2023-07-21 · 3 min read · NBA/Basketball
Rockets' Jalen Green and Pacers Tyrese Haliburton

AP Photo/David J. Phillip | Getty Images

We’re officially in the dog days of the NBA yearly schedule, with not much going on from now until training camp in early October. So, what better time than to give you some way to early predictions on a couple of teams that should be on the rise
Indiana Pacers
The Pacers seemed primed to elevate into a potential playoff spot next season, with a growing young core consisting of Tyrese Halliburton, Benedict Mathurin, and Andrew Nembhard. They also made a great move in free agency by bringing in swiss army knife combo guard Bruce Brown, who was instrumental in the Denver Nuggets title run this past season, and fits in perfectly into what their roster makeup (even though it was a huge overpay to get him).
In addition, the Pacers have solid front court depth in the likes of mainstay Myles Turner, Obi Toppin who they prudently picked up from the Knicks, and Jalen Smith. They also drafted rookie forward Jarace Walker 8th overall out of Houston. The upstart wing fills a huge hole, and his athleticism will bring a different element, particularly on the defensive end.
Buddy Heild provides some veteran leadership and shooting as well. Overall, there’s a really nice mix of vets and young talent going on here.
The Pacers have some work to do in a loaded Eastern Conference, but they certainly have the talent to potentially grab a spot in the top 7 if things break their way.
Orlando Magic
Even though I didn’t love their draft, Anthony Black and Jett Howard, the taken 6th and 11th respectively, will still be welcome additions to an already loaded young core that like Indiana, is looking to take the next step.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Paulo Banchero is already a complete offensive player, and he has developed some nice chemistry with fellow scoring forward Franz Wagner. Markelle Fultz has become criminally underrated as a solid point guard, and they have Wendell Carter Jr. has also become a solid NBA player at the 5 spot.
3rd year Guard Jalen Suggs has to take the next step, and I don’t quite see where the ball dominant Cole Anthony fits into things (he could be on the trade market perhaps), but with the two young rookies coming in, and the base of young talent already established, the Magic could be in the mix in the play-in tournament.
Houston Rockets
Yes, giving Fred VanVleet and Dillion Brooks a combined 210 million dollars was a lot, but sometimes you have to overpay to land free agents when you aren't in a major market. Despite the huge money, both players will bring some much needed stability for a team with a ton of talent but little direction over the past few years.
Incoming head coach Ime Udoka will certainly help on that front as well. Look for a big season out of 3rd year guard Jalen Green. VanVleet has already taken the former 2nd overall pick under his wing, and if he can learn how to improve his shot selection, his defense, and most importantly his maturity and work ethic, he could be in line for a breakout season.
The Rockets are also adding this year’s 4th overall pick Amen Thompson. Though he’s a special passer and athlete, he will take some time to develop as a young point guard. But playing behind VanVleet will be a perfect spot for him to grow early on. They also took a well-worth flier in the form of uber talented scorer Cam Whitmore out of Villanova, who fell to 20th in the draft due to injury concerns.
The West is very top heavy but peters off after the top 5, so there’s no reason to think Houston won't at least be able to jump in the bottom half of the playoff mix this season. Afterall, they’ve invested a lot of money to do just that.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Eddie Huband


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