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Bad draft? Not from Pacers' perspective

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 22, 2011

Because of the lack of a game-changer at the top, the 2011 NBA Draft is generally viewed as pedestrian, almost completely lacking in star power.

Does that make it a bad draft?

Not from where the Pacers sit.

There may well be an absence of marquee talent in the top 10 but there is no lack of depth, which bodes well for an Indiana team sitting just outside the lottery at No. 15 in the first round.

"I actually think this is a fairly deep draft and it's a better draft than people think," said General Manager David Morway. "There aren't some of the superstars at the top of the draft but in terms of the middle of this draft there's a lot of depth, a lot of quality players and guys that are going to play in the league for awhile."

The Pacers historically have done well when drafting in this territory. They grabbed Danny Granger at No., 17 in 2005, acquired Brandon Rush at No. 13 and Roy Hibbert at No. 17 in 2008, selected Tyler Hansbrough at No. 13 in 2009 and Paul George at No. 10 in 2010.

Though Granger is the only member of the group to rise to Al-Star status, all are contributors, which is precisely the type of player team president Larry Bird hopes to find on Thursday night.

"When you say it's not the strongest draft I'm talking about the top picks," Bird said. "There's a lot of good players in this draft and a lot of teams are going to get some help. I think next year you'll see a lot of these young guys have an opportunity to play."

When the top of the draft lacks certainty, it makes preparation tougher for the rest of the teams. There is a consensus that the top four players picked likely will be Kyrie Irving (Duke), Derrick Williams (Arizona), Brandon Knight (Kentucky) and Enes Kanter (Kentucky). After that, things get muddled.

All it takes is one or two surprise picks in the top 10 to start a chain reaction like that which sent Granger tumbling down the board in 2005.

"It's much tougher (to project) this year," said Morway. "We have a fairly good feel of nine or 10 players that will for sure be taken before us. But as far as what's going to happen after that, there's probably a group of seven to 10 guys that could go from 11 to 14."

The Pacers' workout prospects reflected the general strength of the draft.

Of the 48 players they worked out, as many as 20 have been projected as first-round picks -- with eight power forwards in that group: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State), Justin Harper (Richmond), Tobias Harris (Tennessee), JaJuan Johnson (Purdue), Marcus and Markieff Morris (Kansas), Trey Thompkins (Georgia) and Jeremy Tyler (Tokyo).

They also brought in six wing players that were first-round prospects: Marshon Brooks (Providence), Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech), Klay Thompson (Washington State), Jordan Hamilton (Texas), Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA) and Kyle Singler (Duke).

Top point guard/combo guard prospects included Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Charles Jenkins (Hofstra), Darius Morris (Michigan), Josh Selby (Kansas) and Nolan Smith (Duke).

The only center in the first-round mix they worked out was Nikola Vucevic (USC).

"There are a lot of power forwards in this draft, which is fairly unusual," said Morway. "That's definitely one of the strengths of this draft. I also think that there are a lot of guys that be effective one-twos or two-ones in the this draft. We've been impressed with a lot of those kind of guys. And there are a lot of really good shooters in this draft.

"There's a lot of depth, but there aren't guys that you look at and say, 'That's a sure-fire All-Star.' "

This may well be a bad year for the teams at the top. But for teams like the Pacers, this draft looks pretty good.