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INDIANAPOLIS – When Larry Bird speaks, Kevin Pritchard is all ears.
And Bird—one of the greatest players/shooters in NBA history—has a specific thought about what is needed in building a team.
The more shooting, the better.
“I was told by a really smart guy (Bird) you could never have too much shooting on a team,” Pritchard says.
“You can scheme some things defensively and you can look at different schemes for different players but the ability to make shots…”
That seems to be the prevailing theme in today’s NBA.
A serious-ability to stretch the floor, no matter the position, is being coveted by every NBA team.
The Pacers wanted to bolster that aspect of their own team back in February, around the NBA trade deadline.
After electing not to make any moves earlier this year, the Pacers head into the summer having an even stronger belief that more shooting is the answer to making a deeper playoff run.
Indiana watched a hot shooting Bojan Bogdanovic score 30 points (11-of-15 from the field, 7-of-9 from behind the arc) and spark the Pacers in a Game 3 win against the Cavaliers.
But the Cavs beat them in 7 games, thanks to plenty of capable shooters around LeBron James.
“You have to pick your position,” Pritchard says when defending a team like Cleveland. “That’s what we want to get to. We want to bring in some guys who can make some plays, but can catch and shoot and be able to defend their position. That’s highly coveted for us.”
For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo is their LeBron, in that you have an elite playmaker who can create off the dribble.
To keep the defense honest in making them second guess wanting to help out against Oladipo, the Pacers need the floor to be surrounded with shooters.
“With Victor, you have 1 player with the ball and 4 others who can hit shots, (that’s) impossible to guard,” Pritchard says.
“The last 4 minutes you have a real playmaker, which for us is Victor, and then they put out 4 guys that can just shoot the heck out of the ball and they spread you out and force you into a switch and now your best player is going against their weakest defender out there, with 4 shooters.”
It’s not like the Pacers were a team completely void of shooters around last year.
They often had the floor spread with multiple shooters.
But to take things to another level, they likely need even more consistent presences from deep.
Indiana finished last year 6th in the league in field goal percentage. But Golden State and Cleveland were both ahead of them.
The Pacers had the 8th best percentage from three point range. However, 3 of the 4 conference finalists were ahead of them (Cleveland, Boston and Golden State).
Seeing that trend continue into the playoffs has Pritchard repeating the missing ingredient for the Pacers.
“Shooting,” the GM says, “is paramount for us right now.”
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