|The 12th (and next to last lottery pick) belongs to the
Indiana Pacers (who I bet did not expect to be here). They
are represented by:
DEPTH CHART ----------- PG: M. Jackson, Best, Workman (97 IR) SG: R. Miller, Hoiberg, J. Rose SF: D. McKey (97 IR), Ferrell, J. Rose, Ham PF: D. Davis, A. Davis, Dampier, Br. Scott C: Smits, Dampier, Br. Scott, L. Thompson FREE AGENTS ----------- Ham, Hoiberg, Br. Scott, and Thompson POSITION ANALYSIS ----------------- PG position is stable for now, with veteran leadership from Assist Leader Mark Jackson. Jackson's numbers went down a bit after being acquired though that was expected. Travis Best showed great improvement from the '95-'96 season, however Larry Brown grew weary of his turnover problems. Defensively, he was quick and effective out on the perimeter, but tended to be a sore down on the post. Still, Best appears to be a solid backup and occassional starter for the next couple of years. Jalen Rose saw little time at this position, but new coach Larry Bird may find a different role for him in '97-'98. Haywoode Workman will come back from a knee injury. His energy spark was missed last year off the bench. SG is still solid. Reggie Miller is an on again/off again All-Star who had one of his best seasons last year without much notice. At the age of 31, Miller nearing a time when that jumper will be needed even more to be competitive. Fred Hoiberg showed nice improvement late in the year, including a few 20+ point efforts. Suprisingly, he has a nack for a quick drive to pull up from 12-15 feet. Outside, he showed more confidence and will to shoot towards April. With more improvement, he could be a spark for 7-8 points off the bench. Again, Bird has spoke of interest in making Hoiberg's role more prominent, making his resigning imminent. You see Fred step up this year into the role of a Byron Scott or Ricky Pierce that was sorely missed last season. SF is the problem position for the Pacers currently. After 2 straight years of reaching the conference finals, backed by consistent defense, ball handling, and occassional scoring from Derrick McKey, the Pacers have fallen on hard times the past 2 seasons at the position. McKey was injured much of last year, and upon returning unfortunately, was injured again. The Pacers are optimistic that he can be back a month into the '97-'98 season, but he could be in the situation Smits was in last year, missing games until the New Year. Though talented, McKey's scoring production has steadily declined since arriving in exchange for Detlef Schrempf. With scoring being one of the Pacers' deficiencies, his inability to find his offensive game could force Coach Bird (still sounds wierd) to move him to the sixth man position. Duane Ferrell played ball reminiscent of his best years in Atlanta in the beginning of last season, but fell off as the year went on. At best, he's a capable backup for a team that hopes to contend again. Jalen Rose saw action as Ferrell's backup for a good part of last year. He brings more versatility to the position, and is the only threat on the roster to take it to the hole. His unorthodox jump shot found it way into the basket at times last year, but continues to plague Rose's quest to get more playing time. Rose should be happy with the coaching change though. Bird has been quoted as stating his love for Jalen's game and interest in playing him at PG, SG, and SF. Rose likely will find more than 20 minutes per game across the board, putting a more athletic team on the court. Just another day at the office for the power forwards. Dale Davis continued steady production as a starter, but has not shown great improvement over the past few years. For most of the year, Dale's free throw percentage lingered around 45% and he remained a non-factor outside of 8 feet. Defensively and on the boards, he continues to be one of the better starters in the Eastern Conference, but in order to help the team improve, he will need to find a way to get his points production up to 12 points a game, give or take. Antonio Davis looms as the first or second player off the bench, in the '97 rotation. With a better offensive game than Dale, he's a perfect compliment at the position, whether starting or playing in a reserve role. Should Dale be used as trade bait for a small forward in the off-season, look for Antonio to become the starter and the Pacers to draft a reserve. Erick Dampier saw limited action at this position, but is a capable rebounder when on the floor with Smits. Brent Scott is not likely to be resigned. Darvin Ham is an unrestricted free agent, though at seasons' end the Pacers were trying to exercise a clause because he didn't suit up with them at all. The center position, though maintained by a formidable combo, has been a problem the past year for the Pacers. Rik Smits, when healthy, is one of the top ten centers in the league. Possessing unique finesse for a 7'4" player, he brings outside touch and moves around the basket. Defensively, Smits has only been average throughout his career, rarely blocking shots and only a mild factor on the boards. At the same time, he has a way of taking over games on occassion, able to strike 30 points or more quite a few times when not bothered by his oft injured feet. Erick Dampier made steady progress throughout last season. Offensively, Dampier is very, very raw. He doesn't have any bread-and-butter moves, and often looks extremely akward around the basket. Defensively, he was probably as fine as any young big man year. Dampier could become one of the best shot blockers in the game. In one game last season against either Miami or Orlando (can't remember), Erick blocked 4 or 5 shots in one period. With his long wingspan and quickness for a big man, Dampier should be a cornerstone for the future, but should not be looked at as a player that will put in 15-20 points per game. Look for Dampier to find a niche in his career of scoring 10-12 points per game off dunks and layups, blocking shots, and rebounding anything the Davis' boys