INDIANAPOLIS – The Pacers entered Thursday’s critical NBA Draft wanting a sure thing, while also taking a bigger swing.
Indiana felt they accomplished that by taking elite scorer Chris Duarte (“the sure thing”) and a high-level defender in Isaiah Jackson (“the bigger swing”):
Duarte, a 6-6 guard out of Oregon was chosen by the Pacers with the 13th overall pick.
Jackson, a 6-10 forward out of Kentucky, came with the 22nd selection. That pick was acquired by the Pacers making two separate moves, which included sending guard Aaron Holiday and 4 second-round picks to Washington (Holiday is going to Washington) and Milwaukee.
Here are 3 takeaways from the Pacers 2021 draft:
1. Duarte The Scorer
There’s no denying the scoring ability Chris Duarte is bringing to Indiana. Last season at Oregon, Duarte averaged 17.1 points per game, shooting 53 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3 and shooting over 80 percent from the foul line. The 6-6, 190-pound Duarte was not only the Pac-12 Player of the Year, but also was an All-Conference Defensive Team member. The biggest knock on Duarte is his age of 24 years old. This selection is one the Pacers hope is a solid single or double, in baseball terms. Duarte is a high floor pick who should (or needs to) factor into the rotation early on. The Pacers are big fans of the tempo that Duarte plays with and thinks he brings shooting and versatility to both ends of the floor.
2. Carlisle Loves Jackson’s Ceiling
Rick Carlisle couldn’t stop gushing about the potential in Kentucky forward Isaiah Jackson (6-10 and 206 pounds). Carlisle was part of Jackson’s workout in Indiana and observed a guy who has the ability to round out his raw game. In his lone season at Kentucky, Jackson averaged 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 20.8 minutes. What Carlisle observed in Jackson’s workout was someone who can make tweaks to a jump shot that was hardly seen at Kentucky. Members of the Wildcats staff told the Pacers that Jackson has a great feel for the game. Something Jackson should bring to the next level is his rim protection, while not being a liability on the perimeter in switching situations. That’s a huge factor in keeping big me on the floor in today’s NBA.
3. Roster Implications
Let’s start with the free agents in Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell. It was always thought the Pacers didn’t have the cap space to re-sign both guys this offseason. Thursday’s selections indicate that McDermott will be moving on and McConnell will be returning. Duarte is likely a reserve off the bench, playing behind Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren. While Jackson is much more of a project in when he’ll become a consistent rotational player, he does create even more of a long jam in the front court. Given Jackson’s inability to really stretch the floor right now, do the Pacers have room to retain all these centers? Jackson being known for his shot blocking is something to note in predicting the future of Myles Turner. It’s hard to see the Pacers entering next season hoping, and able, to give minutes to Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Goga Bitadze and Jackson. We’ll see if a move happens here when free agency begins next week.