The Kevin Garnett to Boston deal sent a shockwave through the Eastern Conference. So much so, lots of folks who follow the NBA felt the need to reassess just how the teams in the East stack up.
After reading through a few of these rankings a couple of things quickly jumped out at me. One, the number of competitive, quality teams in the East has certainly increased. Are any of these teams better than the Spurs, Suns, and Mavs? I wouldn't go that far, but they're closer. The remaining difference with the elite teams in the West is quality depth on the roster.
The other stark revelation from the rankings was that the Pacers are perceived as a bottom dweller. Marty Burns at SI.com ranked that Pacers 14th in the East. 14th! This is with J.O. on the roster. Here's what he had to say:
So after reading the Burns analysis, I head over to True Hoop and see this thorough analysis of the East by about twenty "bloggers, journalists, insiders, and lovers of the game" plus more from a group of ESPN writers. Not only were the Pacers absent on anyone's playoff list, but there was rarely even a mention of the Blue and Gold.
Again, this is considering the current Pacers with J.O. So what reasons might there be for this perception? Well, there are plenty of reasons if you look at it objectively. One reason may be the assumption that the Pacers will indeed rebuild by trading J.O. for youth and future picks. Another reason is, even if they keep J.O., the injury bug that hit Jermaine, Jamal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels, and Troy Murphy will resurface making the Pacers perform like they did over the last two months of the season. Finally, this perception may be due to a lack of confidence in Larry Joe Legend. LJL has tweaked the roster, brought in a new head coach and Dick Harter as an assistant. The team has added some shooters and plan to play a different style that should really unshackle Jamal Tinsley's game. At least that's the company line. Obviously, that message is only being heard by the true believers and not those looking in from the outside.
Personally, I can see the Pacers (with the roster as of today) finishing between 7th and 10th depending on the health of key players. Considering I have the most positive outlook of anyone who follows the Pacers closely, these "outsiders'" rankings were a bitter dose of reality forcing me to challeng MY perceptions of the Pacers. Fortunately all of this analysis was just a snapshot in time, three months before the season. Plenty of time before the season tips off, no reason to give up hope, yet.