Pacers 2016 NBA Draft Preview: Part 1

Welcome to the Pacers draft preview! This will be a 4-part series, detailing 20 options for the 20th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. To get my 20 options, I reviewed 31 different mock drafts and found 17 different players that were picked for the Pacers at the 20th spot; I also added three more potential options to make it an even 20 that were often mentioned around the Pacers range.

I’ve noted each players “Mock Draft Range,” which is the highest and lowest the player was picked and “Mock Draft Average,” which is the average spot each player was selected in the mocks. Anytime a player wasn’t selected in a mock draft, I assigned their selection at 35 (Some mock drafts included second rounds, while others did not). If the average pick was over 30, then I put their mock average at 2nd-round.

I’ll also include some short analysis on each player with videos from Draft Express that detail their strengths and weaknesses along with highlights.

Today, we’ll look at the 5 players that came up the most often at the 20th pick in review of these various mock drafts: Tyler Ulis, Brice Johnson, Domantas Sabonis, Demetrius Jackson, & Wade Baldwin IV. 


Tyler Ulis
Position: Point Guard
School: Kentucky
Statistics: 17.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 7 apg, 1.5 spg
Mock Draft Range: 15 – 45
Mock Draft Average:

The diminutive point guard at Kentucky looks to be the next NBA success story for the under 6-feet club. As a sophomore standing at 5’9″, Ulis won an impressive pair of awards for the SEC Conference: Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. No small task. No pun intended. Okay, I lied pun was a little intended. Most project Ulis as a backup point guard. In the reviewed mock drafts, Ulis was available at the Pacers 20th pick 23 of the 31 times (74%). News came out recently that Ulis is dealing with a potentially major hip injury that will probably cause him to drop lower than his original projections.

Ulis is the purest point guard and floor general in his draft class. Kentucky’s coach John Calipari allowed Ulis to run the team and the offense as he saw fit. Ulis had a tremendous assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5:1. He was also very adept at scoring the ball in addition to setting up his teammates. He has NBA range on his jump shot and an array of floaters that will continue to be important for him to succeed at the next level. He’s often called a “pesky” defender that can bother opposing point guards for 94 feet. The biggest challenges that Ulis has to overcome are the same things he’s been fighting his whole career: size. Ulis, while quick, isn’t an exceptional athlete and lacks explosiveness to finish among the trees like Isaiah Thomas. His size also causes issues when Ulis attempts to make passes over the top at times. On defense, Ulis will be an obvious target to post up, but he also has issues at times letting quick guards blow right by him. IU’s Yogi Ferrell, a player that is projected to most likely go undrafted, provided a few of examples of this in their NCAA Tourney matchup as seen below.


Brice Johnson
Position: Power Forward
School: North Carolina
Statistics: 17 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.5 bpg
Mock Draft Range: 12 – 35
Mock Draft Average:

The 6’10” power forward prospect spent four years at North Carolina. Though most 4-year players are seen as having limited upside, this is not the case when it comes to Johnson. Many still see plenty of room for the 22 year old to grow. Bird is also well known for drafting 4-year players, so this is likely not a concern for the Pacers if they like Johnson. He was available when the Pacers picked in 25 of 31 mock drafts reviewed (81%). He was also not selected in the first round in 7 of the 31 mocks. He could be a good target for the Pacers even if they wanted to trade down.

Johnson’s biggest strength is his athleticism. Everyone raves about his quickness, leaping ability, and finishing prowess. Johnson converted an absurd 83% of his shots in transition and 69% overall. He shows a decent array of post moves, including a nice right-hand hook that he can take from many angles. Johnson’s offensive game was limited almost exclusively to the paint in college, but his midrange form looks good and he made 78% of his free throws in his senior season. The potential may be there for Johnson to grow into being a threat with his jump shot. The main concern for Johnson is all about strength. It may prove challenging for Johnson to post-up NBA players. He was often pushed around in the post on defense when facing stronger opponents. He added 40 pounds over his four years at UNC and should be able to add more muscle with NBA trainers. His passing is also an area in need of improvement. Some examples of bad passing in the weaknesses video below. Do not expect Johnson to be an immediate starter in his rookie season, but he could contribute as a role player.


