NBA Finals 2021

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The Indiana Pacers had made the NBA Playoffs five seasons in a row before last season.

Frank Vogel's last season at the helm was in 2016, and then four straight years with Nate McMillan in charge.

After the hiring of Nate Bjorkgren, they went 34-38, and finished as the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. While they did come one game shy of making the NBA Playoffs (losing to the Wizards in the final play-in game), they were a mess in terms of consistency and on the defensive end.

The team ranked 26th in points allowed per game at 115.7 PPG (via TeamRankings.com), and went just 13-23 at home, breaking a 31-year streak of having a winning record at home (see Tweet below from Sam Amico of Hoops Wire). 

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There have not been many changes to the roster, but they do have a new head coach in Rick Carlisle, an NBA Champion head coach with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, and they drafted Chris Duarte (13th overall) and Isaiah Jackson (22nd overall) on Thursday evening in the NBA Draft. 

The Eastern Conference also saw teams that were typically playoff teams struggle last season; the Toronto Raptors missed the playoffs, the Boston Celtics were the 7th seed and the Chicago Bulls missed the playoffs but have two All-Stars. 

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Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, who made the playoffs, will likely be just as good if not better next season, and the Detroit Pistons, who missed the playoffs, just drafted Cade Cunningham, number one overall. 

The Pacers beat the Charlotte Hornets in the first play-in game, but they will likely have a better season as Gordon Hayward will be fully back healthy, LaMelo Ball will only be better and they just drafted James Bouknight in the NBA Draft. 

All of that is true. 

However, with a fully healthy season of T.J. Warren (only played four games), Myles Turner and Caris LeVert to go with Malcolm Brogdon and All-Star Domantas Sabonis, there is cause to believe that the Pacers have actually gotten underrated. 

They held the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture during last season (see Tweet below from StatMuse). 

The Pacers will have to defend better, gain quick chemistry with one another and protect the home court, but if they do, they will be one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference in 2022. 

Source : https://www.si.com/nba/pacers/news/nba-draft-are-the-indiana-pacers-even-a-playoff-team

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