With the NBA's current one-and-done rule and the way teams draft purely on potential versus consistent college performance, it's no surprise that in two mock drafts the Indiana Pacers are projected to pick a sophomore or a freshman with the 26th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.
Will Barton is a 6-6 sophomore guard from the University of Memphis who averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds per game in his two years in Graceland. His crowning achievement of his sophomore campaign was a 28 and 16 performance in a loss at Louisville, but the rest of his solid games came against typical mid-level Conference USA squads.
The freshman in the other mock draft is Moe Harkless, a 6-8 swingman who averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds in one season at St. John's. Playing in the Big East, he faced tough competition. He had 30+ performances against Providence and Duke, but struggled to score even 20 during most of his one season at St. John's. I understand taking a freshman who dominated the nation with a lottery pick, but selecting one so late in the draft who has a lot to prove has bust written all over it.
So the Pacers need to look no further than the state to the north for the 26th pick and select Michigan State's senior forward Draymond Green. Green is a four-year player who was named Big Ten Player of the Year last season, averaging a double-double in his final year with the Spartans. He was a bit of a project, but developed very nicely through four years in East Lansing and is just the third Spartan to record 1,000 career points and rebounds.
The downside to Green is his size for the skills he has. He's in that Tyler Hansbrough range, with big man skills and not quite enough height or weight to compete down low with the premier big men in the NBA. But it's the 26th pick. The chance of grabbing a future superstar that late in the draft is slim anyway, and the Pacers must look to consistent play in a major program.
Drafting on potential alone also leaves the potential to be a bust, which is something the NBA's one and done rule seems to promote. Green was coached by one of the all-time greats in Tom Izzo and played in arguably the best basketball conference in the country for four years. He has played in a national championship game and was a first-team All-American last year. And off paper, if you watched him play his leadership on the court was undeniable.
Most mock drafts have Green being available at 26, and I see it as a no-brainer. He showed ability to shoot from further than 15 feet, and if he can improve his range and mobility he could be a great asset to the current Pacers team. On a team with no clear-cut superstar, adding a role player with experience and great leadership ability makes a lot more sense than hoping a 19-year-old from a small school can become a star.