Central Division Power Rankings To Start The NBA Season

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Oct 15, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers guard

Dionte Christmas

(33) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers are one of the more intriguing, yet complex teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers have many things to be excited about this coming season. First, their superstar, Paul George, will be 100 percent healthy for the start of the NBA season.

George missed most of last season after suffering a horrific leg break. Even when George played, he was far from his old self, only playing a small part on a fringe playoff contending team.

The key for George, however, is whether he can he return to his previous heights.

In 2013-14, George emerged as one of the best young wings in the NBA, flashing a well-balanced offensive game to go with fantastic perimeter defending. George was one of the 10 best players in the NBA, and nearly led the Pacers to a victory over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

This led many around the league to believe that the Pacers would remain a fixture in the Eastern Conference for years to come.

If George returns to form, this undoubtedly boosts Indiana’s chances of contending in the weak Eastern Conference. He’s one of the few superstar wings in the NBA, capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of LeBron James and putting the team on his back when called upon. Every team dreams of having a wing like George.

The Pacers, however, are far from a one man team. Despite low expectations following George’s injury, Indiana nearly snuck into the Eastern Conference Playoffs last year, losing out to the Brooklyn Nets on the final day of the regular season.

Much of this can be attributed to the strong play of their backcourt. George Hill emerged as one of the better two-way guards last year, posting career highs in points, rebounds, and assists, while also functioning as a lock-down perimeter defender.

With his size and athleticism, Hill is more than capable of guarding either guard position, enabling the Pacers to rotate him on to the stronger guard.

Rodney Stuckey also had an improved season, functioning as an efficient sixth-man scorer off the bench. Though he remains inconsistent, Stuckey is more than capable of putting up big points totals in a short period of time as the Bucks found out last season.

In addition to these two, the Pacers added guard Monta Ellis to the fold, a solid scorer who can work as another ball-handler and scoring option for the team. With George Hill capable of guarding either position, Ellis can be hidden somewhat on the weaker back-court match-up.

Despite these strengths, the Pacers are far from a certainty this coming season.

The Pacers must figure out what kind of identity they want to adopt. In past seasons, the Pacers were orientated towards defense, in large part because they had one of the best rim protectors in the NBA in Roy Hibbert.

With Hibbert gone, the Pacers face a massive hole on the defensive end. Some of this could be made up by Jordan Hill and Myles Turner. However, neither guy is nearly the rim protector that Hibbert was.

Given the addition of Ellis, the team could shift to a more up-tempo offensive focus. George is capable of playing either forward spot, affording the Pacers the opportunity to go small and Ellis is a solid secondary option.

Whether or not these guys can make up in scoring what the team will lose in defense is not entirely clear. However, if any coach is capable of getting these pieces to work, it’s Frank Vogel.

Given the uncertainty surrounding this team, it’s difficult to see Indiana challenging the Eastern Conference elite. However, they’re more than capable of causing havoc and should still make the Eastern Conference playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed.

Record 41-41

Next: 3rd: Chicago Bulls