Coming into the season, the best teams in the East are most likely considered to be the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls (in no particular order). To a lot of people, the Heat are the best team in the East as they are back-to-back champions. Well, it may not be that way this season.
In my unbiased opinion, the Pacers are the best team coming into the season. First of all, they took the now two-time champs to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and what really puts Indiana over the top is that they have had the best offseason out of the three teams mentioned earlier.
Indiana has signed two key players this offseason, and those two players are C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. Watson is a huge upgrade over now Toronto Raptor D.J. Augustin, and Copeland is overall an upgrade over also new Raptor Tyler Hansbrough. Not only that, but the Heat really haven’t made any upgrades this season. In fact, they have actually gotten a tad worse. They have recently amnestied Mike Miller, which in my opinion was a bad choice for who to use their amnesty on.
Miller may be up in age and battling back issues, but he can be extremely useful when you need him. In Miami’s 2011-12 championship season, Miller was huge all throughout the playoffs. Miller hit so many threes in the three playoff series that year, especially in the final game of the Finals. Miller hit seven triples in that game, ending with 23 points. So like I said, amnestying Miller may have been a mistake when they need a scoring boost in important playoff games in the future.
The other team that will give Indiana a tough time in the East next season is Chicago. Coming into the season, Chicago will be a better team than last year with the return of Derrick Rose. But excluding Rose’s return, the Bulls haven’t necessarily improved since last season. In fact, they may have gotten worse. A healthy Rose will make Chicago contenders no doubt, but they have lost a few players in Marco Belinelli and Rip Hamilton (both averaged about 10 points per game last season off the bench), as well as possibly Nate Robinson.
Belinelli hit shots when needed for the Bulls and that will surely be missed. As for Hamilton, some say he is old and useless, but I disagree. Hamilton can be a scorer as long as he’s healthy and also brings a veteran presence which is nice to have in the locker room, as well as the playoffs. Chicago did sign someone who isn’t a bad player this offseason in Mike Dunleavy, but he is definitely a lackluster replacement for Belinelli or Robinson, production-wise.
There are no promises, but from what we’ve seen so far this offseason, I say the Pacers may be the best team in the East going into the season.