NBA Draft 2011: 10 Players the Indiana Pacers Should Avoid with the No. 15 Pick
The Pacers are on the verge of breaking into the elite ranks of the Eastern Conference. As a young team with little to no postseason experience, the Pacers surprised many in the league with a second-half surge and sneaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed.
Swept aside by a more talented and seasoned Chicago team, the Pacers nevertheless played with heart and toughness that characterized their two-month turnaround. By staying with the Bulls in four of the five games and stealing one, Indiana also proved that it is a player or two away from being a very dangerous group. However, in order to make that final leap to be considered a true challenger in the East, the Pacers must nail the draft. Having drafted only one All-Star player (Danny Granger) in more than a dozen years, such a task may be easier said than done.
With their center of the future in Roy Hibbert and a talented point guard in Darren Collison, the Pacers have the two most important pieces on in a team in which to build around.
Add Danny Granger, who will either be an All-Star-caliber forward or an equally valuable trade asset, and the starting lineup is beginning to come together. With a center, point guard and small forward already in place, the Pacers need a capable and athletic go-to scorer in the upcoming draft. Think Marshon Brooks, not Jimmer Fredette.
A setback in this draft could prove costly to the Pacers hopes of building a legitimate winner. With certain key pieces already in place, a good draft hinges on selecting a player at the right position and also making sure they get a guy who will fit in with rest of the team. Here are three types of players that Indy can ill afford to select.
1. A Project
With a young group already close to success, drafting a project-type player would be a total waste of a pick. The Pacers don't have the luxury to wait for a player to develop. Having to wait for a youngster to catch up not only wastes the potential of a core group of players about to hit their prime, but it also deprives the Pacers of much-needed leadership.
That's not to say that whoever the Pacers select will be required to provide instant leadership. That'd be ideal but it's also unrealistic. Indy just needs a guy that can hold his own in crunch time.
2. A Bad Athlete
The second types the Pacers need to avoid are smaller, less athletic players. The Pacers already have a few scrappy, undersized players, which is fine, but hustle and heart can only take you so far in the NBA. The Pacers are already giving up size and athleticism at power forward. They can't put themselves in a position where they have to compensate defensively at guard as well. Plus, without a true go-to scorer the Pacers need someone who will have no trouble scoring and creating his own shot in the pros.
3. An Immature, Selfish Type
Lastly, the Pacers can't afford to take a chance on upside over lack of discipline and maturity. The Pacers locker room jelled because they bought into Coach Vogel preaching work ethic and a team-first mentality. The risk with drafting a hotshot me-first player is that the Pacers are a young group and could become unglued by one or two bad apples, especially if the wheels start to fall off.
With that in mind here are 10 prospects the Pacers need to avoid in the draft.
10. Alec Burks: PG/SG, Colorado
Falls under the traditional "Should have stayed in school one more year" category.
Fortunately for the Pacers, Alec Burks probably won't fall to No. 15. If he does the Pacers will no doubt be tempted by the freshman sensation from Colorado and with good reason. At 6'6" Burks has the prototype height and athleticism for a starting NBA 2-guard. He can also light it up when he gets going.
The problem is that at only 18 years of age, Burks is too young and unseasoned for what the Pacers are looking for. That's not to say that he won't be a star, but after an agonizing last seven years the Pacers can't wait another two to three years for Burks to reach his potential.
Draft scouts cite learning to move without the ball, still figuring out how to use screens and still developing a feel for the game as Burks' major weaknesses—all clear signs that the Colorado guard is in need of a lot of tutoring.
The Pacers are a relatively strong group in terms of basketball IQ. The Pacers set good screens and run disciplined plays. They need someone who can step in right away and thrive in the offense, not someone who has to learn it.
Had Burks waited a year or two, he could have been the perfect fit. Then again with another few years under his belt there would have been no chance of him falling to No. 15.
9. Donatas Motiejunas: SF/PF, Lithuania
Falls under the special "European project" category.
If a college project player is dangerous, European projects are 1,000 times riskier.
There is a lot to like in the 7'0" lefty from Lithuania. The comparisons to Andrea Bargnani and even Dirk Nowitzki make Dontatas Motiejunas even more attractive for a mid-first-round pick.
The Pacers, though, would be wise to pass. Like Burks, words/phrases used to describe Motiejunas include "high ceiling" and "potential." But again, Pacers are in win-now mode and it doesn't matter how much talent a player has, if he can't display it in three or four years, it won't do the Pacers any good.
European players not only have to adjust to the NBA game, but often they stay over in Europe for at least a few more years. Often the team that drafts them never hears about them again.
For every Nowitzki, there are 10 Darko Milicics and Primov Brezecs.
The circumstances for each team are different and sometimes the risk is worth it. Not for Indiana.
Rarely are teams in a position like the Pacers, where the entire core group of starters is all hitting their prime together. It makes no sense whatsoever for the other four starters to have to wait on some guy to come around and the Pacers have too many needs to let a high draft pick learn from the bench.
