I've seen a bunch of people that have been hoping that the Pacers bomb this season so that they can get a top draft pick. The thought is that teams develop from the draft and that if the Pacers can get themselves some top lottery picks they'll eventually develop into a contending team.
Well I realized something last night as I was watching DunDun lighting it up against the Knicks. Dunleavy was a number 3 draft pick. The Pacers haven't had a player drafted that high since Rik Smits was taken #2 overall in 1988. What's the significance of that? Well Dunleavy is currently our new leading scorer (17.4 ppg) and has been playing like a player worthy or a #3 draft selection lately and has been the Pacers best player, IMO thus far, this season.
I also thought about Ike Diogu who was drafted 9th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft. Ike was a stud in College, a former Pac-10 MVP who has shown signs of being a great lottery pick for this team. He's only in his third season - which is the season that most players make the the biggest improvement.
Speaking of Pac-10 MVPs, Danny Granger can be considered a lottery quality draft pick although he was drafted higher. Orlando and Toronto, two teams that had lottery picks and expressed interest in Danny decided to pass on him. Lucky for us they all got scared about his surgically repaired knee and he landed in our lap at #17.
One last player to consider is Shawne Williams. Some felt he was drafted too early at #17 or that the Pacers drafted the wrong Williams. You don't hear those arguments that much any more because we've seen his potential in several games this season. If he had stayed in college one more year, barring injury, he could've been a top 10 pick in this year's draft.
This season and the future hinges on the progress of these 4 players. Now compare that to the situation in Minnesota or Memphis. Yes they have a lot of promising players that they've drafted with consecutive lottery picks but it takes a couple of years of losing before they build up the experience necessary to take the team to the next level. Some may point to Portland and say, "See it's working for them!" But when was the last time they went to the playoffs? They've had some tough seasons the last couple of years as well.
Luckily, the Pacers are playing competitive basketball while stringing some wins together at the same time. I think the "lottery" guys they already have are going to work out okay.