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Power rankings project Pacers to slide back in East

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Some preseason projections reveal little faith in the Pacers matching their strong showing last season.

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty of excitement around the Fieldhouse for the start of the Pacers season on Wednesday and fans are showing their excitement in the most overt way possible -- buying tickets.

Unlike last season, the 2018-19 Pacers are expected to make the playoffs and continue being a tough matchup each night based on their willingness to play hard and play together. But not far from the Fieldhouse, the buzz for the Pacers upcoming season is muffled.

Most national observers agree the Pacers are a playoff team, yet the team is rarely mentioned among potential top three teams in the East. It doesn’t take long before ‘Pacers’ and ‘regression’ share a sentence in any preseason analysis. No doubt the overrated narrative is ready and waiting for a slow start.

It makes sense, everyone was surprised by the Pacers last year and instead of admitting their faulty assessment of the team it is easier to lean toward the results being a fluke. Still, most team power rankings and projections have the Pacers around the top ten and fifth or sixth in the East.

Among the notable rankings which downgrade the Pacers are FiveThirtyEight and ESPN. The numbers driven FiveThirtyEight projections have the Pacers ranked 14th in the league (6th in the East), winning 43 games after their 5000 game simulation. You have to quibble with the formula to take offense but they also had the Pacers projected to win 32 games last season.

The far more subjective outlier which continues to confirm that most national NBA media folk don’t watch as much as they profess, is ESPN’s latest power ranking. With over 40 various NBA media members, the group voted on various matchups to settle on team rankings. On Sept. 24, the same exercise had the Pacers ranked 8th in the league and 4th in the East.

Now three weeks later, the Pacers are ranked 14th in the league and 6th in the East. The rankings include ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) projected win totals along with a best case and worse case scenario for each team’s record. So based on those numbers, the Pacers project to 47.1 wins with best case of 55 wins and worst case of 39 wins.

Here are the projections for the six teams ahead of the Pacers for ESPN:

  • Miami (13) BPI of 42.3, BC 49, WC 33.
  • New Orleans (12) BPI 44.3, BC 42, WC 36
  • Portland (11) BPI 40.8, BC 49, WC 33
  • Denver (10) BPI 47.1, BC 55, WC 39 (same as Pacers)
  • Milwaukee (9) BPI 47.2, BC 54, WC 38
  • LA Lakers (8) BPI 46.7, BC 55, WC 39

So obviously, the ESPN crew based their vote this time around on what they saw in the Pacers final preseason game. That would at least be a plausible human excuse. Regardless, I understand how it can be more fun to root for Giannis and the Bucks to make a big leap or the Sixers youngsters to get it together. Meanwhile, the Pacers remain largely the same story as last year.

Fortunately, the Pacers run well on underdog fuel and prefer a chip on their shoulder at all times. The ESPN ranking should be bolded and posted for all to see at the Fieldhouse as the team tries to exceed their higher expectations this season.

Forget the so called NBA experts, let’s look at what my go-to Vegas source the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook projects for the Pacers. 48 wins, 9th in the league, 5th in the East.

Let the games begin!

Here are a few power rankings for your perusal.

NBA.com (9th, 5th East)

NBCSports.com (11th, 5th East)

CBSSports.com (8th, 4th East)

SI.com (9th, 4th East)

ESPN (14th, 6th East)

FiveThirtyEight (14th, 6th East)