Is 2013-14 championship or bust for the Indiana Pacers?

Mike Ehrmann

The roster is set for a run at a title. But if Indiana doesn't raise a banner for the 2013-14 season, is it a failed season?

The Indiana Pacers are going all in. The front office isn’t building to a championship contender, they have it. They probably had a true contender before trading for Luis Scola, but after giving up Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a first round pick the Pacers are definitely all in. (That doesn’t seem like a high price to pay to go all in though.)

Indiana also gave David West a $2 million raise, added Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson, whose salaries are just above $5 million combined, according to Sham Sports. This brings Indiana within $3 million dollars of the luxury tax, a place Herb Simon doesn’t want to go. It may not be the $102 million dollar payroll of the Brooklyn Nets, but for the Pacers this is going for it.

Not that Indiana has a small window, but this may be their best season to get that first NBA championship to Indianapolis. David West has been great, but how many years will he continue to play at his current level? (Even if he has an old man’s game.) This is the last season Indiana can benefit from the biggest bargain in the NBA, Paul George for around $3 million dollars. As well, Lance Stephenson will be expected to outperform his less than a million dollar salary. Both of those cheap contracts allow the Pacers to still have Danny Granger on this team.

There is a theory, according to this story from Zach Lowe, that when NBA teams believe they have at least a five percent chance of winning the title, they go all in. Indiana certainly believes they have a five percent chance.

All that leads to the question of what if the Pacers don’t win the NBA Finals? Is the season deemed a failure? The question will have different answers depending on who answers it. The front office, the coaching staff, the players and the fans could all very well have completely different answers.

But what if this season is the Pacers best shot at a title and they can’t get it done. What if they lose in the Finals to the Thunder? What if LeBron James and the Heat bounce the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals? What happens if a much improved Brooklyn or Chicago beats Indiana before they reach the Eastern Conference Finals or Lebron? Is anything short of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy failure?

A lot is set to happen between now and the playoffs, a lot that will change expectations. An injury can change the entire landscape of the NBA, for better or worse for the Pacers. Another team could make an impact trade or sign an impact player like Chris Andersen. (Or Greg Oden, and no I can’t believe I called Andersen and potentially Oden impact players.)

It is all a matter of perception. So what do you think? Is it championship or bust for Indiana? Also, which teams do you think actually have a five percent chance at winning a ring? You have to think Miami has a 15-25 percent chance. Teams like Indiana, Oklahoma City and San Antonio fit somewhere right below Miami. But what about Chicago, Brooklyn, Memphis, New York, Los Angeles and Houston?

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