Pacers win, Butler duo falls short on NBA draft night

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.

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