As Thursday night nears, I think we'd all be wise to take a Fox Mulder approach to the many draft whisperings courtesy of our friends in the media: "Trust no one."
For example, according to Chad Ford's seven-and-counting Mock Draft editions, the Pacers have shown interest in the following prospects: D'Angelo Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Cameron Payne, Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, Devin Booker, Jerian Grant, Kelly Oubre, Trey Lyles, Stanley Johnson, Bobby Portis.
Ford may be right. Or he may not be. One thing we know about the Pacers is that they're not afraid to draft outside of the media consensus. No one saw Miles Plumlee or Solomon Hill coming. Nor Fred Jones or Shawne Williams. The selection of franchise Christus, Reggie Miller, was a moderate surprise itself, given the availability of hometown hero, Steve Alford.
There's also the tactic of misdirection to consider. The Pacers--like every other team in the NBA--aren't shy to mislead the media with half-truths or bald-faced lies as Mark Montieth of Pacers.com recently chronicled:
The secondary problem is that the people with knowledge don't tell them anything of substance. No team official is going to tell a "draft expert" who he's hoping to take in the draft, and some will tell outright lies to keep other teams away from their choice. Walsh famously did that in his first draft, 1986, when he put out the word he was "going big" to enhance the likelihood his primary target, small forward Chuck Person, would be available. Person went on to become Rookie of the Year.
"There's a lot of lying that goes on, and a lot of gamesmanship," (Ryan) Carr said.
Walsh, like Carr, often accepts phone calls from mock drafters. But he reveals nothing.
"I'll start the conversation by saying, 'I'm not going to tell you who we're taking. And if you guess it right, I'm going to lie to you,'" Walsh said.
So, yeah, go ahead and believe Chad Ford, Jonathan Givony, and Adrian Wojnarowski ... at your own risk (okay, so you really should believe Woj). The truth is they don't really know, just like we don't really know. The only people who do know are those discreetly involved with group-think at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In honor of the Pacers' mysterious ways, I've compiled a list of three names that may surprise on draft night:
Rashad Vaughn: UNLV, SG/PG, 6' 5" 199 lbs
The Pacers want to play faster. They've said so to themselves, their fans, and even the prospects with whom they've interviewed. If all the "talk" wasn't enough to convince you of their intended style change, consider they've worked out a bevy of play-making guards in their pre-draft workouts, even though one could easily argue bigs and wings are a more glaring need.
Vaughn projects as a combo guard with a knack for scoring; particularly from deep. He's far more raw than Payne, Grant, and Booker, but he's an above-average athlete, a selective attacker, and did I say he can shoot from the outside? The Pacers worked him out on May 28th. Not much was said about his performance then, but since that time he's risen up many draft boards. Has he stealthily risen up the Pacers'?
Sam Dekker: Wisconsin, SF/PF, 6' 9" 219 lbs
He's white: check. He's an upperclassman: check. He's a "competitor" as witnessed during the NCAA Tournament: check. He's a spotty shooter from three: check. He's got a haircut straight out of the movie Hoosiers: check. Okay, so kidding about the white part, but everything else appears to fit the what-Larry-looks-for-in-a-prospect checklist. Let's not forget, he's also a great athlete who can possibly play up to three positions, offering tremendous versatility to a team aiming to tinker with its lineups. If you're not convinced of Dekker's candidacy by now, then behold this: the best workout video this side of the Latvian Zinger:
Kevon Looney: UCLA, PF/SF, 6' 9" 222 lbs
Looney's game is one of unorthodox wonder. Need some outside shooting from your big? Take 41.5% from three in college. How about some handles? Coast-to-coast abilities on tap. Rebounding? Crash-master.
Sounds great, right? But what about the other stuff? Like what position does he guard effectively at 222 lbs while possessing average lateral quickness? What can he do offensively besides hopefully stretch the floor? What about his asthmatic condition that allegedly leaves him breathless after just a few moments on the court? Is his hip okay after sustaining a serious injury in college?
All questions aside, Looney demonstrates tantalizing youth and potential, and presents yet another versatile option for Frank Vogel's inventive toolbox.