Indiana Pacers 2014 NBA Draft Primer

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Indiana Pacers 2014 NBA Draft Primer
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For many franchises this week's NBA draft provides a land of opportunity, but with just one second-round pick, the Indiana Pacers will mostly play a spectator's role.

Barring an unexpected trade, Indiana will call their only name after 56 other prospects have been plucked out of the pool.

How did this come to pass? In an attempt to shore up the team's frontcourt scoring after its 2013 Eastern Conference Finals loss to Miami, the Pacers acquired Luis Scola from Phoenix last July. Indiana sent back Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a lottery-protected future first-round pick in exchange. The Suns, not the Pacers, will select at No. 27.

Let's take a look at what the team needs, a few players Larry Bird and Co. have had their eyes on and an ideal scenario for the Blue and Gold.

 

What are the team's needs after the 2013-14 season?

After Indiana's epic late-season collapse and lackadaisical playoff run, this question has several answers.

Most of them pertain to personal, off-court and/or chemistry issues that cannot be remedied through the draft. Frank Vogel has to establish his authority as well as improve his rotation flexibility. Roy Hibbert needs to work through his crisis of confidence. Lance Stephenson, if re-signed, has maturity issues to work through. Paul George must fill the leadership vacuum beyond being the team's go-to scorer.

Despite all of that, let's not lose sight of the fact that this team was still two wins from the Finals. One more than last year.

Now that we've covered a few minor problems, let's look at the on-court fixes. It starts with George Hill and the point guard position, as New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy so eloquently stated: 

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Much to Indiana's chagrin, Twitter was quick to remind the world of the Hill-Kawhi Leonard trade in 2011. Fans prefer to wipe this event from their memory, but it's impossible to ignore with the way each player has been in the spotlight for diametrically opposing reasons.

The fact that putting all their chips behind Hill to facilitate the offense hasn't quite worked out as they'd hoped. Hill simply hasn't displayed the aggression and confidence necessary to make the Pacers offense hum. As Pacers.com's Mark Montieth observed, this is all because the IUPUI alum isn't a point guard to begin with:

Most people think of him as a point guard and compare him to other point guards around the league, but it's a case of mistaken identity. He's not listed as a point guard anywhere in material distributed by the Pacers, and he's certainly not a point guard in the mind of any Pacers employees, including his own. The only thing that should lead anyone to believe Hill is a point guard is that he usually defends opposing point guards.

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley correctly notes that point guards have becomes less and less traditional in terms of evaluating them by assists. In Indiana's case, they need a ball-handler distributing to main scorers George and David West instead of those two creating for teammates. 

Hill is first and foremost a shooter; he dished less than four assists per game. But in 2013-14 Hill took a career-low 13.1 field-goal attempts per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He was neither a distributor nor a scorer, which led the offense to become stagnant way too often.

Beyond the starting five, Indiana's bench offered little support even when adjusted for the small minutes they played. Only Washington and Portland got less production out of their reserves.

Going forward, Vogel has Scola, Ian Mahinmi, Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Donald Sloan and Solomon Hill at his disposal. Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen likely won't return, though neither will be missed.

With zero wiggle room under the salary cap, GM Kevin Pritchard will have to get creative in providing a reliable second unit. Mahinmi has proved effective as Hibbert's backup in limited minutes, and Copeland showed his value as a deadly shooter when given the opportunity. Vogel clearly has yet to find substitutes he can rely on in key situations.

 

Who have the Pacers targeted with pick No. 57?

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Manu and Marcin Gortat are the only players drafted at No. 57 to impact the NBA.

The second round of the NBA draft is notorious for being a crapshoot. The back end is even more unreliable. Only Marcin Gortat (2005) and Manu Ginobili (1999) have had any sort of impact on the league from the 57th pick in the last 20 years.

That being said, Indiana still had to go through the scouting motions. The team's first predraft workout open to the media was guard-heavy with Keith Appling (Michigan State), Andre Dawkins (Duke), Jake Odum (Indiana State), and Scottie Wilbekin (Florida). Forwards James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina) and Ronald Roberts (St. Joseph’s) participated as well.

The second workout featured more perimeter players in Davion Berry (Weber State), DeAndre Daniels (Connecticut), Will Sheehey (Indiana), Russ Smith (Louisville), Xavier Thames (San Diego State) and Kendall Williams (New Mexico).

 

Who do the experts have Indiana drafting?

Full two-round mock drafts are difficult to come by due to the large number of prospects vying for just 60 spots. As you can see, none of these mocks agrees with another. 

Jonathan Wasserman (Bleacher Report): Lamar Patterson, SG, Pittsburgh

Sam Amico (Fox Sports Ohio): Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona

Alex Kennedy (Basketball Insiders): Jordan Bachynski, C, Arizona State

Gary Parrish (CBS Sports): Bryce Cotton, PG, Providence

Zach Harper (CBS Sports): Markel Brown, SG, Oklahoma State

Matt Moore (CBS Sports): Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Colorado

Draft Express: Ioannis Papapetrou, SF, Olympiakos (Greece)

NBADraft.net: Alec Brown, C, Wisconsin-Green Bay

 

How can Indiana receive the highest draft grade?

With Luis Scola essentially occupying Indiana's first-round pick, there isn't much Pritchard and Bird can do to come away as draft winners.

Though workouts don't necessarily tip where a team is leaning, especially so late in the draft, the Pacers have looked at a few memorable names. Chad Ford's currently ranks Smith the 42nd-best prospect and McAdoo 53rd. Daniels had one of the most memorable NCAA tournaments this year, averaging 16 points and 7.2 rebounds en route to a national championship.

The best you can hope for so late in the draft is a reliable role player. There won't be any George Hill replacements or David West backups.

The Pacers have a better history in the second round than most teams. They struck gold with Lance Stephenson at No. 40 in 2010, got four years out of Fred Hoiberg (No. 52 in 1995) and had luck with Antonio Davis at No. 45 in 1990. If you include A.J. Price as a useful bench piece in 2009, Indiana has "hit" on four of 19 second-round picks in the last 25 years.

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If the Pacers want to go backcourt, they should look for a battle-tested scorer who has competed at the highest level, like Russ Smith. Smith, despite his size, has the vision and athleticism to get into the paint. Playing at Louisville, Smith was constantly surrounded by talented teammates who demanded the ball, so while he is a scorer, there's also a knack for distribution.

The best they can hope to do is find a player who can challenge his teammates for a spot in the 13-man group. 

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