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Last year's ranking: 3
Title track: 68
Fan relations: 65
Stadium experience: 25
Bang for the buck: 1
The Pacers suffered a precipitous drop in our rankings. Consider that the least of their worries. A tumultuous year took a disastrous turn when star Paul George suffered a horrifying compound fracture of his tibia and fibula while playing an exhibition game with USA Basketball in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. Suddenly, solving the enigma that is Roy Hibbert is more important than ever. (They hope consultant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can play, er, help.) Is Hibbert the player who dominated in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals? Or is he the guy who posted zero points and two rebounds against the Hawks this past postseason? Read that last stat line again and you will begin to understand why the Pacers suffered a stunning 77-spot drop in the players category in 2013-14. And Hibbert's disappearing act wasn't the only problem. He called out his teammates for being "selfish" and one, Lance Stephenson, reportedly duked it out in practice with fellow former Pacer Evan Turner before the team's first playoff game. That lack of chemistry showed when the Pacers nearly lost in the first round to Atlanta, an issue that reflects poorly on coach Frank Vogel (coaching down 44 spots), who dealt with whispers about his job security prior to the start of the playoffs.
Despite these snags, it comes as no surprise that the Pacers sit atop our bang for the buck rankings for a second straight year -- an average of 53 wins over the last two seasons and consecutive conference finals appearances will do that. What's more, there's no denying the Pacers are a great bargain ($51.95 average cost, fourth in the NBA). Their "Two for Tuesday" promotion pairs the purchase of a regular-priced ticket with a second for just $13, and Lucas Oil Family Night offers four tickets, four T-shirts and four combo meals for $50. That's a sweet deal, but the truth remains: There'll be plenty of slick spots this season without George and Stephenson.