Indiana Pacers: B/R predicts team to lag behind in the East

T.J. Warren - Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
T.J. Warren - Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite having a new coach to man the sidelines this season, along with some much-needed injection of high-ceiling young guns, the Indiana Pacers continue to be overlooked by fans and pundits alike in the 2021-22 NBA season.

In fact, Bleacher Report, in their recent predictions for the campaign, pegged the Pacers well behind their counterparts in the Eastern Conference, attributing the bulk of Indiana’s projected struggles to injuries, yet again.

"With Rick Carlisle back at head coach, the Indiana Pacers will be better than the 34-38 disappointment from a season ago, but injury concerns could keep them out of the playoffs for a second straight year."

If injuries persist, the climbing up the East ladder will be even more difficult for the Indiana Pacers

While the Blue and Gold is certainly better than their assemblage last season, which was bannered by uncharacteristic off-court mishaps to top things off, the team remains largely the same, save for some under-the-radar additions. Still, given Indiana’s precedents with injuries, it’s the lack of confidence in the Pacers eventually trotting out a fully healthy squad is far from surprising.

Injuries are indeed a part of the game, but for the Indiana Pacers, injuries have also consigned as the team’s identity and branding in recent years. Alas, despite dealing with a blank slate to launch them into their campaign, the team is already hobbled, a jarring disadvantage on their part against most teams.

Key starters in Caris LeVert and TJ Warren, both 20-ppg scorers and improved perimeter defenders, are already tabbed to miss the early part of the season. Justin Holiday is dealing with an ankle injury. Starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon has always had his fair share of nagging ailments. Ditto for starting big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

With the East now home to a bevy of much-improved teams led by up-and-comers and marquee names, earning a good position in the Conference is not a guarantee, even if the Pacers eventually deploys a healthy roster. Alongside last season’s playoff teams, clubs on the outside looking in such as the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards now boast deeper squads that could easily compete for a playoff spot.

Failing to crusade a full-strength team will only saddle them and decrease their chances at a more competitive finish. It’s still early and there’s loads of time for the team to recuperate back to full health, but there could indeed be a rewind of last year’s standings otherwise, even if the Indiana Pacers are ultimately better than before as a club, given the league’s across-the-board improvement.

Next. Season opener against the Hornets will be a clash of styles. dark