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2023 NBA Draft Lottery Team Preview: Indiana Pacers
With the 2023 NBA Draft fast approaching, we're taking a look at what each lottery team needs to target with their draft selections, continuing today with the Indiana Pacers.
Corey: Tyrese Haliburton. That’s where this thing has to start. To put it plainly, Tyrese Haliburton rocks.
Since taking the reins for the Pacers, Haliburton has exploded into a legitimate star—the lead singer of the band that the star guard for the Pacers is fronting. When you have someone like that on your roster, you do your best to make sure you build it out in a way that will maximize his talents. You accomplish this by finding supporting members of the band that best complement him.
The Pacers did a great job of using the draft to start building their roster around their star by selecting Benedict Mathurin with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Mathurin—a potential 20 PPG scorer as soon as next season—looked capable and complementary as a future backcourt mate, blending ferocious downhill drives with tough outside shot making, that lead you to believe he could be the Eddie Van Halen to Haliburton’s David Lee Roth. Indiana also scooped up Andrew Nembhard in the second round. The 6’5” former Zags lead guard already looks like one of the best value plays in the class, as a complementary backup guard that will keep the engine humming along when Haliburton sits or connect the dots off the ball when they share the stage.
This young and hungry three-piece all look like priority keepers.
Which takes us to the rest of the roster. Myles Turner is a good center that provides spacing and rim protection. He’s still young at just 27 years old and he’s locked up for two more years on a value deal. I wouldn’t be in a rush to move him, even if it feels like we’ve heard those rumors for years. Outside of Turner, I think everyone else is fair game to be moved when taking the long-view approach. I like Duarte as a bench piece floor spacer, but I wouldn’t write down his name in ink. Buddy Hield is a ridiculous shooter on an expiring contract. He feels like a guy who could provide some short-term value for a more win-now team if Indiana decides to move on from him. But with Haliburton playing at an all-star level and Turner in the fold, are the Pacers the kind of team that keeps him around in an effort to push for a playoff spot this season or should they take the more long-term approach, move off of him, and try to get value for him while they can with a focus on the future?
Albert: Chris Duarte. That’s where this thing has to end. All kidding aside, Duarte looks like a candidate to be moved on. It’s too bad considering the senior citizen played well in his rookie season; I feel like he could be a good bench option for them, but something seems off with him and that situation. As Corey mentioned above, maybe if they move Buddy there might be a situation where they keep him, but something just doesn’t feel right to me. Obviously, he missed some time early in the season and came back to a completely different roster with Haliburton, Buddy, and Mathurin in the fold. I still think there’s a lot to like about Duarte’s game but it’ll be interesting to see what they end up doing with him.
Regardless of whether or not Duarte is on the team, I think there will be some really interesting prospects available to the Pacers when they make their selection at seven. Of the names that I think will be available in that range, the two that stick out to me the most are Jarace Walker and Taylor Hendricks. Now I know I went with two frontcourt players here, but I think it’s important to note that I’d have no problem with the Pacers grabbing a guard here as well. With the creativity and versatility that Haliburton offers as a creator and floor-spacer, I think it would be crazy to say that the Pacers would be making a mistake in grabbing a really talented guard at pick seven. Let me stop there and let Corey dive deeper into the guards.
For now, I wanna stick with Walker and Hendricks, because I think they’d both offer a ton to the Pacers on both ends of the floor. Walker would be a great value pick at this spot because of his versatility on both ends of the floor and his NBA-ready physique. Walker didn’t get to show it off much in college because of the situation he was in, but he’s an incredible ball-handler with a really tight and shifty handle for a guy his size. He’s also an awesome playmaker that’ll be an incredible option for the Pacers creating out of the short roll, initiating offense at times, and pushing the ball in transition off of rebounds. Walker also flashed great touch around the rim and from the mid-range in high school that I think projects to him eventually extending his range out to three as well. I’m not saying that I think he’s going to be a lights-out shooter from deep, but I’d bet on him becoming at least an adequate one. On the defensive side of the ball, he’s got great mobility for his size. He’s built like a Mack Truck which helps him keep faster guys in front and gives bigger guys a hard time around the basket. He measured in with a 7’2.5” wingspan at the combine which definitely helps on that side of the ball, and he has the type of demeanor you want from a defender. Imagine playing him next to Myles Turner and the nightmares they’d cause teams just on defense.
