Contenders Profile: Indiana Pacers

Just another also-ran year in Indy or can they beat the Miami Heat?

Updated: September 13, 2012, 2:59 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN the Magazine
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesPaul George drips elite athleticism and could be the X factor to beating the Miami Heat.

Editor's note: This is the latest installment in a 12-part series this summer that will profile six Eastern Conference teams and six Western Conference teams that could knock off the Miami Heat. Today we profile the Indiana Pacers.

Overview

The Pacers have always had a rep as sort of a bland team. They are without a headlining star who takes up residence in the nightly highlights. They are just as short on oohs as they are aahs to say nothing of the overall lack of drama.

But what they've proved is bland can play. The Pacers stepped into the category of contender last season with a stronger-than-expected regular season and took the eventual champion Heat to six games in the second round and even led 2-1.

Indiana finished with the sixth-best record in the league thanks to a roster full of emerging, coachable stars who get the most out of their ability and seem to be tailor-made to work together. Along with fluid ball movement and solid shooting, the Pacers have added a rugged aggressiveness as one of their calling cards, quietly becoming one of the most physical teams in the league. Nowhere was that more evident than the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Heat, as Danny Granger & Co. matched Miami's toughness and disrupted its game plan by bodying, pushing and clawing for every possession.

The Pacers had somewhat of a quiet summer -- outside of retaining the services of All-Star center Roy Hibbert -- and focused on beefing up their bench. Depending on the timetable for Derrick Rose's return, they could finish as high as the No. 2 seed in the East, meaning they wouldn't have to face presumed No. 1 Miami until the conference finals. If there's optimism coming out of Indy, it's with very good reason.

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine