This Year's Pacers Draft as Unpredictable as Ever
The Pacers appear to have finished their collective eyeballing of prospects for Thursday's NBA draft. So what do we know?
Not much, really, unless we are a member of the Pacers' basketball department, and we aren't. The list of candidates the team has lured for workouts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse doesn't reveal everything in the grand scheme of things, and we certainly don't know what teams drafting ahead of them are planning, not to mention trade possibilities.
DRAFT CENTRAL: Video and Stories on 42 Prospects at Pacers.com/Draft »
The best outsiders to the process can do is try to get a handle on the caliber of player who might be available to the Pacers with the 20th pick. Perhaps you've seen the list of previous No. 20 draft picks, published here on Pacers.com. All it tells you is what you already know, namely that it's a hit-or-miss position from which to select a player. Teams are fortunate to get a player who can earn a spot in their rotation for awhile. Many 20th picks wash out of the league after two or three years, never to be heard from again.
Still, you never know. Sometimes players from the second round wind up having great careers, and with so many 19-year-olds feeling the draft these days, a team might get a little lucky and land one who blooms into a major contributor.
Scan the mock drafts, and you can find at least 17 players predicted for the Pacers with the 20th pick. Fewer than 10 of them came in for group workouts in recent weeks, but not for lack of trying on the part of scouting director Ryan Carr. Agents for some of the no-shows refused to send in their clients, believing they'll be selected before the 20th pick.
"It happens every year to a certain degree," Carr said. "You're trying to get as many guys as you think could get to you in the draft, and agents are trying to not send them to workouts where they feel they won't be picked. There's always back and forth."
Ideally, Carr would be able to bring in every player projected to go above the Pacers' pick, to have as much information as possible. But team president Larry Bird and his staff won't eliminate someone because they didn't come.
"We work really hard to have as much information as we can," Carr said. "We've been watching these guys since when they were freshmen."
Carr flew to Treviso, Italy two weeks ago to attend the three-day adidas Euro Camp to watch prospects for this and future drafts. The Pacers' choice could come from that group as well.
While the 20th pick doesn't offer much hope for landing a future All-Star, the Pacers have made some of their most successful selections in the mid- to lower region of the first round. Former general manager and team president Donnie Walsh, who directed the Pacers' draft from 1986 through 2003, often felt more comfortable drafting in that region.
"You can't make a mistake when you're in the top 10," he said. "If you do, you've really lost an opportunity. You've got to approach it the same way from 10 to 20. There are guys who will be left out of the top 10 who should be in the top 10. It's so much easier to take those guys when you're (drafting) 11 or 12, and that's where I had my best picks."
Walsh had four top-10 picks in his era. Chuck Person went fourth in 1986 and was voted Rookie of the Year. Rik Smits went second in 1988 and became the franchise's second all-time leading scorer. But George McCloud, who was seventh in 1989, was set back by the death of both parents early in his career and wound up having his best years for other teams. Erick Dampier, taken 10th in 1996, was traded for Chris Mullin after his rookie season.
It could be argued Walsh and Bird have fared better overall outside the top 10, with picks such as:
- Reggie Miller, 11th in 1987, became the franchise's all-time leading scorer and a Hall of Famer.
- Dale Davis, 13th in 1991, was a valuable starting power forward on five teams that reached the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Travis Best, 23rd in 1995, was the backup point guard on three conference finalists.
- Austin Croshere, 12th in 1997, was a rotation player on the 2000 conference finalist and earned a major contract with his performance in the NBA Finals that year.
- Al Harrington, 25th in 1998, was runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 2004 and lasted 16 seasons in the NBA.
- Jeff Foster, 21st in 1999, lasted 13 seasons and became the franchise's third all-time leading rebounder.
- Danny Granger, 17th in 2005, became an All-Star, won the Most Improved Player award and is the franchise's fourth all-time leading scorer.
- Paul George, 10th in 2010, is a three-time All-Star, winner of the Most Improved Player award and member of All-Defensive teams.
- Solomon Hill, 23rd in 2013, emerged this past season as a valuable role player and could land a sizable offer on the free agent marketplace this summer.
- Myles Turner, 11th last summer, worked his way into the starting lineup this past season and is widely regarded as a future star.
A fundamental of later first-round picks, Walsh said, is to draft for talent rather than need. Bird was famously given an F by one draft analyst after drafting George because it didn't appear the Pacers needed a player at that position. Obviously, it has worked out all right. The Pacers passed on future All-Star Kawhi Leonard in 2015, though, because they already had Granger and George at that position. They selected him at San Antonio's request and traded him for George Hill, who has started the past 4 1/2 seasons.
"I think you make a mistake if you're in the top 20 drafting for need," Walsh said. "The minute you do that, you make a major mistake."
So there you have it. The best indications are that the Pacers will draft a player at any position, from any country and who might or might not have been in for a pre-draft workout. Assuming, of course, they don't trade the pick.
Narrows it down, doesn't it?
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