As a follow up to Josh's post on Epke Udoh, I've decided to throw my own two cents worth into the debate on who the Pacers should draft with the 10th pick.
I'm pretty torn about this year's pick myself. I don't think there is anyone out there at the 10th spot that will help the team immediately or even in a year or two, and that's what the struggling franchise needs.
Granger appears to have peaked and Hibbert is the only guy who is showing solid signs of growth. Rush gets one more year to prove himself before he is officially a bust (some say that's being too generous). Hansbrough deserves a couple more years but his upside is limited. Jones is NOT the answer at shooting guard. Not by a long shot.
The biggest issue is still the point guard position. Ford needs to go -- he's had his chance and even when he plays well he's only playing well individually, not helping the Pacers become a better team. Price is a great pick-up for a 2nd rounder, but he's not the future, especially with this knee injury that will set him back next season. The team needs a lot of help, and it starts at point guard.
However, I'm not sure Eric Bledsoe or Avery Bradley is the answer. They are not projected to go as high as 10th anyway. Most guys projected to go around the 10th pick (in order of best available player) are power forwards, and the Pacers already have Murphy, Hansbrough, Jones and Foster. None of these guys are the future at that position. Hansbrough could be if a miracle happens, but that's drawing a very long bow.
That's what makes this 10th pick so frustrating. If only the Pacers followed the lead of other teams and tanked those last few weeks (and by that I simply mean giving more time to youngsters), they could have had a much more meaningful and valuable pick. In my view, the Pacers should either:
(1) trade down for Bledsoe or Bradley and hope for the best (but only for a future first round pick -- the odds of getting a useful second round pick like AJ Price are too rare); or
(2) take a gamble and use the 10th pick to get a player with tremendous upside -- someone that will probably either be a star or bust. Hassan Whiteside perhaps?
I say this because the Pacers need REAL help -- a player that can turn the fortunes of the franchise around, and do it either in a hurry or give the fans hope that it will happen some day in the not too distant future. I think it's worth taking the gamble because the team can't keep going on like this, stuck in a perpetual cycle of underachievement and underwhelming draft picks. The last thing the team needs is another "solid rotation player" or "piece of the puzzle" that will do nothing except ensure that the team remains horribly mediocre. I'm not excepting a miracle, but Bird needs to roll the dice to at least give fans some hope.
The Pacers have three big problems in fixing things up though: (a) they don't have any players that other teams really want; (b) you could probably count Granger and Hibbert as trade assets but there's nothing Bird can get back for them that will make the team significantly better; and (c) even when cap room frees up the season after next, the team will struggle to sign marquee players as they will flee to the bigger markets.
That's why I say we need to take a risk this season. I would rather see Bird go all out and fail than him do nothing material for yet another season.