In search of greatness, or at least very goodness
By Conrad Brunner
Apr 21, 2008
Dozens of highly skilled, experienced professionals have spent the better part of the past year traveling around the globe to scout talent, assembling detailed reports on every facet of the skill sets of hundreds of prospects big, small and in-between, so that the Pacers will be fully prepared for the NBA Draft.
Which is nice, but I watched quite a bit of the NCAA Tournament (not to dislocate a shoulder patting myself on the back, but I did have Davidson reaching the Sweet 16 in my bracket) and have spent several minutes on draft Websites and I've already got the thing pretty much figured out.
Though the draft is a couple of months away, it's a very big deal indeed for the Pacers. Assuming they don't pull one of the top three picks from the lottery on May 20 (they have a 3 percent chance of one of the top three picks, less than 1 percent at No. 1 overall), they'll almost certainly be picking No. 11 in the first round and No. 41 in the second round.
Which brings up what might be the biggest question of this offseason: is there any greatness available at No. 11 -- or anywhere else, for that matter?
Though there are clearly identifiable needs, both from a positional and a skill-set standpoint, what the Pacers need more than anything else is a player with greatness. They have plenty of good young players to build around, most notably Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy. Granger is on the verge of stardom, but he's a few steps away from greatness.
By greatness, I mean the ability to take over a game at either end, the skill to either get or create a shot under pressure, the professionalism to set an example for the rest of the team, the thoroughness of basketball savvy to be able to make his teammates better. The great player is the sun around which all others revolve.
You know, the guys whose names always come up in the MVP discussion.
The Pacers, then, have two options as it relates to their lottery pick. They can keep it, draft a young talent, give him time to develop and hope he rises to the elite level. Or they can treat it as a liquid asset and package the pick in a trade to acquire more immediate help.
If they choose to keep it, I've already determined exactly who they should select. Given the stated needs of point guard and a big man – not to mention mental and physical toughness – and the nature of the prospects available, it seems the Pacers will be able to fill one need in the first round and the other in the second.
First round, Kevin Love, PF, UCLA – Love has the potential to develop into a very effective offensive force around the basket and has worked on extending his range. He's big, strong and tough and has a solid basketball IQ. The questions center on his athleticism and defensive.
Second round, Lester Hudson, G, UT-Martin – A first-round talent who ranked third in the country in 3-pointers per game (10) and first in steals, Hudson has the size, strength and all-around game to be a second-round steal, even if he isn't a pure point guard. Really, how many pure college point guards make it in the NBA? Remember Phil Ford? There are red flags about his background but, in the second round, it's worth rolling the dice.
First round, Russell Westbrook, G, UCLA – If you're looking for defense at the point of attack, this is your guy. Westbrook has the look of a lockdown defender with excellent size and strength. He isn't a creator and needs work on his long-range shooting but is one of those guys that finds a way to fill up a lot of columns in the box score.
Second round, D.J. White, PF, Indiana – Though perhaps a tad undersized for an NBA post player, White has the toughness and desire to make it work. If last season was an indicator, this is a guy willing to put in the work to improve his all-around game. The next step would be to improve his shooting range.
There. I'm glad that's settled.
Bruno didn't mention it, but it's possible we can also move backwards and pick at 12,13, or 14.
Of course is very, very, unlikely we would pick at those spots because the teams behind us, who have less of a change than we do, would have to move into the top three. We probably have better odds of picking 1st than picking 13th or 14th. Bruno's right we will most certainly pick 11th and 41st.
I like his scenarios, although I probably like #2 the best.