Pacers Pick Up Playmaker in Niang

Playmakers are in vogue in the NBA these days. The one-dimensional specialists are giving way to the more versatile talents who can thrive both offensively and defensively in a game increasingly dominated by pick and rolls.

With that in mind, the Pacers drafted Iowa State's Georges Niang with the 50th overall selection in Thursday's NBA draft, adding a 6-foot-9 four-year collegian who they hope can step into the rotation immediately and bypass the detour to their Development League affiliate in Fort Wayne.

Niang stood out in the final group workout against the likes of potential first-rounders Brice Johnson and Cheick Diallo, which went a long way toward convincing the Pacers to invest in a player they didn't expect to be available to them.

"You look at some of the teams and how they're playing that are going deep into the playoffs," general manager Kevin Pritchard said. "The spread four is really important. And then the other thing is you have to have four guys who can make plays. We thought Niang is really one of the best playmakers in college basketball.

The pick-and-roll game is (big). If your four man can dive but also pick and pop and shoot the ball, drive the ball and make quick decision plays, that's what we saw in that workout. Against bigger guys. Believe it or not that workout was really important to us. I don't know if it was 20 percent of it or 30 percent of it but it was an important workout."

Niang earned second- and third-team All-American honors last season at Iowa State, along with the Karl Malone Award as the nation's best power forward. He averaged 20.5 points on 55 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He was a college 3-point threat, hitting 39 percent of 4.1 attempts per game.

He was widely regarded as a borderline draft pick because of his lack of athleticism, but the Pacers believe his skills and IQ will make up for that.

"The game is athletic, but I think he's always gotten by and been successful because he's super crafty," Pritchard said. "My boss (Larry Bird) is pretty crafty, too...He knows how to use his body, he's got the spin moves, he does all that and he knows how to be in the right position on defense, too.

"We needed that. At the end of the year we said we really need to improve our overall team IQ."

Pritchard added that the Pacers made some attempts to obtain a late first-round draft pick after the draft began, but were unable to work a suitable trade. He said one early selection changed the entire draft, but declined to identify it.

"It was a very unique draft this year," he said.

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