Overall, it was a very successful night for the Pacers and the fans should be pleased by the picks that the front office made. At the beginning of draft night, the Pacers had a couple needs, most prominently needing a long-term point guard and a tall forward in case Thad Young opts out (very unlikely). Going into the night the Pacers were hopeful that Holiday would be available at pick #23 so when he was still available, everyone knew the Pacers were going to pick him. There were sources saying that Indiana was active in the second round looking to start in some sort of trade talks (whether that be trade up/down we don’t know) but ultimately, they stayed put and selected Alize Johnson from Missouri State University.
Draft Grade: A-
This was the pick that the Pacers were looking to get. In Holiday, the Pacers are getting a player who averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game at UCLA as a senior. The ‘cers needed a long-term point guard and Holiday offers exactly that. In college, he was a two-way leader who on most nights had to take over a game to make UCLA competitive. He shot 43% from three, love that stat, and will play valuable minutes all season long for the Pacers. Now that Oladipo has emerged as the league’s newest superstar, he is going to have defenders helping off of guys like Holiday, Bogdonavich, etc so that he can’t get to the rim. Adding a player that shoots threes at a 43% clip is a very good decision. And as I mentioned before, he took over games offensively at UCLA, when Vic gets doubled late in the shot clock this year, having the ability to drop it off the Holiday to create quickly off the dribble will be a great help and burden lifted off Victor’s shoulders. Some Pacers fans were looking at Dzanan Musa to come help with the forward play, but this was the right decision by the Pacers. He has a great bloodline and will help the Pacers just as much defensively as he will offensively (avg. 1.5 steals per game).
Draft Grade: B-
The grade doesn’t quite reflect how I feel about this pick. Personally, I like this pick a lot. Johnson is a 6-8 forward, first team all-conference at Missouri State, led his team in points (15 ppg), rebounds (11.6 rpg!!!), and assists (2.8 apg). Let’s look at that rebound stat again, I’m sorry, does that say 11.6? And he isn’t a center? Interesting. The Pacers struggled with rebounding last year outside of their one-two punch of centers so they brought in Trevor Booker who can’t really do anything well except rebound. In Alize, you are going to get a proven, aggressive rebounder, who can also score. He has a great mid-range game and “can shoot the three” (career 33% clip) although he regressed from a 39% 3pt% as a junior to a 28% 3pt% as a senior. With rebound numbers like the ones above, it isn’t a surprise that he is athletic and has a quick bounce and recoil. For the players that were still available, this was the right pick. The Pacers got one of the best rebounders in the class with offensive potential as well. He looks identical to Jimmy Butler, the Pacers hope he turns into a similar player.
Going forward, the Pacers need to add pieces to their summer league team that will be playing in Las Vegas. You will see these two players, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, and other g-league players from the Mad Ants. Joe Young may even play for the fourth year in a row. I’d like to see players like Yuta Watanabe (a 6-9 scoring forward from George Washington), Malik Newman (Kansas), or Keenan Evans (Texas Tech) get picked up for the summer league. Yuta may be our easiest option to get out of those players, but that should be okay with Pacers fans because something about his gameplay is very intriguing and promising to me whenever I watch him.