Another turnoff for a Pacers squad that prides itself on hustle is that Motiejunas has been known for lapses in focus bordering on apathy during games. The hated L-word (laziness) has even sneaked into the discussion.
You can teach a post game and establish a mid-range game. You can improve ball-handling and learn a three-point stroke. You can't teach passion.
If Motiejunas doesn't bring it every game, the Pacers shouldn't bother, no matter how much potential he might have.
8. Bismack Biyombo: SF/PF, Congo (Playing in Spain)
Falls under the special "International project" category (which is pretty much the same as "European project").
The best part about taking Bismack Biyombo would be saying his name five times fast for the first few weeks after the draft...Unfortunately for the Pacers, that's about it.
Biyombo is a fatalistic combination of Motiejunas and Morris' limitations. He's a foreign prospect with extremely raw skills who relies on hustle and energy and has the same ceiling and skill set as McRoberts and Hansbrough.
Also, when a player is being compared to Ian Mahinmi that can't be good. Just read any of Bill Simmons' playoff columns about the Mavs and you know the likeness isn't promising. Fair or unfair, it doesn't bode well for Biyombo's prospects.
7. Justin Harper: PF, Richmond
Falls under the "Someone better will still be on the board" category.
Besides being a "tweener" with no true position, the Pacers should pass on Harper simply because fellow first-round prospect Trey Thompkins is a better candidate with the same style.
Both have similar games to Phoenix pro Channing Fyre and are able to space the floor while still providing rebounding on the interior. For the Pacers, a pop-out, versatile power forward could be intriguing.
At 6'10" University of Georgia's Thompkins is slightly bigger and a more capable shooter and scorer.
Thompkins has his own limitations and the Pacers will probably pass on both players, but, if they are looking for a Channing Frye-type player, the Pacers would be wise to take Thompkins over Harper.
6. Markieff Morris: PF, Kansas
Falls under the "We already have three others just like you" category.
While that is the kind of player the front office should be looking for, unfortunately that is exactly what the Pacers already have at power forward. Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts and even Jeff Foster to a lesser extent, provide hustle and solid minutes at the 4 spot.
The Pacers don't need another average to slightly above-average player who can accumulate decent stats in 20 minutes a night, but will never be a true bona fide starter.
If there is one position where the Pacers should take upside over steadiness it's power forward, where they already have two guys who can hold the fort to ease the transition.
Tyler Hansbrough was a greater college player and has had decent success (especially of late) for the Pacers but in reality he is a sixth man type who should be coming off the bench to provide energy and leadership.
As an organization you aren't going to win a championship—even challenge for a championship—with Hansbrough as a starter unless you have a Kobe, LeBron, Dirk or D-Wade to carry you. The Pacers currently have both problems. No superstar and nobody to start over Hansbrough.
Markieff Morris isn't an upgrade for the Pacers. As Obama supporters said during the campaign, "We want change, not more of the same!"
5. Kyle Singler: SF, Duke
Falls under the "We wish we had room for you but we don't" category.
There is a lot to like about Kyle Singler, especially as he fits the type of player the Pacers covet. Singler is a smart, hardworking and unselfish player who understands the game and how to score. Most importantly he could start from day one. The only problem with the former Duke star is that there isn't space for him on the current roster.
Even if the Pacers trade away Danny Granger (a definite possibility), the Pacers still have (and are relying on) Paul George to fill in and assume the starting role. Fellow Duke standout Mike Dunleavy is currently slotted as the third option at small forward and Singler adds nothing new to the position. He's a poor man's version of Granger, George and Dunleavy.
Because the Pacers so desperately need an athletic big at power forward and a score-first shooting guard, it is becoming a familiar theme that players (especially small forwards) at other positions are thrown out of consideration.
4. Chandler Parsons: SF/PF, Florida
Falls under the "Add 20 pounds and find a real position" category.
Like Singler, Florida's Chandler Parsons is stuck between two positions and fits neither for the Pacers. As a small forward he is too similar to Granger or George, and as a power forward he is not different enough from Hansbrough and McRoberts.
Parsons has good athleticism but he's about 20 pounds too light to be taken seriously by the Pacers.
The Pacers need a big, athletic, bruising type at the 4 and Parsons is not that.
Where is Dale Davis when we need him?
3. Shelvin Mack: PG/SG, Butler
Falls under the "Height is actually an issue" category.
Shelvin Mack is definitely a fan favorite and sentimental choice. Let's hope that the front office doesn't listen to the local supporters because sadly he doesn't fit as a future Pacer.
Mack is an instant-offense scorer, which the Pacers would definitely need, but selecting the local Butler product creates more problems than he solves.
For one, Mack is a tweener offensively. At 6'2" he is not quite tall enough for shooting guard, yet doesn't handle well enough to play the point. Given the Pacers are smitten with Darren Collison, using the 15th pick on a future backup doesn't make sense.
If offense was the only concern, the Pacers might take a chance on him because, as we all saw during the past two NCAA tournaments, Mack can score. It's on defense that the Butler great's lack of size becomes an even bigger liability.
