The Indiana Pacers are going up against the strongest Eastern Conference in recent memory.
It seems like the Indiana Pacers are outperforming expectations every year. Take whatever the experts say in their preseason predictions and add five, maybe 10 wins and bump their playoff seed up about two spots. It’s just what the Pacers do.
This season is no different, and those same experts do not have much confidence in what the Pacers’ front office has built. Unfortunately for Indiana, this could be the deepest Eastern Conference in recent memory. Could this be the year the experts get it right?
There are a few teams that are better than the Pacers without much room for debate. Those teams are the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers.
At best, Indiana will be the sixth-best team in the East. Now, the Pacers could finish the regular season with a better record than any of those teams or they could grab a series win in the first round of the NBA Playoffs over one of those teams. It just means that right now, on paper, these five teams are better than the Pacers.
Then, there are a couple of teams that could be a coin flip when comparing them to Indiana. The Toronto Raptors have the talent and experience to continue as a threat in the East despite losing some key pieces during the offseason. Rumors are that Russell Westbrook is on a mission to prove he can be a great teammate to the rest of the Washington Wizards’ roster. He’s already an upgrade over John wall making the Wizards a likely top-eight seed.
A couple more teams made significant improvements despite the short offseason. That is not to say that a team in this next category is “good” or better than Indiana, but they should see improved results.
Making some of the league’s most significant moves in free agency, the Atlanta Hawks added Bogdan Bogdanović, Danilo Gallinari, and Rajon Rondo to their talented young core. LaMelo Ball appears to be the real deal and Gordon Haywood will get a chance to lead a roster again in Charlotte.
If Billy Donovan can get the Chicago Bulls’ roster working together, there is some young talent there. The Cleveland Cavaliers also seem to be missing that “team” feel despite having some individual talent.
All that team analysis is just to say that the Pacers could be the fourth-best team in the East, or they could be the 12-seed if a couple of surprise teams make significant jumps. The top three teams in the Eastern Conference are legitimate title contenders. After that, no one really knows.