Pacers win, Butler duo falls short on NBA draft night

June 24, 2011
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It’s easy to jump to conclusions on the night of the NBA draft. Lots of people—fans, media members and NBA insiders alike—do it. But the truth is that it’s difficult to tell the real wisdom of most draft-day choices for five years or so.

But in the vein of “everybody’s doing it,” I’ll throw out my winners and loser in Thursday night’s NBA draft. I’ll keep it local.

First is Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers.

With the acquisition of local product George Hill, the Pacers get a player who can help right away and put people in the seats. Hill also appears to have some leadership qualities and solid character traits.

Bird is two for his last two (drafts) in winning over fans and building some credibility. His surprise first round choice of Paul George turned out to be one of the jewels of the 2010 draft, and, well, everybody around here loves Hill, who starred at IUPUI and Broad Ripple.

One word of warning. San Antonio Spurs management is not comprised of fools. Since they really valued Hill (there was even talk this week of trading Tony Parker and making Hill the starting point guard), they must really think Kawhi Leonard is special.

Remember, this is the same Spurs front office that picked up Tony Parker late in the first round and Manu Ginobili in the second round. I don’t know much about Leonard other than seeing him play a couple times in the NCAA tournament, but I liked what I saw in the draft night interview of both him and his tight-knit family.

And Hill isn’t an all-star just yet. In 76 games last season he averaged 11.6 points and 2.5 assists per game, which were slightly lower than his 2009-10 stats.

Still, it’s difficult to be a killjoy amid all the festivities surrounding the acquisition of Hill, who by the way just turned 25 last month. So he hopefully has lots of good years ahead of him.

But others didn’t fare as well as Bird and the Pacers. Two Bulldogs are likely licking their wounds.

Through no fault of his own, Butler’s Matt Howard didn’t get drafted. It’s tough enough for an undrafted rookie to make it in the NBA, but with a lockout looming June 30, that makes it all the more difficult.

Lots of people, it seems, got a little too euphoric over Butler’s back-to-back run to the NCAA finals and began wondering where in the second round Howard would go. Some even thought the Pacers might take a flyer on him. Now Howard could be forced to play overseas.

In my book, when you give up a year of college to go pro and you don’t get drafted in a position that wins you a guaranteed contract, you lose. The Washington Wizards picked Shelvin Mack, who might have gotten caught up in his own hype the last two years, with the No. 34 pick. Only the top 30 picks in the NBA draft get guaranteed contracts.

Butler Coach Brad Stevens said Mack went right where he was projected between Nos. 25 and 35. But clearly Mack thought he was first-round talent.

We can all be optimistic living in the shadow of Hinkle Fieldhouse, but 34th picks usually end up in the D-League or in some European outpost.

Mack might beat the odds, but for now you’d have to conclude that he should have enjoyed the college experience for one more year and gotten his education.

  • Mack
    Considering everything, I still believe Shelvin made the right decision if he wanted to be an NBA player. The chance of topping back-to-back championship game appearances was unlikey with Howard leaving. He needed an opportunity. He has proven that when given an opportunity he can make things happen. He wasn't going to be a top 30 pick next year either. It is up to him now. I like his chances.
    • Draft
      CK...know something about Mack the rest of us don't? I'm a Dawg season tix holder and never thought going early was wise. Glad you like his chances though.
    • Great trade
      I had a feeling that the Pacers picked Kawhi Leonard because someone else wanted him. His skill set just didn't seem to fit the Pacers needs in any way. And my feeling from the interview with him after he was drafted was that he wasn't thrilled to have been chosed by the Pacers. His demeanor and words told it all. Nothing against us, but I got that he was definitely not an 'east of the Mississippi player'. Sure couldn't see this mother and sister moving from San Diego to the "frigid east' to see him play. Good trade for the Pacers, George Hill, Pacer fans and Kawhi Leonard.
      • Mack
        Macks stock could never be as high as it was last season. If you remember correctly after the USA Bball team workouts NBA players/scouts/coaches were saying how he was a top talent and the best player among the college kids. He will make the team. He had no reason to return to school.
      • Mack
        Reddog, no inside info. Season ticket holder too and followed the dawgs to Houston. I just believe he will make someone a great player and his pay day will be his 2nd contract.
      • totally agree
        I was a little worried with this pick. I also saw his face after being chosen by the pacers...not too happy. After the initial interview, he turned and shook his head. He's better off going elsewhere.
      • Stars in our eyes
        If Hill was disappointed, he is just another typical NBA player who is in it to join the media circus rather than win. On the other issue, Sir Charles called it right during the championship game...Butler had "maybe" one player who could play in the NBA. It's too bad Mack did not get his education, especially if he does not make enough money now to foot the bill on his own.

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