The Pacers can't afford to compensate on size at two positions. Hansbrough makes up for his disadvantage through effort and desire, but he also has help from big 7'2" Roy Hibbert and the rest of the team.
With smart defense (which the Pacers play) teams can recover if faced with a mismatch. Two size disadvantages and the holes are too many and too big to plug. Rotations become inadequate and slow and the defense gets stretched too thin.
With their current power forwards, the Pacers don't have the luxury to take a player who leaves them vulnerable on defense no matter his scoring abilities.
2. Kemba Walker: PG/SG, UConn
Falls under the new and growing in popularity "Doesn't fit with the team mentality" category.
The chances that Kemba Walker falls this far are slim to none and slim just left the building. If he somehow does slip to No. 15, the Pacers would be smart to let him drop a few spots further.
Walker is an incredible talent and the Pacers might regret passing on a guy of his caliber down the road, but hear me out: Walker doesn't fit the Pacers style and would disrupt a good thing.
The biggest concern for Walker is his height. Defensively he is a definite liability if he plays his natural position of shooting guard. If height were the only consideration, Muggsy Bogues would have never had a cameo in Space Jam. Reservations toward Walker go beyond that.
Basketball is fundamentally a team game. While several players and clubs went away from that during the early 2000s, the trend is slowing creeping back in vogue.
After years of excitement over Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady and even a young Kobe Bryant, GMs realized that if their organizations were serious about titles and not just highlight reels, more than one overpriced superstar was needed.
Look at why Dallas beat Miami or the recent championship won by the Celtics. The rapid rise of the Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies can all be attributed to the realization that team basketball wins championships. Even the Lakers have more than Kobe. Gasol, Bynum, Artest and others were critical in spelling Kobe and forming the dominant and complete Lakers teams of late.
Going back a decade, though, it was the Pacers that defined winning without a superstar.
Back in 2000 when the Pacers made the Finals, Indiana played team basketball at its finest. Each role was defined, each player's responsibility clear.
Mark Jackson was the savvy veteran point guard who directed the offense. Reggie was the deep threat and Mr. Clutch. Jalen Rose was the slashing wing player who provided an offensive spark. Dale Davis understood his role as the enforcer and Rik Smits (who had his best season in 2000 but was utterly dominated by Shaq) played the pick-and-pop center who could hit the mid-range shot and provide help on the glass.
Throw in the bench of Mullins, Croshere, the feisty Travis Best and the Big Smooth (Sam Perkins) and it was clear why Indiana was the best team in the East.
Eleven years later and the Pacers are starting to rebuild using that same model. Once Coach Vogel took over, you could start to see the transformation of the Pacers as players began to understand their established roles.
Drafting Walker throws everything off. His greatness in college (and as a Georgetown alum, it hurts to say it, but he was great) came out of the isolation with the shot clock winding down. In that situation, no one in college was better.
The Pacers do need a closeout scorer and some say passing on Walker would be a terrible blunder we would regret. I disagree. The Pacers have never won with superstars and we all of a sudden shouldn't make exceptions now at the expense of the team.
The Pacers have bought into Coach Vogel's regimented style of play. Bringing in Walker, who operates best in free-flow, transition basketball could jeopardize that.
This isn't a knock on Walker per se (although he is going to have to learn how to score more in half-court offenses in the pros); only that he is better suited for another team that plays a more open game.
1. Jimmer Fredette: SG, BYU
Falls under the unfortunate "Way better in college" category.
Sorry, BYU fans, but Jimmer reeks of draft bust. Yes, he can score but that doesn't translate into automatic success at the next level.
Fredette should have gone to Duke. Think J.J. Redick, Trajan Langdon, Chris Carrawell, Sheldon Williams and Shavlik Randolph to name a few. (For the record I am not a Duke hater, I love Duke. The Blue Devils just don't have a great track record when it comes to the pros).
Sometimes good college players just don't translate and it's hard to see Fredette's career not following a similar path.
A horrible defender to begin with, at 6'2" there is no way the Pacers can play him at shooting guard, meaning that instead they would have to trade or bench Collison if they were planning on fitting Fredette into the starting lineup. Not going to happen. Plus, if you are drafting for a backup at No. 15 you are in serious trouble.
Assuming they do give the College Player of the Year a chance over Collison (which they won't), Fredette will have a hard time keeping his starting job, as he has a habit of getting his drives stuffed going into the lane...in college...in an inferior conference. Yikes.
If he can even get into the lane given his below-average athleticism and speed, Fredette is going to have a tough time out-maneuvering through the much taller interior defenders than he was accustomed to in the Mountain West.
Fredette will thrive coming off the bench in a Kyle Korver-like role. The Pacers, however, already have a solid bench and aren't looking for another role player. The Pacers need a standout, impact starter with All-Star potential, something that Fredette—despite his Player of the Year honor—lacks.
Ultimately, I hope all the guys on this list prove me wrong and find success somewhere in the league, just not with the Pacers.