CHICAGO — The stars were out during the NBA Draft Lottery at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tuesday, but the Pacers’ chance to get one isn’t as great as they hoped.
After going 25-57 during the 2021-22 season to guarantee its first single-digit pick since 1989, Indiana received the No. 6 pick in the lottery. The Pacers have never drafted first overall and had a 10.5% chance at the top spot. They also had a 42.1% chance to pick within the top four, but the ping pong balls still bounced slightly better than predicted. The Pacers’ best odds were for the 7th pick at 26.7% with No. 6 next at 19.6%.
“When you get this opportunity, you want the shot,” Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said. “I would’ve much rather have the first pick because we want the shot. You want to take the shot, but historically there’s seven really good players in every draft. If we make the right pick, we’re gonna be just fine.”
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Pritchard was accompanied in Chicago by Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, general manager Chad Buchanan and assistant general manager Kelly Krauskopf. Krauskopf was the team’s on-stage representative, while Buchanan represented the team in the drawing room.
Orlando, Oklahoma City, Houston, Sacramento and Detroit will pick first through fifth, respectively.
After the results were shared, several top prospects in attendance were approached by team representatives, including the consensus top four — Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero, Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey.
Pritchard and Carlisle spoke with Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mauthrin, who is widely ranked in the lower half of top 10 prospects. The 6-6 guard was the 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year.
“If you’ve already committed to your rankings today, I’ve made the most mistakes doing that,” Pritchard said. “When I keep my mind open, get the medicals, get the psychological, spending time with the kids and then seeing them in your gym (the decision is better). Something about having a guy in your gym and working out, again it’s part of the puzzle. It’s not the biggest piece, but it is important.
“You’re drafting a guy not because of what he is today, but what can he be in two years or three years? And there’s gonna be guys on the risk curve that are this, guys that come in and plug in play, but maybe they don’t have an upside. And there’s guys that can play a little bit early, a little bit more the next year and then in three or four years are super impactful, so that’s to be determined.”
The 2022 NBA Draft will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 23. The Pacers also have the first and last pick of the second round, which are the No. 31 and No. 58 selections.
Indiana will have a chance to evaluate the top prospects during the NBA Draft Combine slated for Wednesday through Friday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. How that prospect could mesh alongside standout point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who they acquired in a mid-season trade with Sacramento, will be a factor in who the Pacers draft as well, Pritchard said.
“It’s a huge thing because that’s where you talk about, do the pieces fit?” he said. ” … The speed at which (Haliburton plays) the game, you gotta kind of fit with that a little bit. I don’t think that’s the end all. That’s not tipping our hands of who we would go with or not.”
Pritchard added that since the Pacers didn’t get the No. 1 pick, they’ll keep all of their options open, including the chance to move into the top five.
“We’ve got cap space. We’ve got a good pick,” Pritchard said. ” … We liked the fifth pick better, but we like the sixth pick.
“The gamut of what we can do is wide and wider than I’ve ever seen ever in my time in this league, and I like that because now we get to get on the board and look at every scenario. There won’t be one. There won’t be two. There might 50 things we’ll look (at) up on the board, and that’s when you can be aggressive.”