clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who is greatest Pacer center of all-time, part 2.

Roy Hibbert’s retirement got me thinking...

2014 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
Bob Leonard, inductee speaks while he stands with presenters Mel Daniels and Larry Bird during 2014 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on August 8, 2014 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

For part 1 click here.

Number five was Herb Williams and number four was Roy Hibbert. Now here’s numbers 3, 2 and 1.

3. Rik Smits

13 seasons with the Pacers: 14.8 ppg 6.1 rpg 1.3 bpg, 50.7 FG% 11.5 3P%, 77.3 FT%

Smits might be the most underrated Pacer on this entire list. He only made one all-star team as the starting center during his 13 years with the Pacers. The team only missed the playoffs twice while he had the position and put up arguably the most successful 10-year run in franchise history.

Smits was Reggie Miller’s number two until Jalen Rose showed up at the end of the century. From 1995-1997 Smits averaged 17 or more points per game, shooting over 52 percent in two of the three seasons.

The 1995 playoffs were Smits’ best, averaging 20 PPG and 7 RPG on 54.7 percent shooting. The Pacers beat the Knicks in seven games, where he averaged more points per game than Patrick Ewing.

If Shaq and Penny weren’t in the Pacers’ way that 1995 team might have been able to win a championship. Although he did manage to hit an awesome game winner during the series.

2. Jermaine O’Neal

8 season with the Pacers: 18.6 ppg 9.6 rpg 2.4 bpg, 45.8 FG% 16.3 3P% 71.9 FT%

Picking between Smits and O’Neal was hard for two reasons: Smits played longer with the Pacers and O’Neal only played half his career as the starting power forward.

I classified O’Neal as a center because each season he played 30 percent or more of his minutes there. Jeff Foster was the Pacers starting center for part of O’Neal’s tenure but, for the most part, the two were interchangable on both ends of the floor.

O’Neal makes number two on the list simply because he’s the closest any Indiana player has gotten to winning the league’s MVP award.

During his 2003-2004 season O’Neal averaged 20.1 PPG and 10 RPG as the clear leader on the greatest Pacer team of all time (in terms of wins). He finished the MVP vote behind legends Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

I firmly believe that if Artest didn’t go into the stands during the 2004-2005 season O’Neal would have won MVP and maybe a championship. In just 44 games that season he averaged 24.3 PPG.

Oh yeah, he also scored 55 points in a single game.

1. Mel Daniels

6 seasons with the Pacers: 19.4 ppg 16 rpg 1.6 bpg** 48.3 FG% 6.9 3P%, 67.9 FT%

**they didn’t count blocks until the 1972-73 season, six years into Daniels career

Putting Daniels at number one was an easy choice. He’s one of the Pacers’ six Hall of Famers, won three ABA championships and two ABA MVP awards.

He averaged a ridiculous 17.1 PPG and 15.0 RPG over 95 playoff games with the Pacers. I didn’t get a chance to watch Daniels like I did Hibbert or O’Neal. There isn’t a ton of great YouTube videos for him either like there are for Smits.

So instead of writing about the box scores, I think this video from NBA.com does a great job telling his story with the Pacers.