Why the Pacers have been unusually quiet prior to the draft

By June 5 last year, the Pacers had already brought in five groups of draft hopefuls consisting of six players in each. Same thing in 2016. Four groups by then in 2015.

During this time, which can drag on for prospects, reporters are welcome to interview any of the participants before they head to lunch with a handful of Pacers staffers. Then, they head their separate ways and for most guys, that’s on to another city for another workout.

But this year has been different.

As of June 5, 2018, with the draft nearly two weeks away, the Pacers have yet to hold an official workout. For one, this is not a surprise. In fact, I warned you over two weeks ago.

Instead, team executives and scouts have been busy across the country at various events, beginning with the NBA’s official draft combine in Chicago.

There was the IMG Academy’s Pro Basketball Combine in Florida for many who were not among the 70 players invited to Chicago. Most recently, all 30 teams spent significant time in California as agencies had their special days to showcase clients.  This method has picked up momentum in recent years, where agencies host NBA decision-makers, scouts, and media.

For example: Just last week, CAA, Catalyst Sports + Media, Octagon, Roc Nation, Raymond Brothers, Impact Basketball, Independent Sports and Entertainment, plus trainer Drew Hanlen all had their own events – mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Pacers General Manager Chad Buchanan and Director of Player Personnel Ryan Carr were spotted at one of them. (See the second photo in the tweet below from Catalyst.)

For the past four days, team evaluators from all 30 teams have been across the globe in Treviso, Italy for the NBA’s Global Camp. Up until this year, it was known as the adidas Eurocamp, and it was actually founded by a former Pacers scout, Pete Philo. He has since gotten away from scouting and focused solely on his thriving company TPG Sport Group, which aims to educate future leaders in scouting. It’s ahead of the curve.

The NBA, however, came in and took over the event this year, which ran from June 2-5 for draft-eligible prospects outside of the United States. About 38 players participated.

This is also the first full year where Kevin Pritchard has had full reign. On May 1, 2017, he was promoted to President of Basketball Operations after Larry Bird stepped down. That was late into the process and Bird, who remains with the team as an advisor, was around often until this past winter when he flocked to sunny Florida.

Bird was among the Pacers’ contingent in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine.

The draft process is more than a year in the making. The Pacers’ scouting department, led by Carr, consists of 10 individuals. They have two individuals (Aleksandar Pajovic, Jose Galilea) whose focus is overseas, and then a half-dozen others who divide the U.S. into regions.

Throughout the year, they are constantly gathering intel. More than anything, intel is the number one. They can watch video of players at anytime with an internet connection thanks to Synergy Sports. They can watch a player in person and look at boxscores. But there is nothing more valuable — for now and years down the road — than talking to those around a player … beyond just a coach or reporter who writes about the team. Like his teammates, the trainer, team managers, girlfriend, best friend, etc.

Knowledge truly is wealth in the scouting game. And ultimately, Pritchard has the final call.

“We have $5.8 million in cap space [through June] and that becomes very valuable during the draft,” Pritchard said in February. “You can take contracts in on the draft. And sometimes there’s more motivation at that point in time than actually at the trade deadline.

“We’ll be that team that can sit there and look at taking on contracts and picks, and I think that’s when we’ll be able to get really aggressive. The draft and July first become more important to us.”

The Pacers possess picks 23 and 50 in the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be held on Thursday, June 21 in Brooklyn. And they’re coming off a surprise 48-win season where they went the distance in round one against LeBron James’ Cavaliers.

“In an era where some summers, players got really, really compensated well, we’ve been pretty good with our books and I think that that’s a real advantage moving forward,” Pritchard added.

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