Domantas Sabonis
Position: Power Forward/Center
School: Gonzaga
Statistics: 17.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 0.9 bpg
Mock Draft Range: 8 – 23
Mock Draft Average:

Son of one of the best European players of all-time, Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas left Gonzaga after his sophomore season to enter the draft. He has the highest average mock draft position among the players that we’re looking at today. He’s one of the least likely to still be available when the Pacers pick according to these various mock drafts only making it to the Pacers pick twice in the 31 drafts (6%). Good workouts have pushed him into a situation where he likely goes in the late lottery, but if he happens to fall to the Pacers here’s a look at his strengths and weaknesses.

Sabonis is 6’10” and has a below average wingspan. His main strength in college were his strong fundamentals, good footwork, and array of polished post moves that is rare for a 19-year-old to have. Sabonis converted on an incredible 67% of his post ups despite limited athleticism and quickness. Those are his biggest concerns at the next level. He plays below the rim and offers little-to-no rim protection on the defensive end and though he is very mobile, he can get blown by with quicker players at times. He’s a heart and hustle guy that gives full effort all the time. He’s noted at perhaps the best rebounder in the draft class on both ends. He does a great job of snatching contested rebounds. He didn’t take many jump shots, but it looks like an area where Sabonis can grow. He made 22 of 46 jumpers this past season and though his stroke is slow and rigid, it could be something he develops further. He does a good job at drawing fouls and takes advantage of the free throws, making 77% of his free throws. His physicality can also make him foul prone as he committed many unnecessary fouls on the defensive end and his tendency to rely too much on getting to his right shoulder in the post allowed opponents to draw many offensive fouls.


Demetrius Jackson
Position: Point Guard
School: Notre Dame
Statistics: 15.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.2 spg
Mock Draft Range: 8 – 25
Mock Draft Average:

Jackson stepped up his game this year for Notre Dame after being handed the reins to the offense after Jerian Grant went to the NBA last year. He was still available at the 20th pick in 8 of the 31 mock drafts (26%), often going in the lottery and never slipping past pick 25.

While Jackson has average size, he’s an explosive athlete with exceptional quickness. He often made plays that jump out at you as spectacular. His highlight videos will be among the strongest of players highlighted in this series. This explosiveness makes him the best finisher at the rim among the point guards that are being looked in this post. Potential is there for Jackson to thrive in the pick and roll. He was a streaky shooter in college and his percentages took a big dip once more responsibilities were placed on him with the offense this past season (went from 42% to 33%). While he can make plays for others, it’s not his biggest strength. Jackson misses easy reads at times and is still learning how to be a point guard. One of the more frustrating things that Jackson tends to do is kill his dribble. There are many examples of Jackson doing so and it leading to turnovers in the video below. He should be able to become a good defensive player but was very inconsistent on that end of the floor in college.


Wade Baldwin IV
Position: Point Guard
School: Vanderbilt
Statistics: 14.1 ppg, 4 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.2 spg
Mock Draft Range: 8 – 34
Mock Draft Average: 

Baldwin declared for the draft after two years at Vanderbilt and is the player with the most potential upside among the five discussed today. Reports have stated that the Bulls have given him a promise to select him at the 14th pick if the draft goes as they expect. Mock drafts have him making it to the Pacers pick at 20 only five times in the 31 different drafts (16%) and a few mocks even had him going in the top 10.

There are three important aspects to Baldwin’s game that make him a very appealing prospect: his ability to hit an open shot, his desire to set up teammates, and his wingspan that rivals the dragons on the Game of Thrones. Though Baldwin is only 6’3″, he possesses an incredible 6’10” wingspan. There haven’t been many players with his body type at the point guard position. His length gives him a chance to be an absolute monster on the defensive end, and he showed flashes of being that in college. He challenges and blocks jump shots as good as anyone. On offense, he hits open shots and made 40% of his 3-point attempts both years at Vandy. His low release does require more open space than most players to get off. While he’s a good outside shooter, he struggles mightily at finishing at the rim, making a mere 38% of his shots at the rim and he doesn’t have a runner or floater to combat the poor finishing skills. He does do a decent job of drawing fouls at the rim which helps lessen those issues. He doesn’t have great burst in the half-court which makes it hard for him to gain separation and create easy baskets for other players. He doesn’t have a great handle and doesn’t possess any go-to dribble moves. He’s also turnover prone. Despite these weaknesses, his strengths have teams excited about his potential. Nothing like a long wingspan to tantalize GMs.


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