'The more options the better': Pacers executive Ryan Carr previews 2023 NBA Draft after record number of player visits
With five selections, the buzzwords for the Pacers are options and opportunities ahead of draft night on Thursday. Their first pick is at 7.
The Indiana Pacers will soon add to their core on Thursday at the 2023 NBA Draft, armed with a lottery selection for the third consecutive offseason.
Since the team wisely pivoted before the 2022 trade deadline — when they acquired Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Jalen Smith — there has been a clear plan in place. They understood they must get worse before they got better. And they had the approval from ownership to proceed.
After the 2023 draft, the Pacers shouldn’t be back in the lottery this decade.
Nobody expected the 10-win improvement last season, which was led by Haliburton. He’s been a breath of fresh air for the franchise, one of the board of directors on the basketball side of the franchise. The braintrust does not hesitate to seek his input, consider it in their decision making and to utilize him in both the analysis and recruitment of players.
This time last year, the face of the franchise was in New York and he spoke to the rookie class before draft night. And on the eve of the draft, it just so happened that Haliburton was with Bennedict Mathurin in a hotel room. Mathurin wanted to be a Pacer, and he made sure both Haliburton and the Pacers knew it.
The Pacers front office is looking to add another significant piece to the core of Haliburton, Mathurin, and perhaps a few others. They need another strong pillar for years to come.
This will be the seventh draft led by team president Kevin Pritchard, who was promoted after Larry Bird stepped down in May 2017. He’s always looking to “get special” and hopes to find a future All-Star in this third tier of players at 7.
“At 7, you really want to have a guy with a high ceiling,” he said last month at the draft lottery. “I think all the guys in that area that the mocks are looking at (fit that). We want to get someone that can build with our youth and that can grow over the next three or four years together.”
It’s almost certain that they will make at least a couple trades before the conclusion of the draft, and KP has done that several times before — to acquire known talent, to package picks and move up, and to trade a pick for future options.
And as they should, all options are on the table.
“We’re not gonna keep all five picks, but there’s just a lot of things we can do,” said Pritchard. “And my guess is we’ll get a lot of offers for those picks too.”
On Monday, the Pacers completed their 16th and final known workout. They hosted 62 players, the most in my time covering Pacers drafts going back to 2008.
For context, they hosted 54 players in 2022 and 45 in 2021.
The only thing comparable is in 2020, when they spoke with more than 100 prospects over Zoom during the pandemic — but there were no workouts.
Ryan Carr, the Pacers’ Vice President of Player Personnel, has run the team’s pre-draft process for more than a decade. He first joined the franchise in 1997, hired by Bird to work in the video room.
Since 2003, he’s worked in scouting and now overseas a dozen scouts scattered across the country, and two over in Europe. Together, they build a digital database on the draft class, pages and pages of evaluations, intel, measurements, testing and more.
This is years in the making for each draft class and consists of attending college games, practices, the draft combine and then hosting players to the team facility is the final element. It’s not any more important, but another data point. And perhaps most helpful in getting to know each player off the court over lunch.
Carr met with reporters on Monday — also the day his twins, Austin and Caitlin, turned 18 — as he always does once per year, after the final workout leading up to the draft. With five picks, including three over a seven-pick span (26 to 32), he and the Pacers are emphasizing buzzwords “options” and “opportunities.”