Why a weakening East could soon push the Pacers over the top

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The once-great gap between the Eastern and Western Conferences is now a relative myth. With the NBA now in a unique era of great parity, more teams are armed with players good enough to win them a title. However, the East’s intermittent timeline could play a big role in why the Indiana Pacers can have a swifter ascent to the top.

Nobody is tabbing the Pacers as contenders this season — at 12th place in the East, the team is not even within play-in range as of speaking. However, that script could flip in the immediate future, as the weakening state of the conference corroborates the very rationale behind Indiana’s timely rebuild.

Why a weakening East could soon push the Indiana Pacers over the top

The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA and they will remain one of the elite clubs in the league for many years to come. Ditto for the Milwaukee Bucks, who will always be contenders as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo sticks to the only team he’s ever known. The Cleveland Cavaliers should also be at or near the top for a good number of seasons.

Beyond that, the list of contending teams with clear tomorrows is pretty short. The Philadelphia 76ers have positive momentum this season, but the Joel Embiid-James Harden-Doc Rivers core is definitely not one with a pedigree for winning — and the invisible timer on their championship window has always been widely felt.

Here’s where the good stuff for the Pacers begins. Of the 10 unmentioned teams, only the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons have bright futures to look forward to while everyone else could find themselves stuck in the middle for a good while.

Brooklyn is a massive question mark. A Julius Randle-Jalen Brunson core should get New York excited for a playoff series — not a title — triumph. Miami’s title window is probably over. Atlanta just fired their head coach and has to move along with its middling roster. Washington…is just there.

Toronto is currently a reclamation project. Chicago? Good luck staying the course with that group. Don’t even get me started on the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA’s franchise equivalent of the popular adolescent phrase called “winging it”.

Soon enough, the Indiana Pacers should have a clearer way paved for them to succeed and rise to the top in the Eastern Conference. While they will definitely not be the lone bearers of that shot, fans should be able to look forward to more bountiful seasons for the franchise in the success department.

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