Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2006, the Indiana Pacers have started off 17-8 and are sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference.
It's a far cry from the woes of this team in recent years, and so many find it hard to believe that the Pacers can contend.
Do they have what it takes to challenge the big-market NBA favorites though?
The interesting thing about this Pacers' roster is that it has no big-name go-to-guy anywhere on it.
Danny Granger is the obvious leader, but he is averaging just 18 points per game and has still not shown he has the consistency to be a top player in the NBA. Granger is not the night-in and night-out scoring threat that a team needs to contend for a title (i.e. Kobe, LeBron, Rose).
Big man Roy Hibbert is an All-Star and rightfully so, averaging a double-double per game, and being that inside presence the Pacers so desperately have been in need of in past years. He adds a lot to a front line that lacks the size and athleticism to be dominant.
Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff "Teddy" Pendergraph just don't have what it takes to challenge big men like Dwight Howard, Kevin Love or Blake Griffin (dare I say). Hibbs' sheer size allows him to body-up down low, and his rebounding ability allows for many second-chance scoring opportunities down in the paint.
At guard, the Pacers are deep with mediocrity.
Hometown kid George Hill was a solid pickup, but he lacks the assertiveness and size to be a scoring threat at the two. In the same number of minutes on back-to-back nights, he scored 16 points and directly followed it up with two points the following game. Inconsistent.
Darren Collison is a great point guard, but when he must rest we're stuck with seeing A.J. Price or Hill run the show, and neither are even close to decent replacements.
To answer the question, I say most likely not.
You can never say no, because all a team has to do is make the playoffs and get hot, but without a big-time scorer I think the Pacers will find themselves hard-pressed to put up numbers against faster and more talented teams.
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