The Indiana Pacers have been a storied franchise in the NBA but, they have not been able to recreate the same success that they had during their ABA days. The Pacers have always been very close to capturing a championship in the NBA but, the two greatest players of all time in Michael Jordan and LeBron James have prevented that from happening.
Looking back in history, a couple of draft decisions may have been the difference in them winning a championship or not and in today’s article, we are going to be looking at what the Indiana Pacers would potentially look like if they had made the right draft choices.
Point Guard: Devin Booker
Devin Booker has quickly turned into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA and looks to be one of the top players in the league for the foreseeable future. Since being drafted by the Phoenix Suns, Booker has seen little team success due to many blunders by the Suns’ front office. They have failed to surround him with the talent necessary to be a playoff team and having a disgruntled, young star is a recipe for disaster.
In the 2015 NBA draft, the Indiana Pacers selected Myles Turner with the 11th pick. At the 13th pick, the Suns selected Booker and looking back at it now, the Pacers would have certainly selected Booker. Playing Booker at the Point Guard position is possible as he has made massive strides as a playmaker. This year, he is averaging 6.6 assists per game after averaging nearly 7 a game last year.
Devin Booker would be the best guard to play for this team since Reggie Miller and on this Pacers team, he would do amazing things.
Shooting Guard: Paul George
Paul George was the best player on the Pacers for the duration of the 2010s and quickly became a fan favorite for them. George was drafted in the 2010 NBA draft with the 10th overall pick and a potential duo of him and Danny Granger was supposed to be great. Injuries prevented this duo from reaching their potential and with Granger out, George took advantage of the opportunities that were given to him.
George was one of very few players that went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and gave LeBron’s Miami Heat Teams a lot of problems. Last season was the best year of his career and he has a real shot to win a championship with the Los Angeles Clippers this season.
Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard’s rise to stardom was a great one and after a few years of dominance, he is a surefire bet to make the Hall of Fame. Kawhi was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the 2011 NBA draft but was immediately traded for George Hill to the Spurs. On the Spurs, Kawhi would win multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards as well as win Finals MVP in 2014.
After being traded to the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2018, Kawhi’s game would take another level and he would lead the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history and was named Finals MVP. Looking back at the George Hill-Kawhi Leonard trade, it was a good one as the Pacers were able to get a quality point guard and the Spurs were able to get a defensive-minded player who helped them to capture a championship.
Despite what is noted above, if we can go back in history, the Pacers would not have made that trade and a duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would have been just as good, if not better, than the one we see right now as both of the players would have been healthy and would have had better chemistry.
Power Forward: John Collins
John Collins is having a historic season for the Atlanta Hawks and looking back at his draft class, it is crazy that he fell as far as he did. This year, John Collins is having an all-star level season and if the season were to end today, he would be the first person to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game on at least 58% from the field and 40% from three. Collins should get a big extension from the Hawks soon and as if it looks right now, he should continue to get better and better.
Looking back at the 2017 NBA draft, Collins was picked just one stop after the Pacers’ pick and to make matters worse, the Pacers chose a different power forward over him. Looking back at it, this was a horrible decision on the part of the Pacers as John Collins is looking like an all-star player while T.J. Leaf, who the Pacers used their pick on, is struggling to find rotation minutes on the Pacers.
Center: Serge Ibaka
Serge Ibaka has been a winner during his career and has only missed the playoffs once in his career. Looking back at his career, Ibaka will be remembered most for his elite shot-blocking ability and during the 5-year stretch from 2010-11 to 2014-15, he averaged a crazy 2.8 blocks per game.
Ibaka has been able to find a great home in Toronto and last season, he won his first championship in his career. This season, he is averaging a career-high in points with 16 points per game and should have a big market at the conclusion of this season.
Looking back at the 2008 NBA draft, the Pacers picked Jerryd Bayless and going back, they would have made a different decision. Bayless actually never played for the Pacers and was traded for a bunch of role players. Having Ibaka instead would have changed a lot for this team and they may have been able to go farther with him.
All in all, everything stated in this article is just hypotheticals and one change would drastically affect the next. Despite this, it is fun to think about what could have been and just how different the league would be now if these moves were made.