The Indiana Pacers pushed the defending champion Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, prompting many to speculate if they are now the best team in the Central Division, a division the Chicago Bulls have owned for the last couple of seasons.
And while it’s nearly impossible to downplay what the Pacers have achieved this season, do those accomplishments really make them better than a healthy Bulls squad? That answer is most likely a resounding no.
First, we must start with the obvious: the Indiana Pacers don’t have a Derrick Rose. The fact that this is even a conversation reeks of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to D. Rose. Missing the year has seemed to make people forget about Rose and has caused them to question if he’ll ever be the same player again.
But lets us not forget that he is still the youngest MVP ever, a three-time All-Star and a guy with a huge chip on his shoulder because of the way people disparaged him this season and essentially wrote him off. When he comes back to the court, he’s going to be playing with something to prove and that’ll make him dangerous as a player and the Bulls even more dangerous as a team.
The rest of the Bulls core which includes Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, right now, is better than the Pacers remaining core of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson, George Hill, Tyler Hansbrough and David West – if they can somehow retain him this summer.
Danny Granger is also a part of that Pacers core, but the emergence of George has most likely made him expendable. We'll find out Granger's fate in Indiana in the not too distant future.
Yes, the Pacers are always a tough matchup for the Bulls, and since the 2010-11 season, Chicago has a 6-5 advantage (not counting their 4-1 series victory in the 2010-11 playoffs) in their head-to-head battles. But three of Indy’s five victories came this season where Chicago was playing shorthanded more often than not on many nights and were, of course, Rose-less.
The Indiana Pacers are a great young team with a bright future, but to say they are a better team than the Chicago Bulls is quite the stretch. But the answer to that riddle will be solved next season.
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