Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Wednesday Windmill: Just how dangerous are the Indiana Pacers?
One team that seems to be flying under the radar is the red-hot Indiana Pacers, winners of 5 straight games and 8 of their last 10. Led by Victor Oladipo (19.6 points), the Pacers currently have a 25-12 record, putting them just two games back of the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference. In an Eastern Conference that is wide open, this Pacers team needs to be taken seriously as a legitimate contender to reach the NBA Finals.
What makes the Pacers so dangerous is their depth. While Oladipo is their feature player, he has plenty of help around him in guys like Bojan Bogdanovic (16.2 points on 45.7% shooting from 3-point range), Domantas Sabonis (14.6 points & 9.6 rebounds), Myles Turner (13.1 points & 7.3 rebounds), Thaddeus Young (12.1 points & 5.8 rebounds), and Tyreke Evans (10.5 points). With this depth, the Pacers have the shooters to keep perimeter defenders on their toes and the size up front to bang down low.
The biggest question with this team is whether or not they have a legitimate go-to player in the clutch. It's one thing to have guys who you can go to in the regular season, but it's another to have a guy who you can count on to make a key play in the playoffs. When you look at the rest of the Eastern Conference contenders, it's clear who the go-to players are. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Raptors have Kawhi Leonard, the 76ers have Joel Embiid, and the Celtics have Kyrie Irving. While the Pacers can say they have Oladipo, I wouldn't put him in the same league as those other players. At least not yet.
If Oladipo can prove his worth as a legitimate franchise player and show that he's not afraid to step up in the playoffs, then the Pacers have a real chance to go the distance. They have the depth and the versatility to do so. As an added bonus, they have a killer fan base that comes out in droves to support their Pacers come playoff time.
At the moment, I'm not yet sure who to pick to win the Eastern Conference title given that the 76ers and Celtics are underperforming and the Bucks and Raptors are yet to prove they can go deep in the playoffs. With that in mind, I don't see why the Pacers should be excluded from the discussion. They're playing great basketball and have all the pieces to be a nightmare matchup for whoever they face in the playoffs. It's been a while since the Pacers were in the NBA Finals, but I have a feeling this just might be the year that they finally get back.
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