Unless you're a hardcore basketball fan, you would not recognize much of the Indiana Pacers' roster. This goes for their head coach Frank Vogel and new general manager Kevin Pritchard. With a 4-2 pre-season record, the Pacers have shown that youth, defense, and team ball can produce results. They should win the Central Division, unless Chicago's Derrick Rose makes a miraculous recovery, and finisesh second in the East.
Last year the Pacers finished 42-24 behind the Bulls in the Central Division and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat. The Pacer's average years of experience in the NBA is 2.2, not including David West and Danny Granger at nine and seven years respectively. The only new name that the average person might recognize is Donnie Walsh, who is back and replacing Larry Bird as President of Basketball Operations.
Critical for the Pacers to do well in the Eastern Conference will be their defense. Because they don't have an elite scorer, they will also have to rely on crashing the boards.
One person of note will be forward/guard Sam Young out of Pittsburgh who will be saddled with the difficult task of trying to slow down marquee scorers like LeBron James and Celtics' Paul Pierce. It will be interesting to see if the Hansbrough brothers, forward/center Tyler and guard Ben will push each other now that they are on the same team.
Guards Darren Collison and Leandro Barbosa who had been providing good bench help were traded. They were replaced by veterans: guard D. J. Augustin (back-up point), center Ian Mahinimi, guard/forward Gerald Green, forward/center Jeff Pendagraph, and guard Lance Stephenson who may be the last one cut. Granger the team leader will have to help mold the rookies: Hansbrough, guard Orlando Johnson (UCSB), and forward Miles Plumlee (Duke) into contributors and continue to set an example in tenacity, hustle, and hard work.
Gone are the Pacers well-known coaches like Bird, Bobby Leonard, Jack Ramsay, and Larry Brown. Just as the state is one of farmers, manufacturers, steel workers, and other blue collar workers, it will have to depend on the same work ethic from its little known ball players in a small market with its second to last NBA payroll of $51 million.
The Indiana Pacers the only NBA team with a state name, even without a big star could be a top-three seed in the East again if their core of Granger, George, or Hibbert remain injury-free. The trio still need to produce at an All-Star level to surpass the reigning world champion Miami Heat to get out of the East intact.
Even if the Pacers could, they would not match up well against the star power of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Unfortunately, given their talent limitations, the Pacers won't win the NBA anytime soon. In the meantime, they Indiana Fever's WNBA championships will have to do.