Indiana Pacers: What If They Had Drafted Steve Alford Instead of Reggie Miller?

Mike B.Correspondent INovember 17, 2011

1989:  Steve Alford of the Dallas Mavericks drives the ball down the court during a game against the Denver Nuggets at McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado. Mandatory Credit: Tim de Frisco  /Allsport
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

During his tenure with the Indiana Pacers, general manager Donnie Walsh made several smart moves.

He drafted All-Stars like Rik Smits and Danny Granger, completed impressive trades like Dale Davis for Jermaine O'Neal, and hired the great Larry Bird as head coach.

But without a doubt, the best decision of his career came during the 1987 NBA draft.

The Pacers owned the 11th overall pick that year. A ton of fans in the state of Indiana wanted the team to select Indiana University guard Steve Alford, who had just led the Hoosiers to a national championship.  

Walsh, however, chose to pass up the popular Alford and drafted a skinny 6'7" shooting guard from UCLA named Reggie Miller. Alford would be selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round (26th overall). 

Fans booed Walsh for the selection, unaware that Miller would go on to become a five-time All-Star and one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

Miller would play his entire 18-year career in Indiana, leading the Pacers to the playoffs 15 times, including a trip to the the NBA Finals in 2000. He became the league's all-time leader in three-pointers, a record that was surpassed by Ray Allen last season.

Alford, on the other hand, would play just four seasons in the league. Spending time in Dallas and Golden State, he averaged only 4.4 points per game, nearly 14 points less than Miller's career average. 

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Miller is one of the best shooters the game of basketball has ever known.
Miller is one of the best shooters the game of basketball has ever known.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Walsh obviously made the wise choice by taking a future Hall of Famer like Miller, but what if he had listened to the fans and drafted Alford instead? 

Well, fans in Indiana would have been happier, at least temporarily. They would've had the opportunity to go watch their homestate hero play his home games in Indianapolis as a Pacer.

But as Alford eventually proved to be a disappointment, those same fans would've wished that Walsh had never made that pick.

And as Miller developed into one the game's top players, fans would've began to play the "what-if" game. It could've been like how some Detroit Pistons fans today wonder what would've happened if Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony had been chosen over Darko Milicic.      

If the Pacers didn't draft Miler, the franchise just might have struggled for years and eventually relocated to another city. But then again, you never know what type of players Walsh would have drafted.   

There's a chance the Pacers would've struggled so badly in the '90s that they would've been able to draft a superstar like Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson or Tim Duncan. If that had been the case, Walsh would have clearly made up for passing up Miller.

Being a brilliant GM, Walsh could've surrounded those superstars with a quality supporting cast, much like he did around Miller for years.  

Pacer fans don't want to imagine what would've happened if No. 31 never made his way to the Hoosier state. They don't want to think about how things would've played out if they never got the chance to see one of the greatest shooters ever suit up in blue and gold.   

Luckily, Walsh made the right decision on Draft Night 1987.

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