The NBA draft is hardly an applied science. There are all sorts of variables, including the dilemma of having to choose between a player you didn’t think would be available when your pick rolls around and the guy you targeted going into the process. The second-guessing from those who know very little about evaluating talent aside, Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard had a decision to make last Thursday, and I personally feel he made the correct one in selecting Goga Bitadze, giving the Pacers a young, highly skilled big man who could quite possibly develop in to a fine NBA player.
Immediately after selecting the 6-foot-11 19-year-old center, the naysayers were calling for Pritchard’s head, asserting that he had failed to address the team’s glaring needs such as point guard or players who can shoot the ball from the perimeter. However, talented big men are a scarce commodity, and rolling the dice on this selection makes perfectly good sense to this basketball junkie, who, for the record, has been openly critical of Pritchard on numerous occasions.
The biggest objection registered by season ticket holders and sports talk radio heads (flip a coin on who’s less qualified to assess the situation) declares the Pacers “already” have Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on the roster and do not “need” another center at this juncture, especially when you factor in the aforementioned needs of this team. I would counter that Bitadze is a great insurance policy when you consider the probability of injuries over the course of a season and the struggles that both of the current centers on the roster had this past campaign.
Sure, he’s still raw, but can he not make some sort of contribution off the bench right away? Of course he can, and that’s what makes him an interesting trade asset to boot. Yes, that’s right, the Pacers are just beginning the process of constructing the roster you’ll see on opening night, and more than likely, it will be dramatically different than the one that was steamrolled by the Boston Celtics in their brief postseason. Bitazde will undoubtedly be attractive to other teams and could enhance the possibilities of landing a solid player in return, so take a deep breath, and allow a process that’s obviously just beginning to fully play itself out. Relax, Pacers fans, as this will probably be a lot more interesting than you ever imagined, so sit back and give it a little time. You can always tell me I was incorrect later, right?
Notes: Indiana also held the 32nd and 50th selections in the draft but traded them to Miami and Utah respectively in deals that acquired K.Z. Okpala and Jarrell Brantley. Those deals also landed the Pacers future draft picks in return.
The Pacers acquired T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick in the draft from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for cash considerations. While injury prone, Warren averaged 18 points a game for the Suns last season and has shown the ability to create his own shot. His contract calls for payments totaling $12 million over the next three seasons, which has unbelievably become chump change in the NBA.
The biggest decisions that Kevin Pritchard will have to make on July 1 when the free agency period officially opens is how many of his own players he will tender a raise to. Bojan Bogdanovic will be the first domino to fall in their offseason plans, and after paying him $10 million annually the past two years, the Pacers will find some competition for his services. At age 30, Indiana has to weigh the downside of a long-term contract that will include a fat raise. Look for a sign-and-trade possibility to prevail.
While the Pacers want to resign forward Thaddeus Young (who just turned 31) to a short-term deal, he too will find some interest on the open market. Safe to say that he too may be gone to a team that makes an offer the Pacers feel is too expensive.
While Victor Oladipo continues to make progress in his rehabilitation in Miami, it’s really hard to imagine him being ready to return until after the All Star break. The plan should be him not having any impact next season and consider it a plus if he does.
Danny Bridges, who thinks the Pacers offseason will be better than most critics proclaim it to be, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.