The Indiana Pacers have a depth problem

Ever since Glenn Robinson III returned from injury after the All-Star Game, he’s been used sparingly by coach Nate McMillan. He played just two minutes against the Clippers, and his minutes have been steadily declining as McMillan has shortened the bench down the stretch.

Robinson hasn’t exactly justified the minutes he has played on the floor. His paltry 9.2 PER and horrifying 37.9/26.3 FG/3PT shooting splits have effectively negated him as a factor in Indiana’s bench offense.

Indiana only goes about eight or nine deep (depending on which version of Lance Stephenson shows up that night). Cory Joseph, Trevor Booker, and Domantas Sabonis have stepped into roles as the backup guard, forward, and center, with Lance playing the bench chemistry/heat check/glue guy.

And that “eight or nine” might just be “seven or eight”, considering that Booker was only trusted with four minutes of action in the Clippers game.

That’s the kind of bench rotation you expect from a college team, not a pro squad.

This close to the playoffs, it’s probably for the best that McMillan’s playing fewer guys, since wear and tear injuries are less important when fighting for a seed or winning a seven-game series than they are during the long grind of a regular season.

After all, there are no DNP-Rest SEGABABA games in the postseason.

If you look at Indiana’s roster of guys who have played fewer than 1500 minutes this season (Sabonis, at 1696 minutes, is eighth on the team), what you see is a who’s who of guys you don’t want to see except in garbage time…with one bizarre exception. The Big Four advanced stats tell the story:

Joe Young (520 minutes): 10.2 PER, .045 WS/48, -4.7 BPM, -0.4 VORP

T.J. Leaf (428 minutes): 10.5 PER, .084 WS/48, -4.6 BPM, -0.3 VORP

Robinson (234 minutes): 9.2 PER, .062 WS/48, -2.5 BPM, 0.0 VORP

Booker (180 minutes): 12,5 PER, .083 WS/48, -2.3 BPM, 0.0 VORP

You’ll notice one guy missing from the list, and he’s a guy who’s played in only half of Indiana’s games this season, and then only because Myles Turner and Sabonis couldn’t stay healthy.

Al Jefferson (462 minutes): 19.9 PER, .154 WS/48, -0.4 BPM, 0.2 VORP.

That’s right…the much-maligned Al Jefferson does one thing and does it well; he bullies opposing big men on the boards and gives Indiana inside presence that allows them to bang with guys who would normally run wild on poor rebounders like Turner or outmuscle a guy like Sabonis.

Jefferson is built like a monster at 6’10” and 289 pounds, and so far this season, he’s learned to throw his weight around in his limited role; he’s a guy who should at least be considered for spot minutes in the playoffs to neutralize an enemy big man.

But the overarching point here is that as soon as you get past Joseph, Sabonis, and Good Lance, the Pacers are running the Mad Ants out there.

It will be interesting to see (barring injury, of course) whether McMillan’s continuing to treat the roster like a college team in terms of distributing the minutes contributes to Indiana’s potential run to the Eastern Conference Finals…or beyond.