NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers to stay third in the East

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Can the Pacers build on their impressive year and finish higher than third? Jason Torquato says it will be tough.

Indiana Pacers

Placing last season: 42-24 (3rd in Eastern Conference, Playoffs: second-round loss)

Key moves: The Indiana Pacers traded away Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones to the Mavericks for Ian Mahinmi which seemed to do little to benefit the Pacers following a reasonably productive season by Collison last year.

However, the signing of D.J. Augustin and Sundiata Gaines offers extra guard depth following the loss of Collison.

Challenges ahead: The big issue for the Pacers is how to take the next step and breach the stranglehold the Celtics and Heat have over the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers exceeded expectations last year by finishing third and pushing the Heat in the playoffs and will be expected to build on it this year.

However, in the playoffs it was clear that the Pacers did not have a clear superstar, with Danny Granger hitting a ceiling and Roy Hibbert proving to be a bit raw and lacking experience.

Reason to be positive: The Pacers were never expected to be as good as they were last season and the experience they gained from getting to the second round of the playoffs will have them hungry for more next year.

After a strong showing against the Magic in the playoffs and offering glimpses against the Heat, Roy Hibbert could take the next step this season and establish himself as the best center in the East.

Prediction: 49-33 (3th in East)

image: © Valerie Everett