Matthes Manifesto II: Where do the Indiana Pacers stack up in the East?

Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Roughly 25 weeks ago the 2017-18 Indiana Pacers season came to an end with an overflowing optimism for the future. That future, and the 2018-19 season, is upon us. For his look at the West, check it out here.

To the Indiana Pacers and the NBA: It’s been a while, but it’s good to be back.

Golden State is the past, present and possibly future champions. The Cavaliers aren’t exactly the Cavaliers anymore. LeBron James is a Laker, Paul George isn’t. Kawhi Leonard plays in a different country. Manu Ginobili has retired, while Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter (both beginning their 21st tour’s of duty in Dallas and Atlanta, respectively) haven’t.

And in Indiana, the most anticipated new season in what, a half-decade, is set to begin.

Victor Oladipo’s drives, Myles Turner’s blocks, Domantas Sabonis’ how’d-he-see-them passes, Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison’s marksmanship, and Thaddeus Young’s ability to glue it all together all will soon take to the court again in a meaningful way bringing valid feelings of optimism with them.

The Pacers will be good or should be, there are always unseen things that can derail projections both for good and for ill. Like last year, Oladipo becoming an All-NBA player altered the future for the Pacers for the better.

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Season previews are challenging because of that, but they’re also fun, so what the hey, here’s ours. On the later slides, you’ll see an entry for each team along with key team stats from last year, projected depth charts and a win-gauge projecting the high and low win totals for each team. We start our overview with the Eastern Conference.

You’ll probably hear lazy analysis stating something that after James’ departure the East has now become the NBA’s JV league. There’s a slight twinge of truth to it.

Two-thirds of Western Conference teams would have at least reasonable hopes of making the playoffs on the other side of the Mississippi. But that’s not the case at the top of the East.

The 2018-19 Eastern Conference has two clear front-runners with two contenders strong enough to unseat either of the top dogs. There’s another team that has one of the five arguably best players in the world, yet his team has much to prove not only to the league but to the team’s star. There’s another team, rising out the NBA’s worst division, that looks like an all-star ensemble but might not survive internal tensions.

The NBA’s southern-most team is steady, reliable, well-coached, and surly playoff-bound, ready to capitalize on anyone’s mistakes. Then there are maybe three or four others scrapping for the final playoff rug and the validation that comes with it.

The East has more than it’s fair share of mediocre basketball teams, but it’s far from a joke. The competition in the top third of the conference will be fierce, as stout as anything in the west beside the team on the Bay. And this is where we’ll begin this preview, at the top, in Boston, the favorite for now.