The Indiana Pacers have enjoyed their spot among the top teams in the Eastern Conference over the last few years. But with LeBron James heading back to Cleveland and Derrick Rose returning to Chicago, Indiana already had their work cut out for them if they were hoping to make another deep run into the playoffs. Unfortunately for fans in Indiana, things got even worse on Friday when Paul George was injured in a team USA game in Vegas. The injury, which resulted in a broken ankle, is likely going to hold George out of the entire 2014-2015 season, which resulted in the Pacers plummeting to 60/1 odds to win the NBA Championship next season.
The Pacers originally selected George with the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. After averaging just 7.8 and 12.1 points per game in his first two years in the league, George quickly became the go-to player for the Pacers when Danny Granger was injured in 2012. Even after Granger’s return, George remained the staple of the Pacers squad. He would increase his production and average 17.4 and 21.7 points per game in the last two seasons.
In 2011, the Pacers made the playoffs as the 8th ranked seed in the East. In 2012, they won an addition 9 games and represented the East as the 3rd seed. Last year they had the best record in the East with a 56-26 record. They did struggle a bit throughout the playoffs and were finally bounced by Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, but George remained the most consistent player on the team.
Moving forward, the Pacers are going to have a completely different lineup next season. Just a month ago they let Lance Stephenson get picked up by Charlotte, despite him being one of the most productive players on the squad. The way things look now, Roy Hibbert and George Hill could be the only two starters returning, which spells trouble for Indiana fans.
Hibbert was one of the most scrutinized players in the playoffs last year, as he completely fell apart and was one of the biggest reasons that people said the Pacers had so much trouble. Hill, on the other hand, may be a good player, but his career average of 10.3 points per game is hardly enough to expect a leadership role from.
After the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA Championship just over a month ago, the East looked completely different in terms of early odds for the 2015 Championship. The Heat were still favorites to win the NBA Championship in 2015, with the Pacers being among the favorites of other teams in the East. Now the Cavs have a league-best 3/1 odds, with the Bulls being second-best in the East at 10/1. After that, the Washington Wizards are 30/1, followed by the Pacers at 60/1.
Of the top 10 teams in the NBA that have the best odds, the East has just three organizations in the conversation. The Pacers aren’t part of that, as they have the 11th best. Ahead of them are the Spurs (4/1), Thunder (6/1), Clippers (10/1), Rockets (12/1), Warriors (20/1), Mavericks (40/1), and Trail Blazers (45/1). Be sure to check back with sportspicks.com handicappers as the NBA offseason continues, as well as when the regular season tips off.
Typically, the honor of playing for team USA is something that any athlete will jump at the opportunity to do. This is especially true in the case of athletes, like George, who are looking to showcase their talent against some of the best in the world. However, players can take note that playing in tournaments outside of NBA play has it’s downfalls, and owners now have more room to explain their frustrations when it comes to their assets playing in non-league associated games.
It hasn’t been announced as to whether or not Paul will miss the 2014-2015 season in its entirety. However, if the Pacers don’t find themselves in the playoff hunt, there may not be much reason for him to return before he is 100% ready to do so. In the mean time, the Pacers will need to see what they can do to capitalize with the pieces that they have still on the roster.