Day 17 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the draft needs and targets of the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers are in a state of stagnation as they have been eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for two straight seasons. Under new head coach Nate McMillan, the team ranked 15th in points per game and 16th in points allowed.
They are carried by superstar forward Paul George, who is a three time All-NBA and All-Defensive player. Many questioned whether George would be able to return to his All-Star caliber form after a gruesome leg injury in 2014, although he has proved doubters wrong by returning in better shape than ever. He has averaged upwards of 23 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in his last two seasons. With two years and a player option left on his contract, the Pacers window to win now is closing. With rumors swirling about the possibility of George opting out to join his home town Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers must do whatever it takes, whether it is bringing in veterans, or drafting the proper rookies, in order to retain him.
The most talented young piece Indiana possess is center Myles Turner. The 21-year-old was selected with the 11th pick in the 2015 NBA draft and has proven himself as an impact player at the next level. He played and started in 81 games in which he averaged about 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game on 51 percent shooting. Turner has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor as he can work the post just as well as he can hit the three ball. His offensive versatility will be key for the construction of the Pacers lineup moving forward.
Other key players include Glenn Robinson III and 10-year veteran Thad Young. Robinson III has emerged as one of the most explosive players in the NBA, although his jumper has flown under the radar as he shot about 47 percent from the field and most notably 39 percent from three. Young took a step back on the stat sheet after averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015-16 and only 11 points and six rebounds in 2016-17, although his field goal percentage rose significantly. His offensive role with Indiana has been diminished, but he is still an integral piece of the Pacers on both ends of the floor.
Notable free-agents include floor generals Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks, sharpshooter C.J. Miles and physical big man Lavoy Allen. If the Pacers were to lose all four of these players, they would have some gaping holes to fill.
Picks & Needs
Indiana has two picks in this years’ NBA draft, including one in the first and one in the second round.
First round: No. 18
Second round: No. 47
If the Pacers were to lose both Teague and Brooks, they would be in desperate need of a point guard. With the loss of Miles, there is an opening for Robinson III to receive more minutes, although they will have lost a supreme three-point shooter in the process. Finally, if Indiana moves on from Lavoy Allen, they will seemingly put Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin or Rakeem Christmas in a more defined bench role.
Targets & Thoughts
Pick #18: Luke Kennard, Guard, Duke
Kennard would be a perfect fit at the two-guard position in Indiana. He can replace C.J. Miles as their go-to three-point specialist and Monta Ellis as their athletic slasher. Unlike Miles, Kennard can legitimately create his own shot. In his sophomore season, he averaged 13 field goal attempts per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and a miraculous 44 percent from three.
The all-time leading scorer in Ohio high school basketball history (yes he passed LeBron James) is a lethal scorer who can be the Robin to Paul George’s Batman. I’m extremely surprised that Kennard has not been mentioned among the top-10 picks in mock drafts, as he seems to be one of the most NBA ready players. He was ranked first in the ACC in minutes played, points produced, offensive rating, offensive plus minus and win shares in 2016-17. If the Pacers were lucky enough to land the consensus All American, their offensive ranking would surely jump into the top ten.
Pick #47: Frank Mason, Guard, Kansas
With the possible losses of both Teague and Brooks, point guard may be a severe need for the Pacers. Wooden Award winner Frank Mason has been projected as a mid-second round pick due to his lack of size and potential, as he is a 5-foot-11 23-year-old, although he would be a great fit in Indiana. His size failed to hold him back from becoming one of the elite point guards at the college level, and I don’t believe it will hold him back moving forward.
The two-time Naismith Award winner averaged about 21 points, five assists and four rebounds in his senior season. He also led Kansas to two straight Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament. His leadership and offensive ability will make him an above average floor general at the next level.
The Pacers may need to replace point guards Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks, making senior Frank Mason a perfect fit in the second round. Also, with the assumed departure of C.J. Miles, Indiana will need to add a three-point specialist, like Luke Kennard, to force the defense to spread the floor.
A guy like Kennard can create more floor space and passing options for Paul George on the drive and Myles Turner at the high post. If the Pacers land either of these two All-Americans, they will be in a great position moving forward, with or without George.
Thanks for checking out the Indiana Pacers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 18 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Atlanta Hawks may do.
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