Top 5 Indiana Pacers Draft Picks Since Reggie Miller Retired
Best Indiana Pacers Draft Picks Since 2005
It’s been eight years since Reggie Miller retired from the NBA. During most of those eight seasons, the Indiana Pacers were a mid-level to bottom-tier team as they were unable to put together a solid squad. They failed in the drafting department, which led to underachieving seasons, which led to no top free agents wanting to sign with them. Then Larry Bird took over as the President of Basketball Operations and the Pacers' drafting led to their recent Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
Let's take a look at the Pacers draft history over the past eight drafts, not including the 2013 NBA Draft. Since 2005, the Pacers have drafted a total of 15 players, with most of them never playing a single minute for the team. This is for various reasons whether it was because they stayed left overseas, were cut before the season, or traded away on draft night. Erazem Lorbek, Alexander Johnson, Nathan Jawai, Ryan Reid, Jerryd Bayless and Davis Bertans all fall into this category. Then you have Shawne Williams and Miles Plumlee who never amounted to anything - Plumlee didn’t really get a chance to do so - and both of them were subsequently traded.
That’s eight out of 15 draft picks who were a complete waste of a selection. It’s really kind of sad when you think about it and think about the damage it did to the Indiana Pacers as they were unable to rebuild a team that was destroyed by the fallout from the infamous brawl.
But then Bird started hitting on his draft picks, nailing his draft day trades, and luring free agents who would have never given the Pacers the time of day even four years ago. Bird landed Roy Hibbert and George Hill in draft day trades and was able to talk David West into signing with the Pacers over the Boston Celtics who were offering him more money and years.
Now lets check out the Top 5 draft picks that Larry Bird got right.
5. Lance Stephenson
The Pacers picked up Lance Stephenson in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft. He seldom played during his first two seasons, but when Danny Granger went down with an injury for the 2012-2013 season, Stephenson got his chance to start. Stephenson ranks fifth on this list because he’s only been able to show his value for one season, but if that one season was any indication then Larry Bird may have struck gold again.
4. Tyler Hansbrough
Tyler Hansbrough finished his college career as one of the best college basketball players of all-time, but that distinction didn’t help him when it came to the 2009 NBA Draft. He was passed up for guys like Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, and Terrence Williams, falling to the Pacers at 13. Hansbrough fought injuries, horrible coaching (Jim O’Brien), and losing his starting spot to a veteran free agent (David West). When Hansbrough started he was an amazing player, but when he came off the bench, it was like his mentality was completely different.
Hansbrough comes in at fourth on this list because he had a ton of potential and showed he could hold his own in the NBA, but his lackluster performance off the bench eventually cost him his spot on the team.
3. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard being on this list may surprise people, but the Indiana Pacers selected him with the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and then traded him to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill that same night. Since then, Leonard has become the Spurs' fresh-faced star who blossomed on the biggest stage, the 2013 NBA Finals. While the draft day deal worked out for both teams, Leonard may show that the Pacers actually made a mistake in trading him. But he finishes third on this list because while he played an amazing year of basketball last season, he did so while being surrounded by three future Hall of Famers.
2. Paul George
Paul George is only number two on this list? Am I insane? Well probably, but when the Pacers selected George with the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft you could hear a pin drop at any Pacers draft party. Unless you were a fan of Fresno State or a draft junkie, then you had no idea who George was; you just knew that the Pacers lost their chance at drafting the hometown hero Gordon Hayward. George started to show he could hold his own during his sophomore season, but last season brought out an entirely new player.
With franchise leader Danny Granger sidelined, George stepped up and is now considered a blossoming superstar. It’s been nine years since the Indiana Pacers had a bona fide superstar on their team. So why is he only second? Because like Kawhi Leonard, he has only played one amazing season. That one season isn’t likely a fluke, but until we see more, he is going to remain number two.
1. Danny Granger
How could the face of the Indiana Pacers franchise for the past eight years not be number one on this list? Danny Granger was selected with the 17th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Reggie Miller had just retired and the Pacers were looking for a new franchise player, which is exactly what they got out of Granger. While Granger never became a superstar, he stuck with the Pacers through thick and thin and has now handed over the reigns to Paul George. If not for the knee injury last season we may still be talking about Granger as the main guy and not about the possibility of this being his last season with the Pacers. But until George puts in his time, Granger will remain number one on this list.