With the NBA Draft on tap tonight, I thought it would be fun (or maybe painful) to rank the best and worst of the Indiana Pacers' picks.
The Pacers have never had a No.1 overall pick in their NBA history, and they certainly don't want to start anytime soon, considering that's a sign of a franchise being pitifully bad. They've had three No.2 picks, taking Steve Stipanovich in 1983, Wayman Tisdale in 1985 and Rik Smits in 1988. Stipanovich and Tisdale were solid and Smits was an all-time Pacers great.
Picking the Pacers' top draft pick of all-time is easy enough, but a look back reveals some pretty solid picks and only a few duds.
Incidentally, the biggest draft-related bit of bad timing came when the Pacers traded away their 1984 first-round draft pick in 1981 to acquire Tom Owens, who remains beloved by his family today. If the Pacers had kept the pick, they'd have picked No.2 in 1984, when a shooting guard named Michael Jordan was available. On the bright side, at least they didn't pick Sam Bowie ahead of Jordan.
Here's my list of Pacers picks highlights/lowlights:
Top 5 Pacers picks
1. Reggie Miller, No.11, 1987
The most ill-informed of Indiana fans wanted home-state hero Steve Alford. Fortunately, the Pacers weren't swayed by public opinion before they chose UCLA's Miller. He simply went on to become the Pacers' greatest NBA player, leading them to the NBA Finals. Not only did Miller thrive, it was much more fun to chant “Reg-gie” than “Steeve,” although I may be extra biased on that one.
2. Rik Smits, No.2, 1988
It's safe to say few Pacers fans were already in love with the 7-foot-4 center from Marist when the Pacers called his name. Today, few players outside of Miller generate more positive fan reaction when he appears at Pacers games. He played 12 years and delivered the goods, no question.
3. Paul George, No.14, 2010
We don't know for sure that George is going to become a superstar, but his 2013 playoff duel with LeBron James sure hints at it. Here was a guy that few fans knew before his arrival. Now he stands to be the biggest star since Miller.
4. Chuck Person, No.4, 1986
"The Rifleman" rarely passed up a shot and provided the type of scoring punch necessary to complement Miller time. In six seasons with the Pacers, he averaged 19 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
5. Danny Granger, No.17, 2005
No one expects a 17th pick to be a franchise player, but Granger became that before the team began to be improved around him the last three years. He had three seasons of 20+ points per game before the team acquired more pieces around him.
Bottom 5 Pacers picks
1. Erick Dampier, No.10, 1996
Dampier, a 6-11 center, played one season before being traded to Golden State for Chris Mullin. Bad pick, good trade. However, two players selected after Dampier that year were Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Maybe Miller and Kobe together would have been too much. Too much fun.
2. Rick Robey, No.3, 1978
Robey played one season, averaging 8.6 points per game and was traded to the Boston Celtics to reacquire Billy Knight. The 1978 draft was the same one where Celtics legend Red Auerbach picked Larry Bird, knowing they might not get him for a year under the now-defunct junior eligible rule. The Celtics waited a year for Larry Legend. If only the Pacers had taken that chance…
3. George McCloud, No.7, 1989
Drafted out of Florida State, McCloud was adequate, but unspectacular. He played four seasons, started 26 games and was released. McCloud later found his NBA niche after a year out of the league, and averaged 18.9 points per game for the Mavericks in 1996.
4. Malik Sealy, No.14, 1992
He was 6-foot-8, but not much of a scorer (6.1 ppg in 101 games) or rebounder (2.3 rpg) and the Pacers traded him by his third season. Again, the Pacers made a good trade, acquiring Mark Jackson from the Clippers.
5. Shawne Williams, No.17, 2006
Larry Bird saw some potential in Williams, despite some baggage. Within two seasons, the Pacers had Williams pack his bags and head to Dallas in exchange for Eddie Jones. Williams struggled with off-court issues and didn't stick in the NBA.
The Pacers have the No.23 pick tonight. It might not be possible to make a pick that cracks the Top 5 best. Pacers fans hope they avoid the Bottom 5, too.