Monday, May 5, 2014

The Luis Scola Problem

In the modern NBA, you want your power forward to do 2 of 3 things: shoot 3's, post up and play defense/rebound. They usually exist on a continuum: guys who shoot 3's tend to struggle with interior play (posting up and playing defense) while big men who operate near the basket can't offer the type of floor spacing that stretch 4's provide.

The problem with Luis Scola is that, at this stage of his career, he doesn't give you any of those things. At 6'9 245, he doesn't have a huge size advantage over the 4's who defend him and at 34, he no longer has the quickness and foot speed to create space for himself as a face-up player. He can't create shots for himself against quality competition, his shooting range is strictly at 20 feet and he's not much of a defensive player.

Line-ups with Scola in them are the worst of both worlds. They can't bully smaller line-ups by scoring around the rim, they don't space the floor enough to allow the guards to slash at the basket and they don't play much defense either. If Indiana is getting bullied on the glass and can't protect the paint when Scola is in, they might as well play Chris Copeland and open up the floor on offense.

Take a look at Scola's stat-line tonight. He played 27 minutes and had only 5 rebounds, which is a problem when the Pacers were -17 in rebounding margin. He had 5 personal fouls, which tells you that he couldn't move his feet quick enough to protect the rim and cut off dribble penetration. And while he had 12 points, he was 5-11 from the floor, mostly on open shots that the Wizards were prepared to give up.

Scola was getting wide-open mid-range jumpers all night off the pick-and-pop - if he could take 2-3 steps further back and hit 3's, Washington would have to switch up its defensive strategy. That, in turn, would open up more room for Paul George and Lance Stephenson to get into the lane. Basically, Scola has all of Copeland's negatives on defense and the boards without his positives at the three-point line.

All of this was obvious in his last season with the Phoenix Suns, where he put up average numbers - 13 points and 6 boards on 47% shooting - and played zero defense on an awful team. This wasn't a guy whose profile screamed that he needed to be on a contending team. I'll never understand why the Pacers thought they needed to give up a ransom (a future 1, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green) for a poor man's David West.

That's the other thing - when you are a contending team, you don't want your backups to replicate the strengths and weaknesses of your starters. You want be able to go to your bench and play a different style, which allows you more flexibility to match up with different types of teams over multiple seven-game series. With Scola and West, Indiana is a slow two-post offense for all 48 minutes.

Going forward, you would expect Vogel to give Copeland more minutes at Scola's expense, which is exactly what he did in their first-round series against the Hawks. It's amazing to watch the Pacers make the same mistakes over and over without ever seeming to learn from them, but what would really worry me if I was an Indiana fan was the thought process that brought Scola on board in the first place.

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