Left without a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers could have a quiet night come Thursday. Last summer the team shipped out their only first-rounder, along with Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green, for Luis Scola. The move was made as an attempt to improve a struggling bench, yet the Pacers have found themselves in the exact same spot this off-season. The reserves are still a glaring weakness and Scola could become a cap casualty if the Pacers need the extra cash to bring back Lance Stephenson.
The small-market Pacers are inching closer and closer to the league’s luxury tax line with their current payroll. If they are to bring back Stephenson, they’ll be left with minimal room to improve the bench through free agency. I highly doubt the team is expecting to land a contributor with their only pick on Thursday, which is 57th overall — or in other words, fourth-to-last.
So what might the Pacers do on Thursday?
If they keep the pick and don’t make any other moves, taking the international route makes sense. Draft Express currently has the Pacers selecting Ioannis Papapetrou with the pick. Papapetrou, a Greek wing player, currently plays for Olympiakos in Greece. Selecting an international player with the 57th pick will allow the Pacers to “stash” that player in Europe until he’s ready, while simultaneously holding the rights to the player and not adding to the current payroll.
Some other international prospects that are expected to be available around the Pacers’ pick: Alessandro Gentile (Italy), Viktor Gaddefors (Sweden), Nemanja Dangubic (Serbia), Cristiano Felicio (Brazil), to name a few.
This year’s draft is considered one of the deeper versions of the past few years, so the Pacers might target someone at the beginning of the second round and could look to move up in the draft to get that player. They could either put together a package (player(s)/pick(s)) to get there, or simply buy the pick outright from a team. However, having a pick at the beginning of the second round is considered extremely valuable to most teams. The contracts for the players being selected there are on the smaller side and aren’t guaranteed deals. For example, the Pacers selected Stephenson 10 picks into the second round of the 2010 Draft and didn’t have to pay him over $1 million in any year excluding last season, where his price tag was just $1,005,000.
Other possible scenarios would involve the Pacers trading out of this draft completely. They could move the 57th pick to a team for future pick(s). By doing this, they wouldn’t have to release a player they drafted if they needed the extra breathing room in terms of the salary cap.
Also, if the Pacers are looking to make a splash (I doubt it), you could see them ship out one of the larger name players on the roster in search for a first-rounder and immediate help if possible. But considering the current state of the roster, they are likely looking for someone who can contribute right away and help them reach the destination they so desire, not to mention the fact that putting together big trades isn’t exactly easy on Draft night.
Going back to the possible re-signing of Stephenson, the Pacers could find themselves being outbid by another team due to their poor asset management recently. The Scola trade not only cost them the first-rounder, but also took a rookie contract (Plumlee) off the roster. Getting any kind of value from a player still on his rookie contract is valuable to any NBA team, let alone one who has a chunk of the payroll locked into four or five players like the Pacers currently do.
That’s why trading first-round picks for non-stars is more than likely a bad move. As you know, hindsight is 20/20, but the Pacers’ trades for Scola and George Hill cost them two first-rounders. While it’s unknown if 2014 Finals’ MVP Kawhi Leonard would’ve been the Pacers’ pick in 2011, they might’ve been able to add someone like UCLA’s Jordan Adams or Kyle Anderson, Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels, or Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III in this draft.
The Pacers might not make a lot of noise on Thursday, but whatever they do, it will still have an impact on the immediate and long-term future of the franchise.
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