ESPN’s wins prediction model has the Pacers approaching a dangerous zone

Tyrese Haliburton (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Tyrese Haliburton (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

While penciled in by many as a near-lock for the bottom of the standings, the Indiana Pacers are far from touting the least talented squad in basketball. With Tyrese Haliburton leading a pack of high-upside youngsters and even some veteran holdovers, betting on the team to be a cellar dweller is still a gamble in itself.

Most pundits project the Pacers to miss the postseason. However, one major outlet has the team not only finishing in the lottery for a third straight year, but also approaching the dangerous zone of “NBA purgatory,” not good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to garner a high draft pick.

ESPN’s wins prediction model has the Indiana Pacers stuck in the middle

ESPN recently released its stats-based win projections for all teams, which raked in some mixed, yet totally warranted, reviews (yeah, as if Golden State finishing eighth in the West after winning the title makes sense). However, what it said about the current iteration of the Indiana Pacers may put off some fans who are hoping that the team inclines on the negative extremes for future-proofing.

"Written off as rebuilding after trading Malcolm Brogdon and seeing an offer sheet to restricted free agent Deandre Ayton matched, the Pacers actually project as having enough talent on the roster to contend — for now. Indiana could head toward the bottom by trading center Myles Turner and accelerating a youth movement."

The piece has the Pacers finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference, well behind the postseason bracket, but their projected wins total inches them away from the top lottery prize.

Indiana’s predicted wins total of 38 for 2022-23 is higher than nine teams, seven of them in the West.

  • Indiana Pacers (38.0)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (36.8)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (36.6)
  • Sacramento Kings (36.5)
  • Utah Jazz (34.9)
  • San Antonio Spurs (31.2)
  • Orlando Magic (30.6)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (26.9)
  • Houston Rockets (26.7)
  • Detroit Pistons (25.7)

For the fans who are amenable to winning intently despite a clear ceiling, this rings a pleasant hymn, but any rebuilding team finishing in the middle is in for a not-so-ideal situation, especially considering how stacked the 2023 NBA Draft class projects to be.

While the Pacers are unlikely to finish ahead of win-now teams like the Lakers, Trail Blazers, and even the Kings in the standings, the number of squads jockeying for lottery position is quite robust.

Hopefully, the Blue and Gold can find a way to clarify its direction before the midseason point, as winning too much to chase a play-in berth is as detrimental, if not more, as losing too much if they are surprisingly competitive enough, which is honestly unlikely.

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