Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee. When talking about the Eastern conference that is the focus. The Raptors sit in first with a re-energized team and possibly the best player in the east Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks currently are in second with one of the most dangerous forwards the league has ever seen (Giannis) and much better shooters than they have had in the past. The 76ers have the two young stars Simmons and Embiid, just added Jimmy Butler and seem to finally be destined to take the East. Finally, Boston the deepest and likely most talented team who has struggled early still is a favorite to come out of the East. All of these teams are great picks to get to the Finals, but one is missing…
The Indiana Pacers
The Pacers return a team that took a LeBron led Cavs team to seven games, dominating the Cavs in two games and playing them close in every loss. The Pacers added Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott along with Aaron Holiday, to give more help behind star guard Victor Oladipo. The frontcourt is as strong as any team, with Sabonis coming off the BENCH averaging 14.3 points and adding 10.1 rebounds in just 24 minutes. The Pacers have seven players averaging over nine points and allow a league-best 102 points per game.
The team might not have the stars the teams above have, but they play defense at a level that none of the other Eastern teams do while being able to score from a variety of areas. A major flaw people will point to, is the team only having one superstar Oladipo. The Pacers may have relied on him in the past, but seem to be less dependent on the superstar now. The Pacers are 5-4 without their lone superstar, which is not good enough to contend with the top four, but still a solid showing from a unit without their leader. Add Oladipo back and this team is primed for a deep playoff run.
Currently sitting tied for fourth in the East the Pacers are not going to be an easy team to knockout. Gritty defense is not the only strength of the Indiana Pacers this year. The Pacers rank 5th in the NBA in 3pt percentage (37.6%). This team can beat teams from outside and inside with a great 1-2 punch of Myles Turner and Sabonis. Five of the past seven years LeBron James has ended the Pacers season, a problem they will no longer have to face.
The Pacers pushed LeBron more than any team over the past eight years, and with one of the best teams defensively and shooting in the NBA, the Pacers should be considered a real threat to win the East.