The Indiana Pacers are currently 22-28 and hold a one game lead for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They have a good shot landing anywhere from the 6th seed to the 11th seed in the conference. They are on a roll since firing Jim O’Brien and promoting Frank Vogel to head coach. Depending on what other teams do before the trading deadline, can the Pacers finally make the playoffs with Reggie Miller?
Since Frank Vogel took over head coaching duties, the Pacers have only one loss to the Miami Heat. They were leading much of that contest, but lost in the last minutes of the game. Vogel has done away with the “small ball” that O’Brien was trying the last few weeks he was in power and has been starting Tyler Hansbrough &
Josh McRoberts at that position. He also said that he will start playing rookies Paul George & Lance Stephenson more. George has been playing a lot off the bench, but Stephenson has yet to see minutes this year. Indiana has responded and are playing with a fire and passion that was lost under O’Brien.
Larry Bird has been held under fire the last few years. He has been scrutinized about the personnel that he has acquired and seems to have changed his focus this year. He went with the best players available in the draft and didn’t choose the “good character” guy over a risk. Stephenson was a huge risk, but in the 2nd round, not so much. I still think he could be a factor on this team, but he hasn’t been given a shot. He could be useful in the D-League, but the Pacers haven’t been apt to use that option in the past.
The Pacers have a few chips that they could try to move before the trading deadline. Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, and Jeff Foster all have expiring contracts and are very capable players. Dunleavy has been starting, Foster has been coming off the bench, and Ford has been a healthy scratch. All three players can contribute to any team, but doesn’t seem like the Pacers have them in their current or future plans. If they could get a serviceable power forward or defensive help for any of those guys, Bird should jump on it.
It looks like Indiana will be fighting the Knicks, Bobcats, Sixers, Bucks, and Pistons for the last three playoff spots in the East. The Bobcats and Pistons have been rumored to be sellers at the trading deadline, so that could end those teams hopes of making the playoffs. You never know what surprise team will jump up the standings after some trades. Can the Pacers make the playoffs this season? Absolutely, they have as good of a shot as any of the mid-level teams in the East. Will they make it out of the first-round? That is another story…I don’t want to be positive right now.