While the Indiana Pacers were unable to find a deal to their liking for Paul George, they managed to add two first-round talents in the draft with the 18th and 47th picks in a pair of UCLA prospects, TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu.
Leaf, the Pacers first-round selection, is an offensively gifted, but defensively challenged stretch four. Pritchard was beaming about his offensive skill set after the draft.
“I think he’s that kind of new-age four,” said Kevin Pritchard, who said they felt like Leaf was a top-10 pick in this draft. “He can spread the floor. He can put it down. He’s athletic at the rim. He’s got a knack for scoring the ball at the rim with either hand, and he runs. He’s a gazelle; he loves to run.”
Leaf shot 47% in limited attempts at the 3-point line in his line season at UCLA and the Pacers are excited to add his shooting ability.
“You need shooting,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. “That’s his strength. We felt TJ was the best fit for us.”
Perhaps most importantly for the Pacers as they deal with a superstar that does not want to play in Indiana, Leaf was wanting to be drafted by the Pacers.
“At the end of the day does that make a little bit more of a difference?” said Pritchard of Leaf wanting to be in Indiana. “Yeah, maybe today it did.”
With Anigbogu, the Pacers may have got a steal with the youngest player in the draft as he was projected to go in the mid-to-late first round but fell due to concerns about the health of his knees.
Anigbogu is a large, athletic center that prides himself on the dirty work: setting screens, rebounding, toughness, and rim protection.
Even though he’s only 18 years old, he’s already a big, strong kid that should be able to hang with NBA bodies. The key will be whether or not his knees are as bad as many teams thought.
The Pacers also added Xavier guard Edmond Sumner after giving cash for another pick late in the second round and reportedly signed SMU forward Ben Moore to a partially guaranteed deal as an undrafted free agent. Both may be candidates for the new 2-way contracts that allow the Pacers to keep exclusive rights to up to two players on their D-League team.