Taylor Hendricks is not the same type of prospect because I don’t think he has as much juice on the ball as Walker does, but Hendricks is being talked about in this range for good reason. Hendricks has the size, athleticism, and versatility the Pacers may be looking for in a four. Hendricks is a nasty rim-protector that’s only going to get better as he adds more mass. He’s a guy that likes the challenge of guarding guards and wings out on the perimeter and will only get better as he fine-tunes his footwork. On the offensive side of the ball, he’s already a better shooter than Walker from the outside and will be a nice option to even play some small-ball five for when Turner needs a break. He’s going to be a good rim-runner in transition and out of the pick-and-roll and add some interesting wrinkles with his ability to shoot from pick-and-pop situations. He can offer similar shooting and rim protection in spurts at the five. I don’t think Hendricks is as good of a passer as Walker but he has some vision to him and his overall feel on the floor is valuable and leads to a lot of good decisions.
I think if the Pacers take either one of these guys they’ll be feeling real good about their choice. Let’s throw it back to the NBA Draft Dude himself to give us some more insight on intriguing options for the Pacers.
Corey: Well I think if Indiana stays at #7 these are the top two guys they should be targeting. If they can add Jarace Walker, Basketball Destroyer to the roster I would be doing back flips if I was a Pacers fan. Hendricks would be a fantastic get as well. The amount of space that Haliburton, Hendricks, and Turner would open up for Mathurin downhill drives would be terrifying. A thought I’ve had in my head about Hendricks recently is what is the gap between Jabari Smith—a guy who most thought was going #1 overall up until a half hour before the draft—and Taylor Hendricks as prospects? Is there any? Is Hendricks a better prospect? Getting that guy at #7 would rock.
But we’ve also heard some interesting rumblings about Indiana recently in which they are rumored to be interested in trading up in the draft, presumably for Brandon Miller, and that intrigues the hell out of me. Miller is someone who you and I both fancy; we had him as a Top 5 prospect before the season started when he was ranked outside the lottery. His skill set as an advanced ball handler, pick-and-roll operator, and lights-out shooter at 6’9” as Tyrese Haliburton’s running mate could be basketball Nirvana. I even mentioned in our pre-season pod about him that his movement patterns somewhat reminded me of Haliburton. But the synergy between those dudes as a tandem that could excel both on and off the ball would just be a damn joy.
But the fun doesn’t stop there for Indiana, as they also have two late firsts and the 32nd pick which prove nearly as valuable as 26 and 29. I don’t know if they are going to want to use all four of those picks (plus they have #55) but if they do, I think they should target a Jaime Jaquez or Marcus Sasser, maybe even a Ben Sheppard and then shoot for the stars by going after a Bobi Klintman or dare I say it, maybe even a GG Jackson?
Albert: Those are some really intriguing options that I think would be really fun for this Pacers team. I just want to follow up on what you said by highlighting the name Marcus Sasser. Sasser I think would be an incredible grab for them late in the first round. I personally think he should go higher than that, but who knows what NBA front offices are actually thinking. Sasser would be an incredible option for the Pacers off the bench and maybe even potentially next to Haliburton in certain lineups. The thing that I love about Sasser is the aggression and mentality that he plays with. Sasser is such a tough player that plays so damn hard on defense and the fit with him and Haliburton on the offensive side is easy to see as well.
I think something that fans have to realize about Haliburton is that he’s one of those guys that could essentially play with and next to anyone. With that being said, putting a tough guard like Sasser next to him that’s going to be able to guard ones and twos is a really intriguing option. Sasser can also play off-ball as well because he’s a good shooter and can really pass the ball as well. Could easily see the two of them slinging the ball around the court and causing problems for defenses with their unselfishness and shooting gravity.
Let’s say there’s a world where they walk away with Jarace and Sasser in this class: the defensive impact and the offensive versatility they’d add to this team would be incredible.
Other than Sasser, someone like Klintman who’s a bit more of a project to me or someone like Jaquez could be really intriguing as well. Jaquez is an easy sell to me with his mature game, ability on both ends of the floor, and offensive potential as secondary or tertiary guy is a lot of fun. Jaquez is another one of these “winning” players that just does a lot of things well on the floor. I also love that he’s finally getting some love for his athleticism. I always thought it was weird that people considered him to be a bad athlete. The fact that he tested well at the Draft Combine should finally put those concerns to rest.
Ultimately this Pacers team is in a great position to add some real talent to the team and should be a really fun play-in or playoff-contending team next season. I know fans of the team will have very strong opinions about who the Pacers should draft at pick seven, but I think all the guys in that range would be great additions and the fact that you have Tyrese Haliburton on the team should ease your mind and give yous supreme confidence that whoever the Pacers grab, he’ll be able to integrate them into the team.