The Indiana Pacers’ last five years working the draft have been up and down to say the least. After stealing Paul George at pick No. 10 in the 2010 draft, building a core surrounding his talent has been somewhat of a struggle. However, it’s not all terrible, and the Pacers remain a smart organization with president Larry Bird at the helm.
The 2011 draft was quite an eventful one. The Pacers selected the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year in Kawhi Leonard, only to trade him to the Spurs for point guard George Hill. Hill remains the starter in Indiana, and he’s been solid yet unspectacular at that spot since his arrival. One wonders whether Indiana regrets not keeping Leonard and forming an elite defensive pairing on the wing with George, but would Kawhi be the same player today with Indiana’s development? It’s an interesting debate.
Not only that, but the Pacers included promising international prospect Davis Bertans in the deal, a player who’s yet to make an impact at the NBA level. This draft surely could’ve turned out better, but it’s not like Hill has been a bust in any way, shape or form.
In 2012, Indiana shocked the draft world by selecting athletic center Miles Plumlee at pick No. 26. Vogel called the pick a “home run” despite many screaming “reach” for the former Duke center. The Pacers later traded Plumlee to the Phoenix Suns in July 2013 as part of the Luis Scola deal.
Indiana also bought a second-round pick in 2012 to select shooting guard Orlando Johnson. Johnson was a solid prospect at the time – a mid-major swingman who had a variety of skills and NBA-level size – and he did stick on the roster even longer than the aforementioned Plumlee. However, Johnson was waived in February 2014, making minimal impact for the Pacers in his two years with the team.
The Pacers’ 2013 first-round pick, swingman Solomon Hill, could be a nice depth piece for the future despite questions regarding the selection after his rookie season. Hill averaged just 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds his rookie year, only playing in 28 games the whole season. The youngster showed some improvement as a sophomore, starting in 78 of 82 games and averaging 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists on the year.
However, Hill wasn’t particularly efficient last season, and his performance at Summer League this year was historically atrocious. He’ll need to prove that he belongs on the court this upcoming season, otherwise Indiana’s 2013 draft will be a bust. The Pacers also drafted big man Colton Iverson in the late second round in 2013, but he was traded to Boston for cash.
The 2014 draft was a dud for the Pacers, who traded their first-round pick to Phoenix in that 2013 Scola deal. The only selection the Pacers did have was at pick No. 57, which was used on French big man Louis Labeyrie. Labeyrie was traded to the Knicks for cash considerations, and Bird called the draft “a waste of two weeks” in the post-draft news conference. The Scola deal really limited their ability to improve the roster at the time, but this was right after one of Indiana’s most successful seasons in recent years.
The 2015 draft shows promise with 11th overall pick Myles Turner, a versatile, two-way stretch big man who will likely be called upon to make an immediate impact. Whether that be as a starter or off the bench at either frontcourt position, Turner has the skills to match his size and showed even more ability in Summer League than he did in his lone season at Texas.
The Pacers also seemed to hit with second-round combo guard Joseph Young. Young has the ability to slice his way through the paint and finish, and he can shoot from deep as well, which could give him a role off the bench during this upcoming season. It’s a bit too early to judge before these rookies hit the floor, but the signs they’ve shown so far have been encouraging.
Overall, the Pacers have done just a so-so job of building through the draft in recent years. Trading Leonard away is certainly a black mark, but at least Indiana received a solid player in George Hill in return. 2012-14 doesn’t offer much, although don’t count out Solomon Hill just yet. This past draft at least looks encouraging, which is what saves the Pacers from a disastrous grade here (although we could be looking at it differently in a few years).