The Pacers are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for having the fifth-best odds, according to the sportsbook. Indiana's chances of winning a championship in 2014 can only increase after the 2013 NBA draft on Thursday night.
By forcing a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, Indiana proved it is a true championship contender and the addition of a healthy Danny Granger, a former All-Star who only played five games last season due to a knee injury, will elevate the Pacers to an even higher level next season.
When the Pacers' ownership and management takes inventory of its roster, Indiana is well-stocked at small forward and center. Granger and Paul George have both been named All-Stars in their careers. The Pacers will have three centers, headlined by 7'2" Roy Hibbert, who is under contract next season.
Indiana fans want to see the Pacers draft a power forward and a point guard on Thursday.
With most of Indiana's core players in or near the primes of their careers, there is a sense of urgency for the Pacers. Fans want to see Indiana draft two players who can be in the rotation next season as opposed to "project" players who may never pan out.
On July 1, six Pacers players—Tyler and Ben Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, D.J. Augustin, David West and Sam Young—will become free agents, with the first three becoming restricted free agents.
Indiana's focus will be to resign West, who is the only starter among the Pacers' soon-to-be free agents.
Tyler Hansbrough and Pendergraph were West's backups last season.
Hansbrough established himself as a rotational player in Indiana, where he averaged seven points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game last season.
Pendergraph has never averaged more than 10 minutes per game in his three-year career. His best statistical season was last year when he averaged just shy of four points and three rebounds per game.
Indiana can move forward in its title pursuits without either player but the Pacers would be best suited to re-sign Hansbrough and to draft a power forward to replace Pendergraph.
With Ben Hansbrough and Augustin becoming free agents next week, the Pacers can decide to cut ties with them and draft a point guard to back up George Hill.
The top point guard prospects in this year's draft class—Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. McCollum, Shane Larkin and Dennis Schroeder—will likely be long gone by the time the 23rd pick rolls around.
The Pacers have another option to acquire a point guard using the 23rd pick but it's not through the draft. ESPN's NBA insider Chad Ford tweeted there are rumors of the Pacers trading Gerald Green and the 23rd pick to the Sacramento Kings for Jimmer Fredette.
Pacers push to swap Gerald Green and No. 23 for Jimmer just got a little more realistic. Larry Bird loved Jimmer in 2011 Draft.
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2013
Indiana General Manager Kevin Pritchard, who helped make seven draft-night trades from 2006-08 with the Portland Trail Blazers, acknowledged his history of trading draft picks in an interview with ESPN 1070 The Fan's Conrad Brunner.
We always look at everything. It’s been my history to move and be active. Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. We like 23 and we think we’ll get a good player, somebody that can get in our rotation.
If none of the point guards fall to Indiana in the first round and the Indiana-Sacramento trade doesn't happen, the Pacers would be better off drafting a combo guard in the second round.
One of the reasons the Pacers earned the third seed in the Eastern Conference last season and were successful in the postseason was due to the emergence of shooting guard Lance Stephenson.
While he is a promising young 2-guard, Stephenson can be very unpredictable, sometimes out of control and he is not a skilled three-point shooter.
Indiana, a team whose nucleus is in its frontcourt, would benefit from adding another scoring guard to spread the floor and to add depth to the backcourt.
NBA mock drafts from reputable sources, including USA Today, the Huffington Post, CBS Sports, DraftExpress, the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated, project the Pacers going in a number of different directions with the 23rd pick.
Shooting guards Allen Crabbe and Ricky Ledo, Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, small forward Tim Hardaway Jr., point guard Shane Larkin and French center Rudy Gobert are projected to go to Indiana in the first round, according to the mock drafts.
It is difficult for any NBA team or fanbase to make up its mind about what players it wants to draft when there is so much uncertainty about every pick, especially the No. 1 overall pick that belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Will the Cavs take Noel? Bennett? Len? Porter? Len? Oladipo? Trade? Theories abound. Here's my take: http://t.co/c9F362x6CA— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2013
No matter how the draft plays out, Indiana needs to come out of Thursday night with a guard and a big man to round out its roster.
Pritchard told Scott Agness of NBA.com there will not be elite talent available at the 23rd pick but Indiana could still select a good player with its first-round pick.
Every single year, you look at the draft and on average there are seven or eight really special players. And then you have a lot of guys that can be starters and rotation players. And it’s about trying to find that diamond in the rough when you’re picking at 23. You’re not getting the top guys but you can still get a good player that can be a part of the program and help us win.
If Schroeder or Larkin are available at the 23rd pick, the Pacers should select whichever one is available (and Larkin gets the advantage if they are both available). Larkin is an incredible athlete—he had the highest maximum vertical jump at the NBA combine with 44 inches—and he has experience leading a veteran team at the University of Miami.
CanesHoops) June 26, 2013
The Pacers' next best bets are Gorgui Dieng and Rudy Gobert, in that order. Both players are very long rim protectors who can rebound, which would make them good fits for Indiana.
At 7-2 Rudy Gobert has one of the largest wingspans recorded at 7'9. With hands up, he's a shade over 10ft. That should translate to blocks!— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 20, 2013
If none of those players are available, Indiana should select Crabbe. He has good size, has a knack for scoring and he rebounds well for his position.
Depending on whether the Pacers draft a guard or a big man in the first round, they should draft the other position in the second round.
Peyton Siva, Phil Pressey and Myck Kabongo are point guards who could be available at the 53rd pick.
DeShaun Thomas, Kenny Kadji and James Southerland are big forwards who were some of the main scoring options on their respective college teams last season.
The Indiana Pacers have a legitimate shot to win an NBA championship next season if they can re-sign David West and if their core players stay healthy. The Heat showed signs of age in the playoffs and they do not have a single draft pick this year.
Congratulations to the @MiamiHEAT on a hard-fought Eastern Conference Championship. We'll see you next season.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) June 4, 2013
If Indiana can add a point guard and power forward, the Pacers will not have any serious liabilities in their rotation next season.
While the 2013 NBA draft lacks apparent transcendent talent and perennial All-Stars, it has depth in prospects who can become role players, which is all that Indiana needs to be the last team standing next June.