Indiana Pacers are on pace to win the NBA title

Indiana Pacers are on pace to win the NBA title

Turn on ESPN’s SportsCenter and you’ll likely see a story about how bad the Los Angeles Lakers are, a comparison of NBA superstars Lebron James and Michael Jordan, or reels on reels of the Clippers’ Blake Griffin dunking.

But what you’re not likely to see is a segment on the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers have flown under the radar for years, the result of being a mediocre team for the past decade. However, for the past two seasons, the team has been growing in skill. The thing that is impressive about the 2012-13 Pacers is not their surge into the top three of the East, because all teams fluctuate. Rather, it’s the way the Pacers have managed to sit atop their division.

I think the Indiana Pacers have what it takes to make it to the NBA Championship series.

Look at these stats from ESPN.com about the 2012-13 Pacers, and keep in mind that there are 30 teams in the NBA. As of Feb. 26, 2013, the Pacers put up 93.7 points per game (26th in the league), 20.5 assists per game (25th), 35 field goals made per game (28th), and a 43.3 percent field goal percentage (27th). These offensive stats alone make the team sound as if it doesn’t even belong in the NBA.

So how can a team that plays offense like this be first in the Central Division? The answer is hard-nosed defense and efficient rebounding. The Indiana team is 1st overall in rebounds per game in the NBA with 46 rebounds per game. They grab defensive boards 74.4 percent of the time. Beyond rebounding, they have the No. 1 defense in the league, holding opponents to a measly 89.4 points per game and 41.3 field goal percentage, both tops in the NBA.

Small forward Paul George has stepped up this year as the face of the team. He leads the team in multiple categories and was on the East All-Star team. Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Tyler Hansborough are also contributors to the team. There are no “big name” players on the squad, but Paul George is beginning to make a name for himself.

One reason I believe the Pacers will go to the Championship this year is because they have accomplished all of this without Danny Granger. Granger, who recently returned from a knee injury that sidelined him all season, will kick-start the sluggish offense (he had 18.7 points per game last year) and further improve the Indy team.

Granger is listed as a small forward, but with Paul George’s success so far, I have a feeling Granger will move to more of a hybrid guard/forward position over time. This also gives Head Coach Frank Vogel the option to sub Granger and George out, keeping them fresh and focused. Once Granger gets back to full capacity, the Pacers are in total contention for the top spot in the East.

With their efficient defense and rebounding machine, the power of their starting five, and the return of Granger, the Indiana Pacers have what it takes to go all the way this season and hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.