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.