Pacers have best shot to dethrone Cavs in Eastern Conference

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Updated: October 18, 2016
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Paul George

 

After an uncanny offseason, there are a number of teams in the NBA that have improved significantly. Obviously the Golden State Warriors upgraded with the addition of Kevin Durant. But there were a few teams in the Eastern Conference that made big splashes as well. And since he’s stepped foot on the hardwood, the mission in the East is to form a roster that can dethrone “King James.”

The Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers all made moves this summer. For the most part, the Toronto Raptors remained the same. And the Atlanta Hawks signed Dwight Howard, but lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague along the way.

With that being said, the team that may pose the biggest threat to the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers is the Pacers. Due to the Raptors and Hawks failing to improve their roster, that basically expunges them from the conversation. Both the Knicks and Bulls made a few improvements, but neither have the depth on their bench to compete with the Cavs in a seven-game series. But there could be an argument made for Paul George and the Pacers.

It’s hard to imagine a team that made the playoffs last season by hanging on to a string being true contenders. But believe it or not, under new head coach Nate McMillan, the Pacers are adapting to the modern style of basketball. On May 5, team president Larry Bird decided not to retain former head coach Frank Vogel. His new vision for the Pacers is to push the tempo and create more opportunities at the 3-point line.

Bird received a ton of criticism for the move since McMillan didn’t seem to fit that plan at all. In fact, when McMillan coached the Seattle SuperSonics (2000-05) and Portland Trail Blazers (2005-12), the type of system he ran was the complete opposite.

We’ve seen it year in and year out. The teams that go deeper in their roster are the ones that win it all. Two years ago with Golden State, and last year with Cleveland. The Pacers have the nucleus to contend in the East this season. Led by All-Star PG-13, Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, Myles Turner, C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey, Thaddeus Young and company, this team has a legit first and second unit that can both defend and score.

Looking at the key acquisitions this past offseason, Indiana’s biggest loss was guard George Hill. He’s a hometown guy as well. But the addition of Teague should definitely be looked at as an upgrade. Teague is by far the better playmaker of the two and is more of a distributor than Hill.

One of the main concerns with this team falls on the defensive side. Generating more offense at the expense of defense is never an ideal strategy, but that’s what the Pacers have done. Scoring will not be an issue, but Coach McMillan has a tough task at hand on the other side of the court if this team wants to seriously contend.

As it’s always been: superstars remain the ultimate NBA lifeline. Indiana has one of the top-15 players in the NBA on its side with George, along with a young rising star in Turner. If he makes a big enough leap in his second season, expect this team to be dangerous come April.

DC Hendrix

DC Hendrix

Report for Sideline Sports Report. Producer/Host for ESPN 1380 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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