Basketball is typically one of those sports where everyone knows who is going to be great and who is going to be an also-ran. While lottery picks often turn into busts, it’s very rare that a true superstar falls out of the lottery, or even the first round for that matter. Pacers fans naive enough (I’m raising my hand) to stay up and hope that Larry Legend could find a gem with the 57th pick in the draft were disappointed when after three hours, Bird sold the pick to New York. Still, solid players that can help your team can be found after the draft if management is able to recognize talent that will fit with the team. Raja Bell, Udonis Haslem, and Darryl Armstrong were all undrafted players that went on to have extensive careers in the NBA.
While arguments can be made that Bird still has some room to improve when it comes to matching talent with fit on the team (Leandro Barbossa, Luis Scola, Evan Turner, etc.), nobody should underestimate Larry Bird’s ability to actually recognize talent. He found stars in Danny Granger, Paul George, and Lance Stephenson that countless other teams repeatedly passed over. Even the stellar seasons that DJ Augustin, Miles Plumlee, and Gerald Green turned in last season verify Bird’s ability as a talent evaluator.
So are there any players out there that can help the Pacers, either this year or in the future? It’s possible.
It’s important to understand that none of the following names are all that sexy. Even mentioning Aaron Craft’s name in the same breath as most of the guys that littered last night’s first round seems moronic. But the Pacers aren’t looking for an Andrew Wiggins or Marcus Smart right now – they are looking at players that can come into camp, possibly make the team, and potentially fill a hole off the bench.
With the previous knowledge in mind, where could the Pacers improve going into next year?
- Shooting. This is probably their most glaring need.
- Bench scoring…ok let’s be honest, anything off the bench would be nice.
- Future flexibility down the line for when West/Scola retire.
- Athleticism on the wing – as long as LeBron is in the league, you can never have too many athletes.
- A great 12th man – a guy that will probably never play, but will be unselfish and make others better in practice.
So who could fill one or more of those holes?
**Editor’s Note – As is often the case, undrafted players get scooped up quickly and it’s possible that by the time you are reading this, one or all of the following guys have already signed with teams.
James Michael McAdoo
McAdoo might go down as one of the most disappointing Tar Heels of all time. This is saying a lot considering he played on the same team as PJ Hairston. McAdoo never learned how to shoot it while at UNC and constantly struggled with foul trouble. As a prospect, his basketball IQ is low, he’s limited offensively, and questions concerning his work ethic are real. But these are the types of guys that go undrafted, and despite all of the negatives, McAdoo has some real, tangible NBA skills. He has an NBA body and above average NBA athleticism. Just two years ago, he was seen as a sure-fire lottery pick and the reasoning for such lofty expectations still exist.
McAdoo is far from a sure thing, as is everyone else on this list, but at the very least, one could envision him coming into camp and being able to defend opposing power forwards and stretch fours for fifteen minutes a game. He may even be able to snag some garbage points off of offensive rebounds of the Tyler Hansbrough variety. Best case scenario, he actually lives up to the potential he once exhibited. Worse case, he gets cut, just like 95% of other undrafted free agents.
Fair is your classic college cautionary tale. Had he come out in last year’s awful draft, he would have most likely gone in the late first or early second round. Unfortunately, he came back to improve his draft stock, shot the ball poorly all season, and here he is.
Fair has real NBA size and length as well as good athleticism. He’s smooth with the ball, defends his position well, and led a very good Syracuse team all year as well. The question is really, “Can he shoot it?” As a junior, he shot 47% from long range, mostly on open jumpers. This season, with a bigger role in the Syracuse offense, his 3-pt shooting plummeted to 27%. This has happened to players in the past (see Hayward, Gordon) and it proved to be a fluke. But Fair doesn’t have the same smooth stroke that Hayward had and there are real concerns that his junior year was the fluke. Still, if Fair works on his jumper, he could find a definite place in the league. The most likely scenario is that he struggles for a few years before the Spurs pick him up and turn him into Danny Green 2.0.
Craft easily held last year’s “Most annoying college basketball player” title and there wasn’t a close second place. Signing Craft would be very “Ben Hansbrough-y” and I’m not sure Pacers fans want to jump on that bus again. But Craft does possess one very elite NBA skill that could undoubtedly help the Pacers and their ball-handlers – he’s an elite on-ball defensive player.
Your 12th man won’t ever play unless, again, you are the San Antonio Spurs. But Craft could absolutely hound George Hill, CJ Watson, and especially Lance Stephenson (who struggled with Norris Cole’s ball pressure in the playoffs) every day in practice, pushing each of them to new heights. Few teams have that type of luxury with their 12th man, but the team that signs Aaron Craft will get a real asset – even it never comes in his own on-court contributions.
Young was projected as a late first round picks by some analysts, but he can’t score, struggles to rebound, and doesn’t really block a lot of shots. But he’s a strong, strong man with plenty of attitude and heart. Think Udonis Haslem 2.0, or maybe a less athletic Reggie Evans. If he could go to the David West School of Jump Shooting, he might find a spot on the Pacers.