With a young coach and an even younger Pacers team, there is a lot of excitement building in Indiana, especially coming up on the 2011 NBA Draft.
Many Hoosiers think the Pacers should make a trade. A trade would ultimately be preferable, but given the Pacers' more recent draft successes, Indiana fans should have confidence that the front office can use this draft to put the finishing touches on rebuilding a winning franchise.
While I tend to agree that a trade might be more beneficial and believe there are several good players currently on the trading block, here are the five players to keep an eye on if the Pacers stick to the traditional model—one that has worked quite well for their fellow Indianapolis Colts—and build through the draft.
Any time a player might even somewhat resemble Reggie Miller, the Pacers should be obliged to take him. It's a sort of unwritten code.
Good news for Indiana fans, Klay Thompson is more than just a vague representation of the Pacers great—in fact he could be a carbon copy. At 6'7" and 206 pounds, Thompson is a tall, wiry player like Miller, who was also one of the best shooters in the collegiate ranks.
Thompson is known for constantly moving without the ball, working his opponents through screens in order to get open, but he is not just a spot-up three-point shooter. He is also very adept at putting the ball on the floor and creating his own shot.
His offensive talents helped him become one of college basketball's top-10 scorers in the nation; during his junior season, he averaged 22.1 PPG. One of his best games came last season against the University of Washington when he knocked down eight 3-pointers on the way to 43 points, proving just how much of a proficient scorer he truly is.
In desperate need of a two-guard who can shoot the three, Klay Thompson is the perfect player for Indiana's roster.
Fun fact: Klay's dad, Mychal Thompson, was the No. 1 overall pick back in the 1978 draft.
A native of Indianapolis and local Purdue Boilermaker, JaJuan Johnson is the type of player who attracts the Pacers.
Similar to Tyler Hansbrough, Johnson is a high-motor type of player who makes plays based on hustling and positioning around the basket.
A bit taller and more athletic though, Johnson has the chance to be a more legit starter. Johnson has put on a decent amount of weight, so he can also more effectively bang with some of the league's bigger, more aggressive power forwards.
The Pacers have already shown interest in Johnson, inviting him for pre-draft workouts.
The Pacers lack a true scorer who demands the ball late and can close out games. If Granger is traded (a definite possibility) Indiana will be in serious trouble in terms of point production.
That is why the Pacers should seriously consider Providence's Marshon Brooks.
As a basketball purist (and a Georgetown alum), Brooks' game can be off-putting. He is a me-first type of player, so once he gets possession of the ball, he rarely lets it go. Brooks also has a history of taking wildly erratic shots when a teammate is wide open instead.
At the same time, he is also a prolific scorer; probably more so than even Jimmer Fredette, given Brooks had to play in basketball's toughest conference, the Big East.
Second in the nation to Fredette in scoring, Brooks averaged 24.6 PPG, including an unbelievable 52-point effort against Notre Dame and a painful 43-point explosive against the Hoyas.
Not only is Brooks a relentless scorer, he also has good size (6'5") that allows him to be a more than capable defender, and he pulled down a surprising seven rebounds per game—not bad for a scoring guard.
Overall, if the Pacers can't address their lack of scoring through free agency or a trade, Indiana should consider Marshon Brooks.
The second Thompson the Pacers should be interested in, Tristan, has all the tools to become a dominant power forward Indiana is craving.
When Indiana selected Tyler Hansbrough a few years back, the reaction from fans was mixed. Some liked the move because Hansbrough is a high energy guy who brings an infectious work ethic to the team. A natural leader, Hansbrough plays with an intensity level coach Vogel loves.
The downside is that Hansbrough is a limited contributor. He relies mostly on hustle and doesn't have the size, strength or athleticism to truly succeed in the NBA. Ultimately he is a great sixth or seventh man, which was the pre-draft opinion of most Pacers fans.
Thompson can be a future starter. He is still very young and raw, but he has the size and athleticism to succeed. At times he has displayed a questionable work ethic, that shouldn't be too much of an issue as Indiana is starting to develop a strong locker room presence that demands accountability.
As a freshman, Thompson flashed his ability, averaging 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Those kind of numbers at the pro level would earn him a starting nod and certainly improve the Pacers' frontline.
Rarely am I in favor of drafting European players since most require extra development and end up staying overseas for a few years. If and when they are eventually ready, their rights are often traded, and the team that drafts them never gets a chance see them play except for on TV.
Not many outside of Dirk Nowitzki have turned into a bona fide superstar,—Gasol is close, but not on the same level yet—so the odds aren't great that European prospects will pan out.
That being said though, I will bite on Motiejunas.
The guy is a seven-foot, versatile lefty with an unlimited ceiling and potential. Playing him alongside 7'2" Roy Hibbert, Motiejunas gives the Pacers an incredibly imposing frontline, but unlike most big men, Motiejunas can not only bang down low, but he also likes to step out on the perimeter and hit the three.
With the Pacers lacking true scoring threats, having a power forward who looks to score, but will also crash the boards is extremely appealing. The Pacers need more options to fill the bucket, and Motiejunas might be their guy.