Approaching the first full year of a full-on rebuild, the Indiana Pacers are not expected to rack up a lot of wins next season. In fact, most pundits have already penciled them in to be one of the cellar dwellers in the league for the second consecutive year.
However, unlike seasons past, losing will be quite meaningful for the Pacers. Now bannering a youth movement across the board, the Blue and Gold will be looking at the 2022-23 as a developmental campaign that should give the team more clarity on the possible cornerstones for the team.
With that in account, will Indiana end up as the worst team in the Central Division next season?
The Indiana Pacers could end up as the worst Central Division squad next season
The Central Division has three tiers: the Milwaukee Bucks are bona fide title contenders which lord over the division, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers are playoff-caliber teams that should be in the mix next season, and the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, two rebuilding teams, reside in the lowest echelon.
That leaves the Pistons as the lone team that has a chance at finishing with a worse record than the Pacers. Despite bagging Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren in the 2022 NBA Draft, Detroit could move up a notch in the standings by virtue of their ceiling, one that is currently higher than Indiana’s even with Tyrese Haliburton, among others, expected to make a jump.
It also does not help that the Eastern Conference is now brimming with talent more than ever before. Unlike in previous years, where even teams with losing records have a legitimate chance at nabbing a lower seed, the East is now flocked with a bunch of veteran contenders and up-and-comers, making this an ideal situation for an Indiana team already looking forward to the next iteration of the draft.
Ultimately, the Indiana Pacers have the biggest chance among their Central Division counterparts to finish with the worst record. While that is definitely out of the norm for the ever-competitive franchise, this is a resounding statement that the team is willing to accept some heavy pains for equally heavy gains in the near future.