Workout Season Heats Up for Pacers
by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||
June 14, 2012
When the playoffs last a little longer than usual, the pre-draft process tends to get compressed. Though the Pacers have had just two workouts sandwiched around the NBA's draft combine in Chicago, the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse will get a lot busier in the two weeks leading up to the draft.
After bringing in two point guards (Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas and Scott Machado of Iona) with four forwards (Royce White of Iowa State, Draymond Green of Michigan State, Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure and Mike Scott of Virginia) in the initial workout on June 4, the Pacers brought in six wing players Thursday:
Darius Miller (Kentucky), Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt), Will Barton (Memphis), Khris Middleton (Texas A&M), Jae Crowder (Marquette) and Kent Bazemore (Old Dominion).
Of that group, Taylor generally is the most highly ranked in mock drafts, commonly showing in the bottom third of the first round, while Barton and Middleton also rate as first-round prospects.
Clearly the Pacers have a variety of options with their only selection, No. 26 overall (their second-round pick went to Toronto in the Leandro Barbosa trade), not the least of which would be to package the pick in a trade for a veteran as they did last year in acquiring George Hill.
So what are they looking for? The Pacers let that be known in their interviews with the prospects.
"They're looking for a role-player," Crowder said. "They've got good depth here, good players in good positions so they're looking for role-players that are willing to step in immediately."
One guy who stands out in that area is Miller, that rarest of college basketball phenomena -- a senior from Kentucky. At 6-8, 225, Miller has played with seven first-round picks in his college career (Jodie Meeks, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and Brandon Knight) and that number is expected to grow to 12 in a couple of weeks.
All five starters from the Wildcats' national championship team are projected as first-round picks, beginning with Anthony Davis at No. 1. Miller was no slouch as a talent, entering Kentucky as the state's Mr. Basketball, but spent most of his four seasons as a complementary reserve. He averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 31.0 minutes as a junior and 9.9 points and 2.8 boards in 26.1 minutes as a senior.
"It seems like the older I got," Miller said, "the younger everybody else got."
A close friend of former Butler University and current Washington Wizards guard Shelvin Mack -- the two Kentucky natives played on the same AAU team for several years -- Miller knows how to fill a role.
"I've played with a lot of talented players, been on a lot of talented teams so I feel like I could come in and be comfortable in a lot of different roles," he said. "I played different roles at Kentucky and was comfortable with all of them so hopefully that can be an advantage for me."
One of those players he competed against was Vanderbilt's Taylor, a fellow senior and a rock-solid small forward (6-7, 225) who brings a reputation for solid defense and athleticism and improving shooting to the table. Taylor evolved from .091 from the arc as a sophomore to .423 as a senior.
"During my years in school I improved my 3-point shooting a lot so I think teams are wanting to see if that was a fluke or if it's actually the real deal," Taylor said. "And I'm out here trying to prove what people know, that I'm an extremely good defensive player and that I can score the ball, as well."
Barton also is an intriguing prospect, a lithe (6-6, 175) shooting guard who produced 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting .509 from the field as a sophomore. He'll need to add strength to contend in the NBA but has obvious athleticism and the ability to create.
He's also something of a Pacers fan.
"I watched them real closely," he said. "They're a team that likes to get after it on defense, they get up and down in transition and really just get after you. I think that's the kind of player I am and I bring a toughness like they already have. They're a real tough team so I think I would be a good asset.
"I'm a winner. I've always won at every level I've been on. That's the most important thing about the game is winning so when a team is winning and they're interested in you, it makes it more appealing."
Another workout comes Friday with yet another interesting mix: guards Ashton Gibbs (Pitt), Evan Fournier (France), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) and Tony Wroten (Washington) along with 7-footer Travis Hyman (Bowie State) and power forward Josh Owens (Stanford).