Ranking the Best 5 Draft Picks in Indiana Pacers NBA History
Just who are the best five draft picks in Indiana Pacers NBA history?
We know for sure Reggie Miller will be one of them.
But what about the other four?
Are Chuck "The Rifleman" Person's numbers good enough to put him in the top five?
Are either of the Davis Boys, Antonio or Dale, worthy of this recognition?
For the purposes of this article, we will limit the scope to players selected by the Indiana Pacers from 1977-2003. The year 1977 was when the Pacers first joined the NBA draft, selecting 6'6" forward Alonzo Bradley 29th overall out of Texas Southern University.
A draft pick chosen from 2003 or earlier increases the likelihood a particular Pacer has had at least 10 years of NBA experience, active or not. It may be too premature to include those with nine years of experience or less.
The next considerations would be individual and team accolades.
Say, for example, if a certain Pacers draft choice is at least a 10-year veteran, won NBA Most Improved Player honors during his playing days while serving as a fixture in the team's yearly playoff run, he'll be a cinch to be recognized.
Finally, a great draft pick has to be loved by the community. Even if a player does well on the court but has serious issues off it, it just wouldn't feel right.
It sure will be exciting to find out who's joining Uncle Reggie.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Davis, 2nd Round (45th Overall) 1990 NBA Draft
Forget about the ticky-tack foul on Larry Johnson's four-point play in the 1999 NBA playoffs.
Antonio Davis is the best second-round draft pick in Indiana Pacers history.
Playing overseas apparently did Davis a heap of good, as he went on to play six solid seasons in Indiana from 1993-1999.
He didn't produce eye-popping numbers off the bench, (his best season with the Pacers was in 1996-97, when he averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds), but he always gave it his all when he took the court.
He was known for being a bruiser who crashed the boards hard and would dunk with ferocity if you dared him. Antonio was half of the "Davis Boys" tandem with Dale (no relation) who would terrorize anybody brave enough to make forays to the basket.
Davis didn't have any serious off-court issues while with the Pacers and was a pillar of strength during the team's playoff runs in the mid and late-90s.
5. Vern Fleming, 1st Round (18th Overall) 1984 NBA Draft
Who exactly is Vern Fleming?
While not exactly a Hall of Famer, Fleming was an epitome of patience and selflessness during Indiana's lean years during the 1980s.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1984 draft out of the University of Georgia and went on to be the point guard when he was more of a shooting guard by nature.
In other words, he played out of position.
His play was simple and effective. He wasn't known for flamboyant plays on either end of the court. He could stick the mid-range jumper or drive into the lane for two points.
And just how effective was his approach?
So effective that he is one of the Pacers' all-time leaders in several categories which include games played, minutes, field-goal percentage, total rebounds, assists, steals and points. An article written by this same author sums them up as 14 in all.
Fleming, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, was a consummate professional whom Reggie Miller said almost brought him to tears in his 1995 book I Love Being the Enemy whenever he recalls Vern playing in front of only three thousand fans at the old Market Square Arena.
The Pacers were that bad during Fleming's early years.
His patience eventually bore fruit as he got to see some action in the 1994 and 1995 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks.
4. Chuck Person, 1st Round (4th Overall), 1986 NBA Draft
If you've been a Pacers fan for many years, you'll always remember "The Rifleman."
There's no question, Person is the best rookie. A lot of guys in the league don't give me as many problems as Person does.
Person and Bird went on to have their share of trash-talking battles, culminating in the 1991 first-round series when Indiana pushed Boston to the brink before bowing out in five games.
Person didn't have any off-court issues during his stint with the Pacers from 1986-1992, where he wound up 10th on the franchise's all-time scoring list. He was just known for his theatrics whenever his shots were going in.
3. Dale Davis, 1st Round (13th Overall), 1991 NBA Draft
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Quickly, which former Indiana Pacer would you associate with the word "warrior?"
There have been many in the past, but one enforcer's name stands out.
Yes, that Dale Davis. The other half of the Davis Boys.
He was an unheralded selection out of Clemson in the 1991 NBA draft who, unbeknownst to many at the time, would be fixture at the 4-spot in the Pacers' five Eastern Conference Finals appearances in the 1990s.
Never mind that he wasn't a scorer or great free-throw shooter (he shot just .562 for his entire career). He was at his best on the offensive end with put-backs, dunks and shots within five feet of the basket.
However, it was on the defensive end and on the boards where Davis made a living for Indiana. He would gobble up rebounds and contest any shot that came his way.
Davis also talked about how the current Indiana team is similar to the Pacers of his era, which should give fans an idea of what he was all about.
They have some very talented players but they kind of remind me of us back in the day because they roll up their sleeves, put the hard hats on and do the little things.
He was also no thug off the court, just a tough guy who's always there to stick up for his teammates.
Davis, who was part of the deal that sent Jermaine O'Neal to the Pacers in 2000, places third and gets the nod over Fleming and Person because he made a tremendous impact at a crucial time when Indiana was on the brink of snaring an NBA title.
2. Rik Smits, 1st Round (2nd Overall), 1988 NBA Draft
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Anybody want to go Dutch?
Well, the Pacers did in the 1988 NBA draft when they selected little-known Rik Smits second overall out of Marist College.
Indiana did so out of necessity, as oft-injured center Steve Stipanovich was nearing the end of the line in the NBA.
This fact is preserved in an L.A. Times article dated December 15, 1989 from Dan Hafner.
When Steve Stipanovich was injured a year ago, the Indiana Pacers had to get production from 7-foot-4 Rik Smits faster than anticipated.
From thereon out, "The Dunking Dutchman" was an important component of the Indiana teams that made a lot of playoff noise in the 1990s.
Smits had decent rebounding and shot-blocking numbers, but he wasn't considered the cream of the crop in those areas.
Rather, he was a finesse low-post operator who had a feathery and deft touch from 17 feet and in. His "Memorial Day Miracle" shot when he pump-faked Tree Rollins out of the way in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals will forever be etched in Pacers lore.
Smits is still active in the team's community activities such as Pacers Playoffs Pep Rallies, even long after his playing days came to an end in 2000.
On this note, it's somewhat rare nowadays for a player to spend his entire 12-year NBA career with one team, but Smits did.
However, the Pacers' No. 1 draft choice of all time did Smits one better in this regard.
1. Reggie Miller, 1st Round (11th Overall), 1987 NBA Draft
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Before "Blue Collar, Gold Swagger," there was "Miller Time."
At the time of the 1987 NBA draft, local hero Steve Alford was the more popular choice in Indiana. It may have taken Miller some time, but he eventually proved he was the wiser choice.
Miller's long-range sniping and trash talk were what really defined him on the court. He was one of the best ever at moving without the ball, using screens from his big men like Dale or Antonio Davis to free himself up for the uncontested jumper.
And don't forget, Reggie can also dunk in traffic if you dare him.
Along with Michael Jordan, I believe he's the greatest clutch player we have ever seen. He is a true professional with unbelievable heart, desire and dedication. He's a great friend, he was a great teammate and true blessing, not just to Indiana basketball, but to basketball throughout the world.
Miller is also a great asset to the Indianapolis community by way of his Reggie Miller Foundation, allowing him to win the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2004.
For all of his accomplishments, the only thing that eluded him was an NBA title.
However, Reggie Miller left an 18-year legacy with the Pacers that won't soon be forgotten.
The verbal tussles with Spike Lee at Madison Square Garden.
Twenty-five fourth quarter points.
Eight points in nine seconds.
Miller Time will always live on.