How Pascal Siakam is setting the pace in Indiana

Plus: Volume 12 of Nekias's series: Screen Time

Welcome back to A Farewell to Takes, our quick trip around the NBA and WNBA. Franz Wagner joined me and Tommy in the studio last week for the latest episode of The Old Man and the Three. He’s a true sicko, if you didn’t already know.

Today’s episode of The Old Man and the Three Things is now live. Tim Legler and I discuss last Friday’s fantastic matchup between Boston and Denver, what’s behind the Cavaliers’ recent winning streak, and the dream matchup we’d want to see in the Playoffs in the West.

Now on to this week’s A Farewell to Takes:

  • Steve Jones Jr. of The Dunker Spot on Pascal Siakam in Indiana

  • Nekias Duncan of The Dunker Spot shares Volume 12 of his series, Screen Time

  • Steve recommends a read

  • Tommy gives a final update on A Fine Fantasy Football League

  • Tommy on the BTTALW (Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week)

Thanks for reading! —JJ

How Pascal Siakam is setting the pace in Indiana

Last week the Indiana Pacers sent shockwaves throughout the NBA by acquiring two time All-Star Pascal Siakam. My initial reaction was a combination of “I can’t believe the Pacers pushed their chips in” and “wait after all of these trade rumors they swung for the fences without trading Buddy Hield or Myles Turner?” The key to me was not just acquiring Siakam, but being able to do so while keeping Hield, Turner, Andrew Nembhard, Jarace Walker, and the majority of their core in tact. That allows the Pacers to maintain flexibility if they would like to make another deal but also truly add Siakam to what they have already built. My hesitation with the Siakam/Pacers rumors was less about Siakam filling a need and more about “are the Pacers in a spot where they can give up pieces of what makes them work to improve?” That portion of the program is delayed.

In Siakam, yes he is very good at basketball, yes the Pacers needed a big wing who could play 3 and 4. My initial thought was just how good of a fit he was for their style of play. His ability to drive and self create combined with the Pacers ability to play with pace, tempo and quick ball movement intrigued me. The Pacers tend to get the ball up quick off makes or misses and get right into their action, a stark contrast to Siakam’s experience in Toronto which could tend to be slower and facing a defense loaded up and ready for his attack. How would Siakam look if the table is already set to a degree?

What also stood out to me was how much of his experience this year in Toronto would aid the transition to playing for the Pacers? For better or worse it was clear the Raptors wanted to shift things offensively. More handoffs, more tempo, more movement. Siakam had to play off ball with mixed results but things felt a lot different once the Raptors added Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett. It was a small sample size but you could feel the difference for Siakam and the Raptors having multiple ball handlers, being able to move the ball side to side, having multiple people who could set or come off screens. All of those are things that the Pacers tend to do naturally. The question is where would the impact come from, how much of Siakam’s versatility would the Pacers look to tap into?

We’ve seen Siakam play for the Pacers twice since the trade (at Portland and at Phoenix, both losses, the game at Phoenix was without Tyrese Haliburton). The biggest thing that’s stood out is the work Siakam can do in transition. In two games the combination of Siakam’s skill set and the quick decisions the Pacers make early in the clock are a nice fit. This tempo means that Siakam can get involved much earlier in the clock. A quick swing to him on the wing turns into Siakam driving, forcing help and initiating the Pacers drive and kick offense. The Pacers being able to get the ball past half court with 21-20 on the shot clock opens a window for Siakam to work to seal for early post ups and operate a) with space and b) against a defense working to get back in transition, not prepared to load up. A pindown in transition can flow right into Siakam as a ball handler in pick and roll, again able to attack before the defense can truly sit on it. As time grows I imagine we see Siakam continue to even push it himself in transition.

In the half court, two games in it is clearly still a work in progress. Against Phoenix it did feel like the Pacers were working to mix in more post ups or ISO’s for Siakam with movement around it. There is potential for those possessions to balance some of the tempo with Siakam’s ability to get a bucket on his own or force help. The biggest thing that stood out to me, especially in the Phoenix game were the moments where the Pacers looked to get to their movement in the half court, did not have anything and then got it to Siakam deeper in the clock. Siakam’s ability to both start and end possessions feels valuable. Keep an eye on if the Pacers can get mismatches for Siakam vs. teams that switch against their movement.

The potential of the two man game between Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton intrigues me. Against Portland, it felt like the Pacers leaned more on dribble handoff actions early in the clock to try and get Siakam space to get downhill and attack. I am curious how the screening chemistry develops between the duo but I do imagine that will be potent especially in the 4th quarter.

Defensively, it feels like Siakam will help the Pacers in a couple ways. For one, he can defense those wing/scoring matchups. The ability to defend multiple positions could add to the Pacers ability to switch. His ability to navigate screens and help on the weakside should add to what the Pacers are trying to do. I am not sure if it will completely change their mindset or their issues. Siakam provided some nice minutes “at the 5” on defense against Phoenix, delivering some of the best pick and roll defense the Pacers have seen this season. The issue is the Suns opted to just put Buddy Hield in action instead and play out of it.

The early returns of Siakam with Indiana have been solid, now he will make his home debut as the Pacers embark on a 4 game homestand. With matchups against Denver, Philadelphia and the Suns upcoming we will continue to learn how much Siakam can impact the Pacers right away. Despite coming up short in the first two games, I think it’s ok for Pacer fans to start their engines. —Steve

Screen Time, Vol. 12: Dominick Barlow

Offenses have never been more lethal than they are in this era. With primary ball-handlers becoming larger, the collective shooting range expanding and teams leaning further into the importance of spacing, it’s becoming even more difficult to keep the ball out of the basket.

