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Preseason Power Rankings: Where do the Pacers rank?

USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, September 27, Marc Stein, courtesy of ESPN, released the first edition of his weekly NBA Power Rankings. According to Stein, the preseason rankings are based upon the following:

"… this preseason edition of the rankings, as always, weighs a team’s personnel successes (or failure) from the summer as well as injuries when making our calculations."

Each subsequent edition will also be determined by:

"factoring in what’s happening in the present as well as that team’s big-picture outlook for the season… while always allowing for a dash of subjective whim."

The Week 1 edition of the Power Rankings are topped by none other than the reigning NBA Champions (Please note: the preseason rankings are always topped by the prior year’s championship squad).

Before revealing the Pacers current ranking, it is necessary to examine where the Pacers finished last season for reference. In the final edition of Stein’s Power Rankings (April 15), the Pacers came in at No. 8. The Heat, Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks, Spurs, and Grizzlies all were placed higher than Indiana (of course, fans now know that, of these teams, only the Heat and Spurs technically finished the season better than the Pacers). With regard to the ranking, Stein noted the following:

"The idea that slipping to No. 3 in the East is actually a good thing for Indy would be much easier to embrace if we knew the first-round pairings for sure. If it means a matchup with Atlanta, then sure. But a series in the octagon with Chicago is never fun, no matter how banged up the Bulls are."

In retrospect, fans now know that slipping to No.3 in the East was not such a bad thing. The Pacers finished off the Hawks in six games, rather than having to go toe-to-toe with the Bulls in a defensive stalemate. Furthermore, the Pacers were able to finish off the Knicks, at home, in six games – meaning that losing home court advantage to the Knicks during the regular season was not that big of a drawback.

Nevertheless, the No. 8 ranking in April is more meaningful when compared to the Pacers most recent ranking. Based on all of the aforementioned criteria, Stein has ranked the Pacers at No. 2 – quite the jump from No. 8 last season. Stein’s commentary on the high ranking is as follows:

"I’m super high on Indy and for once it has nothing to do with thoughts of the inimitable shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s. Sprinkle in Danny Granger and Luis Scola from an upgraded bench with the freshly maxed-out Paul George and playoffs Roy Hibbert and you've got a legit title-contending mix."

Perhaps, more surprising than ESPN giving the Pacers such a glowing review is that three Eastern Conference teams made the top five of the Power Rankings. Following Miami (1) and Indiana (2) are Brooklyn (3), the Los Angeles Clippers (4), and San Antonio (5) (Please Note: that Miami automatically earned the top spot for winning the championship last season, but the Spurs did not automatically earn a higher ranking for winning the West).

It would be easy to assume from these rankings that the East has finally supplanted the West as the league’s toughest conference. Considering all things, the East does have four teams (Heat, Pacers, Nets, and Bulls) that could legitimately contend for the title.

Even so, it is probably safe to say that the West is still the deeper conference – meaning the West has a greater quantity of solid, competitive teams (Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, Grizzlies, etc.) The West can boast six teams in the top ten of the Power Rankings, whereas four of the five bottom-feeding teams come from the East (Bucks, Celtics, Bobcats, and Sixers).That being said, it could be argued that the East, though not as deep, has better quality contenders.

What do you think Pacers fans? Where should the Pacers rank? Which is the league’s tougher conference? Does the West have quantity, whereas the East has quality?

For more information and rankings, http://espn.go.com/nba/powerrankings/_/year/2014/week/-1

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