shooting thanks to how well the Pacers space the floor.
Bird really worked his magic when it came to rebuilding the entire bench from the ground up. First Watson, then Chris Copeland, then Luis Scola, and that’s not even mentioning the team’s sixth man, Danny Granger or Lance Stephenson.
In a matter of two months the Pacers’ bench went from a joke to a monstrous second unit that could potentially outplay several starting units in the NBA. Watson will be a valuable piece this year, and one that will play a big role in leading the Pacers to the promised land.