So, with the 11th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select …?
If general manager Kevin Pritchard’s Wednesday contention that one of “four or five” quality players will fall to his team with that selection, who are those guys?
Here’s a short list, based on what mock drafts are projecting.
Scout’s Matthew McCreary has the Pacers taking Texas 7-foot power forward Myles Turner, who played only one year of college and is 19 years old but showed immense potential as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Indiana could be looking inside because forward David West is reportedly opting out of his contract and center Roy Hibbert, if he opts in, will likely be gone after next season.
But Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated has Turner going two picks earlier to the Charlotte Hornets. He projects Murray State sophomore guard Cameron Payne to Indiana because he’s “a dynamic playmaker who thrives in the pick-and-roll. The Pacers have been looking to get more athletic at the point guard position, and Payne fits that bill.”
It’s true, president Larry Bird would like to move George Hill to the shooting guard spot because he’s sold on the guard’s ability to become more of a scorer. And Payne would be in line with Bird’s expectation for the Pacers to shift more toward a perimeter team in an NBA trending toward “small ball” in recent years due to how the “no blood, no foul” post game has been officiated.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com also has the Pacers taking Payne. He explains, “Mid-major recruits who become lottery picks after just two years of college are incredibly rare bordering on non-existent. So it's amazing what’s happening with Payne. Oklahoma City is an obvious option if he slips. But Payne makes sense for the Pacers, too.”
In his mock for Yahoo!Sports, DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony has Indiana going with Kentucky 7-1 junior center Willie Cauley-Stein. The explanation: “Concerns around Cauley-Stein’s background and medical history could cause him to fall out of the top 10 according to recent reports we’ve received, which would be a huge boon for the Pacers, who are currently in the market for a starting center. Cauley-Stein is the most versatile defender in this draft class, and the Pacers have done a great job of helping other young, underachieving players reach their full potential in the past.”
TNT NBA analyst David Aldridge says the Pacers will go with Wisconsin 7-1 center Frank Kaminsky, who is more of a shooting forward with a 3-point shot. Aldridge writes, “Larry Bird made it plain that the Pacers were going to play faster and smaller next season, which means less time for Roy Hibbert — if he’s still around — and a need for bigs who can shoot. Kaminsky is a terrific multi-faceted offensive talent who can face up, knock down the college 3-pointer consistently, post up and drive some. He led the country in Offensive Win Shares (6.9) and was top 10 in offensive rating in leading the Badgers to the national championship game. He’s a self-made guy, too, which Bird would no doubt like. But Kaminsky wasn't a pushover at the defensive end, either, and he'll have to keep that up to play for (head coach) Frank Vogel.”
The Huffington Post’s Jordan Schultz likes the Pacers drafting a promising hometown talent in Kentucky power forward Trey Lyles, who is one college season removed from being an Indianapolis High School star. Schultz says, “Lyles’ best strength is a near-prodigious feel for the game. He is unselfish, but knows how to score. He can block shots, but can guard the perimeter as well. With most of the press going to the marquee names on UK, Lyles — playing out of position much of the year — was the unsung hero. Indiana needs an influx of versatility, and Lyles, who may ultimately replace David West, is just that.”
Based on the players projected to go before, after or at No. 11 in other mock drafts, the other possibilities are Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson, Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker, Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker (3-point shooting) and Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre Jr.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.