The 2015 NBA Draft is nigh, which means the wheeling and dealing is just getting started. Unless the Pacers decide to trade-down, most of the draft experts have the Pacers taking either Murray State's Cameron Payne, Kentucky's Trey Lyles, or Myles Turner out of the University of Texas. With David West opting out and backup point guard C.J. Watson likely to leave in free agency, a compelling case can be made for the Pacers going either small or big in the first round.
A rationale for selecting each prospect is made in the latest editions of various Mock Draft commentaries:
Surgery rumors and personality concerns and offensive limitations! Oh my! The ESPN Insider's latest mock draft has the Pacers ultimately passing on Larry Bird's $100 million man in favor of Murray State product Cameron Payne:
"Why they take him: Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard is a bit of a point guard whisperer and has never been completely sold on George Hill running the point. While there are other needs the Pacers have, Payne has the chance to be special and the Pacers would really love to pair Paul George with a potentially elite point guard. Plus, drafting Payne gives the Pacers another great trade chip in Hill.
"Why they pass: Larry Bird loves Willie Cauley-Stein. He wants his bigs to be more athletic and play at a faster pace. Concerns about his ankle are giving pause though. At some point, sources say, he'll likely need surgery and will be out 4-6 months. Does that justify passing on him at 11? More important are concerns about his personality. Trey Lyles is also in the picture at 11, especially with David West deciding to opt out Wednesday."
Word that Indiana may ultimately decide to pass on Willie Cauley-Stein, though Sports Illustrated's Mock Draft 5.0 still has him pegged as Indiana's pick, should come as no surprise given how much Bird admitted he values the opinion of the team's medical staff, via the Indy Star's Candace Buckner:
"You find out things and we do MRIs and we do different things and somebody says, 'How in the heck could they ever pass him?' Because our medical staff says you shouldn't take him," Bird said. "A lot of that happens and we've done that over the years. It'll say something about (how) Player A in three years could have a major issue with this problem. And we pass him. We can't afford to take a player who's just going to be with us a couple years.
"One thing I do listen to more than anybody else is my medical staff."
So does this mean that the former Racer will soon become a Pacer, as the shorts he is donning in this workout clip indicate (vine via @AlexKennedyNBA)?
Let's see if this ends up happening: a number of teams believe Indiana will take Murray State's Cameron Payne at 11.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) June 25, 2015
Yesterday's news that David West will reportedly opt out of the final year of his three-year, $36 million contract may have the Pacers passing on the crafty point guard in favor of Kentucky's "adaptable" forward.
SB Nation's NBA Draft expert Kevin O'Connor's most recently updated big board has the Pacers selecting Trey Lyles as a replacement for David West:
Larry Bird has said the Pacers want to play faster. David West is likely to depart in free agency and Lyles is a younger version of him. There's a possibility that we didn't get to see what Lyles can really do in college. He's incredibly smooth for his size and it's hard to see him failing in the NBA.
Yet Indiana's starting power forward may not be the only Pacer with one foot out the door, Roy Hibbert still has the option to forego the final year of his contract with Indiana to pursue new surroundings elsewhere. As such, the Pacers may also be in need of a rim protector.
DraftExpress' latest mock, as of Thursday afternoon, has Bird & Company selecting Myles Turner out of the University of Texas. With the ability to shoot from distance (27.4%) and block shots (2.6 per game), some project the 7-foot, 19-year-old to be the perfect fit for an Indiana team looking to play with greater space and pace without sacrificing defense.
Still the possibility looms large that the Blue & Gold may instead look to move the No. 11 pick for multiple assets:
League sources say Pacers and Hawks had exploratory talks about swapping #11 pick and #15 pick. I'm not sure what else would be included.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 23, 2015
Speaking of trade-down rumors, I was told the Pacers may trade down to the late teens or early 20s if their guy isn't there at No. 11.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 23, 2015
Assuming David West officially opts out, the cap space made available by his exodus along with the No. 11 pick could be put to good use tonight, if both parties are interested:
Indicative of Houston's plans to get off money, word is both Terrence Jones and Rockets' No. 18 pick in first round are both very available— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 25, 2015
So, when the Blue &Gold's pick is in, which will it be: The point guard with the Tony Parker-esque floater? The versatile forward capable of posting up and facing up? The shot blocking center pegged as a project with potential? Or, will Indiana's pick be on the move?
Please feel free to follow the action and share your thoughts, observations, and opinions about the 2015 NBA Draft in the comments section.