Pacers go big, take Myles Turner 11th in the NBA draft
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers granted Myles Turner’s wish to play in the basketball-crazed Hoosier state.
The Pacers selected the Texas big man with the 11th overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night and he needed time to compose himself at the draft site in New York before giving Commissioner Adam Silver a big hug on stage.
Turner is headed exactly where he wanted to go.
“He expressed a strong desire to be with this team,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He loves what we’ve done the last few years and loves the city here and just believes in our culture and the way we do things. He was hoping to end up here.”
The Pacers, who want to go with a faster, smaller lineup next season, are looking for their draft pick to make an impact right away and potentially fill a starting role down the road — even if he is only a year removed from high school, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard said this week.
“I feel very comfortable going to Indiana and being within that system that’s looking to change,” Turner said. “I’m very happy with where I ended up. Words just can’t describe how excited and elated I am right now.”
The Pacers selected Oregon guard Joseph Young No. 43 overall. The 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year averaged 20.7 points and 3.8 assists last season. Young played the last two years at Oregon after transferring from Houston in 2013.
Turner and Young join a Pacers team with two-time All-Star Paul George, who missed most of last season after breaking his right leg, and veteran point guard George Hill, who also missed stretches last season with injuries.
Vogel said Thursday he plans to use George in more of a power forward role next season. With the addition of Turner, the Pacers may be preparing for the possibility of losing two frontcourt veterans, center Roy Hibbert and forward David West, to free agency.
Pacers President Larry Bird, however, said he expects both to return next season — which would the last on their current contracts.
Which means the Pacers are in planning mode.
Turner, at 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, could be a good fit. He averaged 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a freshman last season. He led the Big 12 with 89 blocked shots and claimed Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors.
“He’s a two-way player,” Vogel said. “That’s another thing that we’ve sort of built this team around — guys that can play both ends of the floor. He has the ability to be an elite shot-blocker and rim protector right away.”
Those are two things Indiana has relied on Hibbert to handle on the court and, at times, handled very well.
Indiana’s No. 11 pick was the team’s highest pick since taking George No. 10 overall in 2010.
Indiana may also have to fill the roles of key bench players. Guards C.J. Watson and Rodney Stuckey, and forward Luis Scola are all unrestricted free agents. All three have been known to create a spark off the bench for the Pacers.
Indiana hasn’t found much success with the draft in recent years, but still found ways to reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014. The Pacers finished 38-44 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The Pacers have been strapped for cash, too, and unable to make many significant moves. If Hibbert and West opt out of their contracts, Indiana’s salary cap space — and free agency options, too — would open up even more. And the door would be open for Turner to step in right away.
“I’m comfortable with it,” Turner said. “This season might not have gone the way it was supposed to for them, but they’re still two very capable players.”