Tyler Hansbrough to the Indiana Pacers. It really happened.
Unless the Pacers traded down, I remained in complete denial about Hansbrough being picked right up until it was announced and the Fieldhouse crowd erupted. So now it's time to make some sense of the pick, which actually isn't that hard to do, it just doesn't include starry-eyed dreams of All-Star games and Hall of Fame inductions.
It seems funny to think that one of the most successful and accomplished players in NCAA hoops history has to prove his worth, but in the NBA that's just what Hansbrough has to do. He seems excited by that challenge, but I have to admit I'll hold back my excitement until he shows what he can bring to the Pacers.
It appears that the Pacers missed out on a chance to move back in the draft when Charlotte snagged Gerald Henderson with the 12th pick. Indications are that Chicago would've jumped up and given the Pacers their first rounders for Henderson. So in the end, the Pacers still would've ended up with Hansbrough at 16.
When Jrue Holiday fell from his projected loft closer to the top of the draft, I had hopes the Pacers would take a chance on him. He had solid workouts and at least has a good defensive base to build a game around. But the Pacers appear done with risky investments, preferring to have a better grasp of what their getting in a draft pick and Holiday would've been a risk.
The Pacers obviously have a plan for Hansbrough as judged by their excitement over the pick. The Pacers needed to upgrade their defensive effort and intensity, especially in the front court. Hansbrough will help in that area, but he'll have to prove he can give his trademark effort without drawing fouls rapidly.
One thing that is unfair and lazy is to say that Hansbrough has NO upside and is done developing as a player. That's simply ridiculous. Players who stop developing in the NBA don't work on their game. I have a feeling Hansbrough will drop a lilttle sweat when he runs into the barriers his game can't initially overcome.
I've seen him knock down 18 foot jumpers in college, so there's no reason to think that part of his game won't continue to develop. The one thing he needs to leave in Chapel Hill is the off-balance, hip chucks that somehow knocked down regularly. Those babies will be knocked back in his face, but again, that's an area for development. Seems like a relatively easy area to mend, as well.
So the expectations for this star-starved draft have to be considered, as well. The Pacers wanted a player they feel can play right away and that's who they took.
One thing is for sure: Larry Bird's tenure at the helm of the Pacers will depend on this off season and the pick of Hansbrough suddenly shines a bright light on every other move.