As of late, many have come into question the prospects of Hassan Whiteside's potential NBA career. I decided to devote a FanPost with my own thoughts on Whitside as well as a few other potential Pacer targets.
The Pacers three biggest weaknesses appear to be a defensive big, a cold-blooded scorer at the wing, (not just a a good 3pt. shooter - someone who can create a shot from any point on the court), and a pass-first point guard.
Although they shot themselves in the foot by actually playing well the last month of the season, there is still potential to find a long-term solution to all three problems at pick #10. I do believe there are some intriguing options to consider.
Hassan Whiteside - He's obviously been the center of the most recent posts. There are those that say he's got a lot of basketball growing to do. But his potential ceiling is enormous. He could be the next Dikembe Mutombo. Even if he doesn't work out for the Pacers, he will always have value just because of his size - Darko Milicic still commandeers interest from a majority of NBA owners. If he works out, at worst Roy Hibbert stays in games much longer because he doesn't work as hard on help-side covering for Troy Murphy's defensive ineptitudes. And, the Pacers become one of the most intimidating front courts in the Eastern Conference.
Donatas Motiejunas - A 7-foot athletic forward who had as similar a European career as current NBA superstar, Dirk Nowitzki. He's young and would take a few years to learn to play in the NBA, but has the potential to go after a scoring title. His defense is suspect at best and may not be the best fit alongside Hibbert. But, he'd be someone who could complement Danny Granger's style of play.
Ekpe Udoh - another supreme defensive big who has the reputation for taking on opponents' best big men. He's very aggressive on the defensive end and can go after rebounds. While he isn't as skilled offensively, his scoring more than doubled from his sophomore to junior year (6 pts/per in 2009 to 14 pts/per in 2010). He is an older prospect (22) which seems to be criterion: #1 from Larry Bird's book, "The Manual on How to Draft a Mediocre NBA Team". He is a perfect glue-guy to complement Hibbert and Granger.
James Anderson - This guy knows how to put the ball in the basket. He was one of the best scorers in college basketball this past season. He could be the cold-blooded scoring threat the Pacers need to complement Granger offensively (i.e. what James Harden is to Kevin Durant). He can score in a number of ways. However, he is below-average in the athleticism department and he doesn't do many other things well - rebounding, passing, defense. He doesn't have as much potential as the three aforementioned prospects, but he is a safe pick (criterion: #2 from Bird's book if you're keeping track). The Pacers know what they're getting from him.
Gordon Hayward - He may not have top-10 talent, but there isn't a single Pacers fan who isn't secretly desiring this outcome to come to fruition. This guy would certainly energize a muddled franchise for years to come. He also happens to fit criterion: #3 - the rule of which that shall not be spoken but is ever-so-visible to most every NBA fan (skin color). His skill set is worthy of a high pick, but the Pacers seem to have far too many needs to take Hayward with the 10th pick. But, if they were to consider him, he is a gifted scorer who can create shots in a variety of ways. He would be better suited playing the SG position in the NBA, and would make a very honest living doing so. He may never be an all star, but he stands for everything good and honest in this broken world! His defense is underrated and he inspires teammates to play hard. He has a lot of the intangibles that cannot be coached.
Eric Bledsoe - He's a super-quick athletic point guard who played second fiddle to the best NBA prospect in college - John Wall. Because of this, few really got to see what he could do if he were at the helm. Though he's only 6-1, he is a very long, sound defender. He proved throughout the NCAA tournament that he can be a capable scorer if needed. He's very intelligent and is a pass-first type of point guard - a criterion that just missed the final cut from "the book". While he may not be a franchise PG, he should certainly be available for the Pacers at pick 10. There are few teams selecting above Indiana in need of a point guard. Aside from Wall, he sits atop a very thin list of PG prospects in this year's draft. On a side note, I need help with something. Anyone remember the last super-speedy PG drafted from Kentucky in a draft circa 2006 that featured very few elite prospects at that position? Did he ever make the Association?
I would be happy to see any of these players in blue and gold next year. While none of them appear to be franchise players, they all have potential to upgrade the Pacers' current roster. With luck, any one of them may turn out to be the next Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Caron Butler, or any other player Levy mentioned as all stars who were selected at pick 10 in previous drafts. Here's to hope!