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Drafting 23rd, Pacers Have a Variety of Options

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

June 26, 2013

For Pacers fans, it may be difficult to get excited for Thursday’s NBA Draft where the team has picks 23 and 53. The good news is that they have a lower pick for a reason – because of the team’s success last season.

The scouting department has been working all year round for this one night. That’s when all of their hard work, research and observations are put to the test. Though it’s a stressful and active time, they would also call it fun.

Fun because it’s what they love to do and at 23, there’s a lot more uncertainty. That’s where they hope to find a “diamond in the rough,” as general manager Kevin Pritchard put it.

With the 23rd pick, it’s unlikely that an immediate impact player will still be on the board. Just look at who’s been taken at 23 over the last five years: John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Nikola Mirotic (Real Madrid), Trevor Booker (Clemson), Omri Casspi (Maccabi Tel Aviv), and Kosta Koufos (Ohio State). Sure, there’s talent, but it’s understood that the draft is most useful for the long-term if a team isn’t drafting near the top.

That’s why a trade for the Pacers’ pick wouldn’t be surprising and for the right deal, would be smart. They can then address the bench with free agency and trades.

“They're being active,” said ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford. “They've looked at 23, and I think their general feeling is unless someone slips in the Draft that was an unexpected slider, the guys that they're looking at are unlikely to even be rotation players for a team that's going to contend for an NBA championship next year in the Pacers.”

And if they don’t trade it?

“I wouldn't be surprised at all for them to take one of these upside guys, whether it's an international player that they can stash overseas or maybe a guy like an Archie Goodwin or a Ricky Ledo or someone that you can just say, look, we don't expect anything out of this guy,” Ford continued. “We'll work with him in the D‑League, we'll try to get them better as a player, and we'll come back and revisit this in a couple years.

Ford believes the Pacers will learn from last year’s draft, where they selected Miles Plumlee at 26. Team officials were high on him after an eye-opening pre-draft workout. They liked his body, size and experience and hoped that he would contribute right away.

“I typically think it’s a mistake that teams tend to make later in the first round because they know they don’t need a star, they just want to fit in a niche guy but the niche guy isn’t good enough at the niche to really make it at the next level,” he said. “I just think they’ll go a different direction in the draft this year because of that.”

One position the Pacers are looking to fill is at backup point guard. D.J. Augustin’s one-year deal is up and both parties are expected to go in a different direction. What the Pacers could use is a true point guard that can command the offense and run with the second unit. Possible names include German point guard Dennis Schroeder, who ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas described as a Rajon Rondo type of player, and Miami’s Shane Larkin. However, both may be off the board by the time the Pacers are on the clock. Murray State's Isaiah Canaan and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters are two possible options.

Should the Pacers hold onto their pick, Bilas suggests the Pacers go the best-player-available route.

“I still think that the draft is more about taking the best available player unless there’s a specific need that has to be filled, Bilas said. "Most of these guys aren’t going to wind up with the team they’re drafted by in three years. There’s so much turnover in the league."

“It’s really about asset procurement and getting the most valuable asset that you can, whether you keep it or trade it, that you’re able to procure the players that you want using the asset that you have.”

The draft will air on ESPN at 7 PM EDT from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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