Although the Indiana Pacers‘ postseason was cut short after losing to the eventual champions Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers proved that they are not only capable of competing with the “Dynamic Trio”, but they showed the league that they are a legitimate team that has what it takes to win a NBA Championship.
The Pacers were one of the best teams in the NBA last year, and they are back with a mission to be even stronger at the end of their fantastic year. After being known for the infamous “Brawl” with the Detroit Pistons, the Pacers have quietly established themselves as a top-tier team and have played extremely well in the past couple of years.
In their 2012-13 campaign, they posted a 49-32 record that made them first in the Central Division and third in the Eastern Conference.
During the offseason, the Pacers insured that their team would remain intact and have all the weapons that they need to accomplish their mission. By re-signing the gritty, lethal, post-player in David West, they made sure that the Pacers would remain one of the most physical teams in the NBA.
With West signing an extension, the Pacers’ front court will be one of the best, as Roy Hibbert continues his development of becoming one of the best centers in the league. While the Pacers have their two All-Stars on the inside, they may have one of the best backcourts in terms of athleticism, speed and skill at all three positions.
When All-Star forward Danny Granger went down with an injury that pretty much ended his season, the Pacers experienced a breakout year from shooting guard Paul George, who took command of this team and became an All-Star himself.
Although the Pacers were ranked second defensively by allowing only 90.7 points per game, they struggled in the scoring category, as they were only scoring 94.7 points per game that ranked them 23rd in the league. If George and Granger can learn to coexist, the Pacers will have two of the most talented scorers in the league — not to mention that they have a stud named George Hill at the point guard position.
The starting five for the Pacers is downright scary, as they have the ability to stifle their opponents defensively and strike their opponents inside-out at will.
Like any great team, they must have a great bench to support their team. Fortunately for the Pacers, they were able to sign forward Chris Copeland and guard C.J. Watson in free agency. Copeland is an excellent shooter that can play both inside and out, and Watson is a capable scorer and proven that he can be more than just a backup. Add these two players to their rising youngster in Lance Stephenson, and the Pacers’ bench should be a solid group heading into an exciting year.
Although the Chicago Bulls will be a threat to the Pacers within their own division with the return of their All-Star point guard in Derrick Rose, the Pacers should still come out on top in a division that added some talent.
If the Pacers can figure out a way to maximize both George and Granger’s skill, their chemistry together will be the key to unlocking the potential of the Pacers.
With the Eastern Conference stacked with some of the best teams, I predict that the Pacers will repeat as the Central Division leaders for a second year in a row and improve their record by three games at 52-30. This will be a Pacers team that has great shooters, dominant post players and a tenacious defense supported with a solid bench, to keep up the intensity.
Not many teams even possess two of these characteristics, which puts the Pacers into the “Elite” category. The Pacers will be one of the best, and they will have the opportunity to knock off the “King of Villains” in the Heat and end their tyrannical reign.