Discover more from Fieldhouse Files with Scott Agness
Unlike most NBA teams, Pacers announce draft workout participants and make them available for interviews
Less than a quarter of NBA teams share which players visit for pre-draft workouts. The Pacers are part of that bunch, which engages the fanbase leading up to draft night.
In a day and age where intel is most valuable and every team is looking for a competitive advantage, the majority of NBA teams are mum around the draft.
They do not announce when they hold pre-draft workouts; they do not announce who they brought in; and they do not make players available to the media.
That’s why the NBA Draft Combine in May and then availabilities on Zoom with some of top prospects in the days leading up to the draft are useful to the majority of writers across the league.
That is not the case with the Pacers. And for that, we are thankful.
The Pacers are actually the only Central Division team to publicly disclose who they are working out and when. The Bucks, Bulls, Cavaliers and Pistons choose to keep it private.
Even more, the Pacers have several members of their digital media team present to take photos and record video, and then conduct interviews with each and every prospect.
Big name or small, they post them all.
Lesser-known players and their agents appreciate the publicity. NBA fans devour draft content. No team records losses in the summer so fans of all 30 teams have a reason for hope and optimism.
That’s ultimately what the draft represents, isn’t it? Hope, and players realizing a childhood dream.
However, the only thing worse than mock drafts is aggregating mock drafts. I know why teams do it — page views! — but really? What are we doing here? If teams only knew more about the individuals they cited. And some mock drafts don’t even cite an author.
OK… Back to my original point.
Local reporters, like myself, are allowed in as each Pacers workout concludes and then we are able to interview *almost* any of them. That’s been the case every year I’ve been on the beat. Even last offseason, when COVID-19 was still looming, players were made available on Zoom.
As of this writing, the Pacers have hosted 46 players and only one was closed. That was lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin from the University of Arizona, a likely candidate for Indiana at No. 6. And type of request is usually at the request of the player’s agent.
This is unfamiliar territory for the Pacers. They’re not used to having a single-digit selection; they haven’t had one since 1989.
Agents to players inside the top 10 have leverage with lottery-bound players will often provide guidelines for teams to follow for some of the top prospects. For example, maybe a player will only visit but not workout. Or it has to be an individual workout. Or they won’t take a computer test or share medical information.
Again, it’s a game of intel. Agents have it for their players, along with access, and teams want it.
Iowa’s Keegan Murray did not go through a workout for the Pacers, but he said last week on a Zoom call that he’s “met with them, visited with them in Indiana." He also met with the team during the NBA Draft Combine in May.
By my unofficial count, seven other teams share workout participation: Hawks, Hornets and Wizards in the east; Jazz, Lakers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers in the west.
The Pacers are also the only team in the top six of this year’s draft to reveal that info, which makes things even more interesting. It makes it more difficult to gauge who teams have been in contact with or brought in. Both Paolo Banchero and Shaedon Sharp said on Zoom calls that they haven’t worked out for the Kings, for example.
League sources I’ve spoken to believe the Pacers will set the tone for the backend of the lottery. That’s when a run of Tier 2/3 players begins.
Sacramento at 4, Detroit at 5 and then Indiana at 6. (And most expect the Kings to trade out of No. 4 for a ready-made player with the focus on at least reaching the play-in tournament. After all, that’s why they swapped Tyrese Haliburton for two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis at the trade deadline.)
Prospects expected to be taken in the top 10 (but after picks 1-3): Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin, Dyson Daniels, Sharp and Jeremy Sochan.
Among that bunch, Ivey has not visited the Pacers and Sochan missed a scheduled workout due to an in-flight medical emergency on his flight from Phoenix, per league source.
By draft day on June 23, the Pacers will have brought in more than 50 players. They have three picks (6, 31, 58) and with the right trade partner, could add another lottery pick to the mix. That would make for a great core to move forward with — Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson and whomever wears a Pacers cap come Thursday.