forget to grab should Smits move on in 2 or 3 years. LaSalle Thompson is insurance in the form of a veteran big man. Antonio Davis fills in on occassion. DRAFT SCENARIOS --------------- Injuries and decline in McKey's production leave the SF position in serious limbo. The problem is the Pacers need offense desperately. Aside from Larry Bird putting the suit and tie down, it's probably safe to say this draft won't give them an instant fix. The best scenario would be for Tracy McGrady or Tim Thomas, versatile forwards, to slip to number 12 or move up positions, which is unlikely to happen. Position #12 happens to be where the a weak draft gets even more uncertain. Talented players like Danny Fortson, Cory Carr, Derek Anderson, God Shammgod, and Jacque Vaughn will all likely be available, however those picks wouldn't really satisfy a need with the present roster. That leaves the Pacers with their choice of Charles O'Bannon and Austin Croshere, who have already been in for workouts, or possibly Danny Fortson if a rumoured trade goes through. O'Bannon is probably a long shot, since he may be stuck between positions and not really a small forward. He may be a better backup at SG than Hoiberg, if drafted, but I don't see this happening. Croshere seems to be the odds on pick. With a quick and effective outside shot and some intagibles of the game, he could be a valuable small forward. His game could be compared to Tracey Murray or on the high end, Chris Mullin. At the same time, it is unlikely he could provide immediate impact in a run towards division and conference contention. In a weak draft, the #12 position probably will come down to selecting an effective backup. Croshere could fill that area but battle for time with Ferrell and Rose. Does this bring up the question of looking overseas for talent? Slovenian Marko Milac is a very young option, with a slightly different game. Not really the outside threat that Croshere is, Milac is more athletic and quick, with a game of pick-and-choose pull up shots and drives. For a long-term risk, Bird may choose this young kid early and hope that another SF is added or McKey can supply added punch with a return to the lineup. Improvement in the Chicago camp could put Oliver St. Jean as a long shot, but he may be too small for the position. POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS --------------------- According to Sports Illustrated, Chris Mullin has interest in joining the Pacers ballclub, most likely at the expense of Dale or Antonio Davis. Erick Dampier provided instant defense and shotblocking off the bench last year at center and power forward, so one of the Davis' is reluctantly available. There have also been minor rumours that Dale and Dampier had been shopped for Glenn Robinson, though likely there would be cap difficulty there. Should the Pacers vie for this quick fix, maybe Danny Fortson, Kebu Stewart, Gordan Malone, or another PF could sneak in with the pick, though comparisons to Corliss Williamson seem to plague his pre-draft months. Appended (June 11): Bird has been quoted in the Indianapolis Star saying that the Pacers are in trade discussions with 5 other teams regarding "a scorer that can get up and down the floor, and defend." Likely, this means that one of the Davis', and perhaps another player, along with Pick 12 will be shipped off for what likely is a small forward. As noted, the Pacers front office has had flirtation with acquiring Glenn Robinson from Milwaukee in exchange for what was rumoured to be Erick Dampier and Dale Davis. Bird also noted that three of the 5 players were "real good ones" and that he'd be happy with the other two. Possibilities? Probably Glenn Robinson, Clifford Robinson, Cedric Ceballos, Jerry Stackhouse, or Chris Mullin fit the tag to some extent though some are aging or can't defend as well as I'd hope. Another possibility could be Dominique Wilkins, if signed to a one or two year deal to score some points off the bench. Could the Pacers possibly acquire one of these guys? Remains to be seen with salary cap and other issues. Should Philly draft Mercer, they could possibly be thinking deal with Indiana for a Davis and Dampier (or #12) assumming Brown is comfortable with that in Philly. Clifford Robinson has been rumoured to be an interest of the front office for some time. Portland would probably need a Davis and/or backup PG (Best? & something). Mullin? Golden State would probably want Rose or #12. Ceballos? If Phoenix is unhappy with him, possibly Dampier w/ a Davis. Then again, could Bird be thinking to ship Smits and his injury problems... unlikely at best. These seem to be long shots now, but Bird may be able to pull it off. It appears now that this pick will almost certainly be dealt if no one falls through. Need Health! The Pacers fell victim to key injuries to Rick Smits and Derrick McKey for much of last year. Smits, when healthy, is one of the top 10 centers in the NBA. McKey, who's best days seem behind him, is likely to be a non-factor for next year. More Shooting! Reggie Miller had his most complete individual season since his first all-star season during the early 90's, alas he and the Pacers were no where to be found in May and June. Scoring was up some, but rebounding and passing saw improvement. On the flipside, Miller was the only real threat from the outside that saw serious minutes. Travis Best, who saw growing pains during his starting role months, is a nice sparkplug off the bench and adequate shooter. Fred Hoiberg, coming on strong towards the end of the season (note: 24+ pts @ Charlotte) could be the fill-in to the void left by the departures of Byron Scott and, eventually, Ricky Pierce. Ironically, shootings with the quick fix was a trait of Eddie Johnson, the 38 year old gunner they let go in the Mark Jackson reacquiring in the 2nd half of the season. PROBABLE OUTCOME ---------------- Either deal the pick in a package or draft Croshere, who will probably be the best SF available.
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