Each weekday for the next two weeks, we’ll be counting down the NBA Draft lottery teams leading up to the June 26th draft. It would be a fool’s errand to project what each team will do; tryouts vary by day and if anything, that’s an exercise in futility we’ll post at 5 p.m. on draft day. Instead, what you’ll be reading is what we would do if we were running each team.
As one of those annoyingly passionate Lakers fans in the 80s, we never thought we’d type this: Poor Larry Bird. The Pacers President of Basketball Operations is dealing with the unholy trinity in Indy: Horrendous contracts (Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy), off-the-court issues (Tinsley, Daniels, Shawnee Williams), and injuries (Jermaine O’Neal). It’s a mess, and there’s no end in sight. The lone bright spot? Danny Granger, who is morphing into a nice wing player.
Perhaps we’re too practical and overly cautious, but we like to size teams up based on what they’ve got, and what they need. If you want to assume O’Neal is healthy and poised to finally play more than 70 games for the first time in four years, then pencil him in at center. Troy Murphy and his $9 million can play PF. Granger’s a nice No. 3, and Mike Dunleavy and his $8 million are your shooting guard. No Jumper Tinsley is runnin’ point.
When healthy, this isn’t an awful starting lineup; the bench is thin and young, but still, contending for a playoff berth in the East with this group isn’t unfathomable.
It is widely believed that the Pacers will draft a point guard – everyone seems fed up with gun-toting Tinsley; odd that few mention his burdensome contract – and it appears as if the top two choices are Russell Westbrook (UCLA) and DJ Augustin (Texas). ESPN’s Chad Ford has Indy grabbing Westbrook, the combo guard who went from sub to stud by season’s end. He actually reminds us a bit of Gilbert Arenas – you can see that he’s teeming with talent, but he was on a loaded team, and thus only got to display flashes of it. We think Westbrook goes higher, and won’t be on the board here.
And while we love Augustin as a college player, we just don’t know that if he’s lottery material (we’re probably the only ones). We see a lot of Jameer Nelson, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While Augustin seems more skilled at attacking the basket than Nelson, and has more confidence in his jumper, we still recall the Texas PG turning to mush in the NCAA tournament against Derrick Rose, who was only a freshman.
Something to consider: The Pacers have had six first-round picks since 1999. With the exception of Granger, they have all been busts (though we’ll give Shawnee Williams the benefit of the doubt since he’s only had two seasons). There’s some pressure on this pick, because the Pacers are going to have trouble moving Murphy and Dunleavy, O’Neal’s career appears to be on the way down, and as much as they’d like to move Tinsley, everyone knows it, so they might not get fair value. Larry Legend needs a non-trouble maker who can become a factor from the preseason.
We’re going with a player we love, even though everyone’s down on him: Georgetown center Roy Hibbert. The Pacers won’t draft him – no, that’d be silly, he plays stout defense, he’s NBA-ready in the body and experience department, and in a slow-down game, he can efficient at the offensive end. We think the only way the Pacers deal Tinsley is in a deal that involves Jermaine O’Neal, and our guess is that’s what happens.
So Hibbert’s our guy. Just don’t bring up the Davidson debacle. Please.
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