Pacers Draft Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson

After an active night, the Pacers added two key pieces on Thursday in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft, Oregon guard Chris Duarte and Kentucky big man Isaiah Jackson.

First, the Pacers selected Duarte with the 13th pick. A 6-6 guard, Duarte shot 42.4 percent from 3-point range as a senior at Oregon, where he was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and an All-American after averaging 17.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, the 24-year-old came to the United States in high school and spent two years in junior college before enrolling in Oregon in 2019.

"A kid from the Dominican Republic...not a lot of kids make it out," Duarte said. "So me being one of those kids, it's a blessing. I'm grateful for my family and the people that helped me to get here. I'm grateful for the work I put in...I'm really excited about the future."

Duarte told the media after being drafted that he felt good about the fit with the Pacers after visiting the team last week.

"I went to Indiana and I had a great, great workout there. I met with the front office and we really connected well...When I left Indiana, I was confident in myself. So I knew if I was on the board by Indiana coming to pick, I knew that there was a high chance that they were going to take me."

The feeling was definitely mutual. The Pacers also came away impressed from Duarte's workout and interview and were thrilled to see him on the board at 13.

"I think he's got a great chance to crack our rotation right off the bat," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "One of the reasons that we were drawn to him was the fact that he was more of a finished product than a lot of the guys in the draft and we're trying to get healthy and win games."

"His athleticism is underrated. His skillset is unique. At 6-6, he has both length, speed, and quickness. We just feel like he can do a lot of things at both ends of the floor."

"Chris is somebody that's really grown over the last two years at the University of Oregon...great work ethic, great toughness," Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan added. "He's got a very unique story to where he's got tonight. He's a guy we've tracked over the last two years. His shooting's improved, his ballhandling's improved.

"He may be 24 years old, but he really started playing basketball as a teenager, so he's relatively young to the game."

Speaking with ABC after being drafted, Duarte was joined by his young son and reflected on how being a father has impacted him.

"Chris is everything for me," the elder Duarte said. "Since he got here, since he got to my life, he means everything to me and my family. I love him. He makes me work harder every day."

Drafting in the lottery for the first time since 2015, the Pacers hope they have landed another impact player. Their last lottery pick, Myles Turner, has been a starter since midway through his rookie season and led the NBA in blocks twice.

Duarte has the potential to have a similar two-way impact with his ability to shoot and attack on offense while also guarding multiple positions defensively.

"We're really happy to have him," Carlisle said. "I think he's a guy that Indiana Pacer basketball fans are going to fall in love with because of his passion, the kind of teammate he's going to be, and the way he's going to represent the city."

The Pacers also acquired the rights to Jackson in a trade to be finalized later and took him with the 22nd overall pick. The 6-10 forward from Pontiac, Mich. turned pro after a freshman year where he averaged 8.4 points on 54 percent shooting and 6.6 rebounds in 25 games.

Jackson is best known for his shotblocking. He averaged 2.6 blocks in just 20.7 minutes per night. He blocked eight shots against Kansas in the Champions Classic in just his third collegiate game and also had seven blocks in 23 minutes against eventual SEC champions Alabama on Jan. 23.

"He comes from a terrific program that is notorious for producing great NBA players," Buchanan said. "We feel like his energy, his motor is a great foundation to work with."

Jackson said he felt an immediate connection with the Pacers at his July 7 workout, where Carlisle pulled him aside and worked with him individually on his shooting form. He couldn't believe it when he found out Indiana was acquiring him.

"It lived up to everything, just having my name called, getting drafted, it's just, it's mind blowing," Jackson said. "Like I'm still right now trying to — I don't feel anything right now but I'm still trying to — it just feels like a dream in a way. Like it's just crazy right now, like I'm just trying to bottle all my emotions."

Carlisle said Jackson will immediately be one of the best athletes on the Pacers roster and was impressed with his coachability.

"I'm a hard worker," Jackson said. "I bring it all, I'm a defensive anchor. I'm going to be their energy guy that Indiana needs and like I keep saying, I can't wait to get there and get to work and show everybody, prove everybody wrong."

In their two picks, the Pacers got two very different types of players. The 24-year-old Duarte could play right away, while Jackson may take longer to develop, but could ultimately have the higher ceiling.

"We kind of had the philosophy tonight that we had two opportunities to take a swing at the plate," Buchanan said. "And we wanted to kind of go for what we felt was a pretty sure thing and we wanted to take a swing with the other one (at) a younger, more high-upside potential."