The Indiana Pacers are a team that plays in the National Basketball Association.
If that was the end of describing what the Pacers are and why they exist, few people outside The Hoosier State would blame you for your commentary.
This team was built in the vision of its head coach Nate McMillian, a player who was known for being an efficient offensive weapon and a devious defender who would steal the change out of your mother’s pocketbook. No team makes more two-point baskets than the Pacers and no squad takes the ball away from their opponent than the Pacers. (Stats via basketball-reference.com) It’s a team that will gleefully bury you in the margins of the game.
Sportsbooks in Indiana have the Pacers getting good odds at hosting a first-round playoff series, and the threat they could pose to potential championship contenders in the Eastern Conference is very palpable. If the numbers confirm the Pacers as good, and betting sites agree, why aren’t we discussing them as more than potential contenders? Let’s break them down.
For the first time in half a decade, there is no truly understood great team that dominates the Association. The Warriors have been decimated by injury and free agency, so the purposeful pursuit of the title feels a little more hopeful for many teams.
The Pacers are good. They have three players under 25 years old having breakout seasons. Malcolm Brogdon is in the top ten in assists per game. TJ Warren came over from Phoenix and is having his most efficient offensive season in his career. And Domantas Sabonis is a double-double machine and first-time All-Star. In addition to a healthy Victor Oladipo, the Pacers have two All-Star caliber players and multiple shot creators for themselves and others. Those are two vital components needed to advance in the postseason.
Oladipo has been with the Pacers for only seven games. So for the most part, Indiana has been this good without their best player. They’re top 10 in field goal shooting, three-point shooting, free-throw shooting and fewest turnovers per game. These positives could prove to make the Pacers a viable threat to do more than just advance a round in the playoffs.
As previously stated, the Indiana Pacers are good. But though there are no truly great teams, there are really good teams that are better than the Pacers. As of this post, the Pacers are sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers are all ahead of them. Factor in the surprising Miami Heat and there are teams that simply have more than the Pacers have. Because of that, there were little expectations placed on the team’s success. Other teams were and are more favored to win the NBA title. Because off of that, and good or bad surprises like the Heat and Sixers respectively, the Pacers do not garner enough attention by simply being good. They’ll get whatever share of coverage good teams without captivating players or superstars get.
Even with Oladipo returning to form, he isn’t near the All-Star version of himself. While the Pacers certainly appear to have a really good offense, they lack a truly dominant superstar capable of taking over playoff games if need be. Good players make the playoffs. Great players dominate in the playoffs. The Pacers, at this moment, so do not have a great player.
The Pacers have also been inconsistent. Yes, the team has multiple five-game win streaks. But prior to defeating Milwaukee before the All-Star break, Indiana was on a six-game skid. That last sentence captures the Pacers perfectly. They’re good enough to handily beat Milwaukee but can also lose six in a row. Championship contenders carry a level of consistency with them where poor stretches of play are kept at a minimum. All teams suffer bad losses, but the better teams do not let that seep into their overall success.
The regular season and playoffs will determine just how good the Pacers are and how much they will be mentioned going forward. They are worth paying attention to, as any good team is, but with proper context compared to the rest of the Association.
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The Indiana Pacers selected Reggie Miller with the 11th overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft.