When I did my NBA Random Thoughts the other day, I seriously considered making the Indiana Pacers my Eastern Conference runner-up. The Pacers are a good, young, and deep ball club that played the Bulls tough in the first round of last year's playoffs and now stand on the edge of contention in the NBA.
The little that I was able to watch of the Pacers beat down of the Celtics last night only reinforced my belief in their team. Head coach Frank Vogel has the kind of depth that will make a major difference in the NBA's compacted 66-game regular season which was evident last night when his younger and deeper team took advantage of the older Celtics.
In the front court, the Pacers have David West (who passed on the Celtics contract offer in December to go to Indiana), Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert, and Jeff Foster. On the wing they feature Danny Granger, Paul George, and Dahntay Jones. They also have two quick point guards in Darren Collison and George Hill.
Being able to use nine quality players is a huge advantage in the lockout shortened season. The Heat and the Bulls are the favorites in the East and while the big names on the Celtics, Knicks, and Magic make those teams threats in the conference, the team to keep an eye on are the Indiana Pacers.