For years, the battle for the Eastern Conference came down to which team has LeBron James? That changed last year when LeBron traded his Cavs jersey for a Lakers one, which led to Leonard and the Toronto Raptors rising to the top. Not to take anything away from the quality team the Raptors have built, but losing Kawhi may well torpedo Toronto’s chances of winning back-to-back conference titles.
So, the East is once again wide open. The Milwaukee Bucks (+500) and Philadelphia 76ers (+800) are understandably the favorites, but once you get past them, there’s no telling what this conference has in store. It’s easy to forget that the Indiana Pacers were atop the conference for much of last season, but their aspirations were largely dashed when All-Star Victor Oladipo went down for the season with a torn quad. The pacers were eventually eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Boston.
The Pacers have been busy this offseason. Bojan Bogdanovic left for Utah in free agency， while Darren Collison abruptly retired at the age of 31. However, Indiana quickly patched those holes with the signings of Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb. The Pacers also nabbed talented swingman T.J. Warren from the Suns without giving up anything in the process. Thanks for being incompetent, Phoenix!
Add Brogdon, Lamb and Warren to a roster that already includes Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis, and you instantly have what is easily one of the most talented teams in the conference. Brogdon is an ideal fit next to Oladipo that can play off-ball or run the offense. Having a couple of versatile guards like that, as opposed to signing a worse fit like Ricky Rubio (a player that had been repeatedly linked with the Pacers) makes Indiana dangerous.
Depending on how Warren and Lamb shake out on the wing, the Pacers may need to swing a trade at some point during the season for a star swingman in order to take the next step. We will see whether they can pull it off, but as it stands, I think the Pacers are vastly undervalued at +3300. This is probably the third-best team in the Eastern Conference right now. Getting through the playoffs in the East isn’t nearly as daunting as doing so in the west. The Pacers’ odds will get less favorable from here, so im fine with taking a flier bet on them at this price.