Paul George recently said that the Indiana Pacers aren’t that far from winning an Eastern Conference Title. The Pacers are no longer the team that consisted of George, Lance Stephenson, David West and Roy Hibbert. The current lineup is no where close to being NBA Finals contenders, let alone Eastern Conference finalists. Even without including the Cleveland Cavaliers, there are a large amount of teams in the East that can easily compete with Indiana.
First off, there’s Boston Celtics, who just finished the 2016-17 season atop of the eastern conference and should be considered higher in the pecking order than Indiana. Led by Isaiah Thomas, who averaged just under 29 points per game this season, the Celtics have a complete roster. The team has a solid backcourt partner for IT4 in Avery Bradley, a new free agent singing in Al Horford, and great role players like Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. You have to credit their General Manager, Danny Ainge, for his smart trades. He has stockpiled potential top 5 draft picks in the past years. This will give them the opportunity to pull the trigger at any given moment to add another star to an already good roster.
You have the Toronto Raptors, who have an elite backcourt and a good core for the future. They have a roster headlined by DeMar DeRozan, one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, and star point guard Kyle Lowry, who might leave in free agency. Even if he leaves to another team, the Pacers still don’t have enough firepower to beat the boys up North. Even though they were just pushed to a Game 7, the Pacers haven’t gotten that much better, while the Raptors added Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker, making them a scary team.
The Washington Wizards have possibly the second best backcourt in the NBA All-Star point guard John Wall and partner-in-crime Bradley Beal. These two guards have displayed some of the best seasons in each of their careers. Re-signing Otto Porter could give them a trio that could potentially take over the NBA for the next few years to come. If their young core continues to grow, the Pacers will not be able to contend with D.C.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a much better team for the future than Indiana. The amount of young players on this team is crazy. They have players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Thon Maker, Jabari Parker and surprise Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. They also added scrappy defensive point guard Matthew Dellavedova to the roster. The Bucks are looking at a potential dynasty in a handful of years.
Then you have the obvious three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. In this year’s playoffs, the Cavs swept the Pacers with ease. Nobody on the Pacers can stop LeBron James or Kyire Irving. They couldn’t even handle Kevin Love! The way that the Cavs can turn it on defensively and scorch you from the three point line is way beyond the Pacers abilities to handle.
The Pacers are set to be a borderline playoff team for a while, but that’s about it. The selection of Myles Turner in the draft was a steal. He has shown glimpses of being a potential superstar and a huge problem for opposition big men. However, the Pacers don’t have many trade assets and boast an unattractive overall roster for upcoming free agents. This might be the ceiling for the Pacers, unless they make a huge splash and sign a free agent in the next year.
“I’m absolutely not surprised he said that,” McMillan said, referring to George’s definitive answer about this coming season. “I expected him to say that.”