With the game expanding, screening has become even more important. A well-placed off-ball pick can free a movement shooter for a triple or a catch-and-drive. On-ball screens can make shifty ball-handlers even harder to deal with in pick-and-roll and open the door for dump-offs, lobs and fruitful catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Screeners come in all sizes these days, ranging from the burly centers to mismatch-causing smalls. I can’t overstate how important guard-screening has become, especially late in games.

This season, I want to keep tabs on who is — and isn’t — getting the job done as screeners. Every week, I’ll be highlighting a handful of the most powerful or shameful screen-setters in the league.

Let’s get into volume 12. All stats are from January 8th onward, unless otherwise noted. It's been a couple weeks, so we'll increase the sample this time around.

Screener of the Week: Spurs big Dominick Barlow

With the return of Zach Collins, our spotlight player from volume two, this may be the best time to highlight what Barlow's been doing as a screening partner. For a group of guards who win more with craft than pure speed, Barlow fits like a glove as a lead blocker. If there's one thing to point out with him, it's how fluidly he flips the angle of his screens. It's a natural counter to some of the ICE (forcing a ball-handler down the sideline) or WEAK (forcing the ball-handler to their weak hand; some overlap with ICE but not 1:1) coverage, but it especially fits with the group of players he screens for. With Devin Vassell in particular, all Barlow has to do is position himself in a way to make sure Vassell's defender falls ever-so-slightly behind the play; Vassell can do the rest.

Over the past couple of weeks, Barlow ranks first in the NBA in screen contact rate (80.4), edging out Thaddeus Young (78.7) and our last highlight player Nathan Mensah (75.5) for the lead. The Spurs have generated 1.14 points per possession (PPP) on trips featuring an on-ball screen from Barlow during that stretch, second to only Karl-Anthony Towns (1.19 PPP) among 33 players to set at least 100 picks. 

What makes this impressive — and kinda funny, honestly — is the fact that Barlow is very much in the "you have one (1) job" camp as a screener. He only logged a shot attempt on 9.3% of his direct picks, one of the lowest marks among the 33-player group. Towns, on the other hand, ranked at the top of the list, attempting a shot on over 41% of his screens.

If there's anything to nitpick with Barlow the screener, it's that there's room for him to hold his picks a beat (or two) longer than he does. It's important to reiterate his context — guys like Vassell don't necessarily need a bone-crushing pick to slither into pull-ups — but everyone isn't Vassell. Nonetheless, a fun couple of weeks for a guy working to earn a standard contract.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Your most productive on-ball screener this week*, minimum of 75 picks set? Julius Randle (1.21 PPP), who continues to put together one of the most fine-you-can-have-it-I-guess All-Star cases of recent memory. Dude's a tank when he wants to hit you, even if he's mostly hitting you to generate a mismatch for him to punish. 

  • In the Inverted Division, quick shoutouts to Buddy Hield (1.34 PPP, have fun with Pascal Siakam!), Terance Mann (1.14 PPP, his 77.4 screen contact rate ranks 8th among 115 players to set at least 30 picks), Grayson Allen (1.19 PPP, 2nd in contact rate among that group because #OfCourse), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1.41 PPP, continues to be fun as part of Denver's Pistol, Double PnR, and pure 5/1 PnR setups).


Franz Wagner joined the latest episode for his second appearance on The Old Man and the Three. He talked about learning from Luka and Shai by studying film and Second Spectrum, how the NBA approaches the game vs. how FIBA does, his brother/teammate/roommate Mo, and much more.

YouTube | Wondery+ | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | wherever you listen to your podcasts

A update on A Fine Fantasy Football League

As the greatest Sunday of the year (aka NFL Conference Finals weekend) is upon us, wanted to give a quick shoutout to the three winners in the OM3 Fantasy league this year. Sean Evans had a dominant performance in the finals, a deep sleeper most of the year who took off when the games began to matter, and took home the grand prize. Georges Niang, who took time between lighting up the Bucks to come in 2nd place, and perhaps most impressively, Alex Caruso. Last year's doormat, whose effort has never been in question but perhaps his strategy. has been more so, came all the way back and ended the year in third. It was a well managed year all around; everybody besides Chris Long had their high moments. While these three ended up on top, it could have been anybody. Looking forward to running it back next year. —Tommy

What Steve has been reading

Lost in all of the on court talk or the excitement behind a transaction can be the humanity involved within it. I can't speak to what this Players’ Tribune piece may have meant to Siakam or Raptors fans, but it told a necessary piece of the story that should not be forgotten. —Steve

Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week: Boo Radley Bar at Atticus

I was at Sundance this weekend for the premiere of OG correspondent Sue Bird's incredible documentary, Sue Bird in the Clutch. While the food scene out there is incredibly swamped generally on a weekend like this, the best thing I had the whole weekend was a $3 bar from a coffee shop called Atticus. Made with almond butter, oats, vanilla, and chocolate chips, the Boo Radley bar had no business being as good as it was, and I kind of wish I grabbed like 5-10 of them for the road. —Tommy

Atticus | Instagram | 738 Main St, Park City, UT 84060

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