INDIANAPOLIS — The Pacers entered Thursday’s NBA Draft with “optionality,” a word team president Kevin Pritchard mentioned repeatedly last month after Indiana landed the No. 6 pick in the draft lottery.
He said the Pacers would consider every scenario, and with trade rumors swirling around injury prone Malcolm Brogdon and shot-blocking Myles Turner, it felt like Indiana might exercise some of that optionality and make a few franchise-altering moves.
As it turns out, the only significant decision the Pacers made — at least for now — was drafting Arizona star Bennedict Mathurin sixth overall.
Doyle:Pacers add promising Bennedict Mathurin in NBA Draft, but big improvement will wait
So, what happened? Or perhaps a better question is, what didn’t happen?
Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan, the only team executive made available to the media Thursday, provided a peek behind the curtain.
“We’re always gonna be aggressive, but there’s always certain price points,” Buchanan said. “Sometimes you have to walk away from deals if it’s not right for your team.”
In other words, blockbuster trades were probably on the table but Indiana wasn’t satisfied with the offers.
Asked why trades involving Brogdon and/or Turner didn’t come to fruition, or why they didn’t move up or back in the draft, Buchanan stood by the franchise’s decisions.
“The guys you mentioned are important parts of our team and are good players, and we value those players,” Buchanan said. “We look forward to what this team’s gonna look like moving forward. Tonight’s the first night of an offseason for us.”
The Pacers remained conservative, choosing Mathurin with the No. 6 pick, drafting Gonzaga standout Andrew Nembhard 31st overall and trading a 2026 second-round pick and cash to the Timberwolves in exchange for the No. 48 pick, which they used to draft Baylor’s Kendall Brown. They also traded the No. 58 pick to the Bucks for cash.
I would’ve preferred for Indiana to go all in and trade up for Purdue star Jaden Ivey, who was drafted fifth overall by the Pistons, but I thought the Pacers’ selections were solid. Mathurin has star potential, Brown’s defensive versality would be welcome for a team that had the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA last season and Nembhard was one of the premier point guards in the draft.
But of course by now you’re thinking what I’m thinking: Why draft Nembhard when you already have three other point guards in Tyrese Haliburton, Malcolm Brogdon and TJ McConnell?
“I think Andrew is a pure point guard. You look at Tyrese, you look at Malcolm, you look at TJ McConnell, (they) can all play the lead guard position,” Buchanan said.
Yes, that’s true, but just not on the same team. Having four point guards on an NBA roster is unheard of and not the kind of “optionality” Pritchard alluded to last month.
Then, Buchanan said something else that caught my attention.
“I think Andrew is a young player that we see a long-term potential future with us,” Buchanan said. “And as we look at historically lots of times, that early second round you’re looking for guys that are four-year players that have winning pedigree, that have played in big games for big-time programs for great coaches, and Andrew checks a lot of those boxes.”
Does that sound like a guy that’s going to be buried on the depth chart? I don’t think so, which gives me the idea that 29-year-old Brogdon’s is still available on the trade market.
Buchanan fielded questions for about 10 minutes after the Pacers’ first two picks of the night before heading back behind closed doors and maneuvering to draft Brown.
It was a respectable haul for Indiana but not one that moves the needle. That shift will only come if the franchise trades Brogdon and/or Turner, with the former looking much more expendable after the draft.
Follow IndyStar Pacers beat writer James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid. Reach him via email: [email protected]