The Indiana Pacers took an interesting direction with their first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, taking Georgian center Goga Bitadze with the 18th overall pick. With far more familiar names still on the board, the Bitadze pick comes as something of a surprise, but that might come more from him being a traditional center, one position the Pacers are completely set at with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.
Beyond the ramifications of the pick regarding the big men currently on the roster, Bitadze enters the league with a decorated European career, having named the Adriatic League MVP and EuroLeague Rising Star. According to Jeremy Woo of SI, Bitadze has “natural scoring ability around the basket, good feel and surprising mobility and shot-blocking skills,” a familiar skillset for both Turner and Sabonis.
Graham Chapple did a great job breaking down Bitadze at length on Peachtree Hoops giving a wildly in-depth look at his offensive and defensive abilities, while not shying away from his discipline defensively, averaging nearly four fouls a game in a five foul league.
Bitadze also went viral within the past day when Fletcher Mackel of WDSU caught a lonely Bitadze during media availability next to the top overall pick Zion Williamson. The photo brought out the likes of Draymond Green and Bam Adebayo to offer their support in the form of motivation.
Bitadze was also bumped on ESPN in favor of a Williamson interview, something fans should be quick to get on board with in hopes a young, polished big can quickly make an impact for the Pacers.
The early returns in terms of draft grades have been positive, with Ricky O’Donnell and SB Nation giving the Pacers an A- for the pick.
18. Indiana Pacers - Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
Bitadze is one of the most polished players in this class. The 6’11 center won the prestigious Rising Star Award as the best young player in Euroleague this season. He is a developing shooter, a smart passer, and a strong rebounder who makes up for a lack of elite athleticism with sharp defensive instincts and an impressive competitive edge.
He is an odd fit in a Pacers front court that already has Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. Still, Indiana earns an A because Bitadze was one of the best players available.
After acquiring T.J. Warren earlier this evening, the Pacers have extended their draft capital, picking up the 32nd overall pick for the first of their two second rounders. Just ahead of the selection, they traded it to the Miami Heat for three future second round picks. Still on the board for the 50th pick, the Pacers opted to continue looking forward, sending the pick to the Utah Jazz for a future second, wrapping up their night with Warren, Bitadze, and four future second round picks.