The Indiana Pacers have the 23rd pick in this year’s NBA Draft. A spot much later in the draft than almost everyone would have predicted they be in at this time last year when their former star player advised the franchise that he would not be re-signing with the Pacers.
Last year’s draft pick, TJ Leaf, struggled in his rookie season on the defensive end of the floor which caused him to see little playing time and eventually the Pacers added Trevor Booker and took away any chance of Leaf seeing more meaningful minutes. Leaf showed some promise on the offensive end with a large repertoire of moves but was unable to contribute much in his first season with the team.
Can the Pacers find someone to be an immediate contributor this season? It doesn’t happen all that often this late in the draft, but pick 23 has actually been a good spot historically for finding role players with more hits than misses in the last decade (23rd pick from 2017 back to 2007: OG Anunoby, Ante Zizic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Rodney Hood, Solomon Hill, John Jenkins, Nikola Mirotic, Trevor Booker, Omri Casspi, Kosta Koufos, Wilson Chandler).
Here are a three prospects that are expected to go somewhere in range of the Pacers selection that may provide some hope of becoming a rotation player from day one. Based on Leaf’s rookie season, I’d put the emphasis on finding someone that can play defense right away. Defense seems to translate to minutes at the next level a little faster than offense. With Pacers coach Nate McMillan unlikely to give a rookie much to do on offense anyway, defense is the only way for a young player to really earn a spot in the rotation for a playoff team and stay there.