The Pacers could have drafted Kawhi Leonard. In fact, the did. But they didn’t draft him to keep—they picked him for the Spurs and immediately shipped him off to San Antonio, where he played well enough to come in fourth in this season’s Rookie of the Year Award voting. He started 39 games for Gregg Popovich, scoring 7.9 points per game while grabbing 5.1 rebounds and playing excellent defense. The highlight of his NBA career came in Game 2 of the Spurs’ first-round sweep of the Jazz when Kawhi scored 17 points on just 7 shots.
The Pacers didn’t really miss out, however. In return, they got George Hill, their starting point guard for the final month of the season.
It seems to be one of those deals that worked out perfectly for both teams. The Spurs needed young talent with high upside to replace their aging core. The Pacers, at the time over-stocked with wing players, badly needed help in the backcourt. As Indiana tries to beat the Heat and advance to the Conference Finals and the Spurs try to do the same by beating the Clippers out West, I don’t think either franchise would even consider a do-over if given the opportunity. The issue becomes a little more complicated in the sense that Hill becomes a restricted free agent this summer and could walk away while the team gets nothing in turn, but I believe most people — those in the Pacers’ front office included — expect George, a native Hoosier, to stick around in Indiana.
Here are the full voting results, via Sporting News.