Nobody likes to talk about the Indiana Pacers. Too bad, because we all should be talking about the Pacers. No, they aren’t the sexiest team in the NBA but they may be the most effective. Last year they stretched the eventual champions, the Miami Heat, to the limit before running out of gas. This year they are back and even more balanced.
The Pacers are one of those teams you forget about unless your team happens to be playing them that night. They don’t have a “star” but what they do have is balance and depth. The Pacers remind you of the Detroit Pistons team that Larry Brown coached and led to an NBA Finals. They play tough defense, every player plays within themselves, and they have balance in the starting five and bench. Remember, all of this is being done without the services of Danny Granger.
Unless the Pacers decide to get cute at the trade deadline, this team should challenge any one of the teams in the Eastern Conference. The key to the Pacer’s success will depend on how they fare once Granger gets back. Lance Stephenson has gone from the end of the bench to starting in place of Granger and has earned the trust of the team and coaching staff, while providing more depth and versatility in the lineup.
Paul George has emerged as a force on both ends of the court in Granger’s absence as well, playing small forward instead of shooting guard. Many believe that George’s play thus far may have even made Granger expendable once healthy. The hope here is that Granger doesn’t upset the current chemistry of the team once he returns.
The Pacers need to find a way to get Roy Hibbert on track. After paying him handsomely this summer, they are still waiting on Hibbert to show up and be the player that they agreed to pay $58 million over 4 years. Yes, Hibbert can still be a presence on the defensive end, but being a threat on the offensive end will force teams to have to defend him as well.
If the rest of the Eastern Conference isn’t careful, the Pacers will be representing them in the Finals this year. Having balance all over the floor plus a defense first approach is what has them sitting third in the standings so far. With the return of a healthy Granger and Hibbert finding a way to get on track, they should have just as good a chance as any other team come playoff time.