The 2022 NBA Draft Lottery will drastically alter the Indiana Pacers‘ future.
Indy hasn’t cracked the top 10 of the NBA Draft since the 1989 season.
Prior to that year, the Pacers’ most significant drafts within the top 10 picks occurred in 1986 and 1988.
Indiana drafted Chuck “The Rifleman” Person fourth overall in 1986.
Person not only won 1987 NBA Rookie of the Year honors, but the sweet-shooting, trash-talking hotshot also helped the Pacers become playoff contenders at the turn of the decade in the 1990s.
The team’s fortunes also changed significantly after they drafted 7-foot-4 big man Rik “The Dunking Dutchman” Smits out of Marist College in 1988.
Smits played 12 seasons in Indy – he anchored the middle from 1988 to 2000 and helped the Pacers reach the Eastern Conference Finals four times in the 1990s.
𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙼𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚕 𝙳𝚊𝚢 𝙼𝚒𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚕𝚎
On this day 25 years ago, Rik Smits hit the game-winner in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals in one of the craziest finishes you’ll ever see.
🗣 “HE HITS, HE HITS, HE HITS, HE HITS” pic.twitter.com/YMuJbJmutU
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) May 29, 2020
Smits also held his own against guys like Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal during their memorable playoff battles.
Smits’ most memorable moment in a Pacers uniform was his buzzer-beater in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals against Shaq’s Orlando Magic.
Long live the “Memorial Day Miracle.”
Smits was the man in the middle when Indy reached the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000.
Regrettably, Smits retired following that year due to lingering foot issues.
Honorable mention goes to Wayman Tisdale, the lefty Oklahoma Sooners forward Indy drafted second overall behind Patrick Ewing in 1985.
Tisdale was a solid force down low who complemented big man Steve Stipanovich well during the Pacers’ struggles in the mid- to late-1980s.
The selections of Stipanovich (second overall in 1983) and Clark Kellogg (eighth overall in 1982) also deserve praise.
They were solid cornerstones of bad Indiana teams in the 1980s until knee injuries took a massive toll on their NBA careers.
On the flip side, the Pacers also had some misses when they drafted within the first ten picks.
The biggest disaster was plucking the Florida State Seminoles’ George McCloud from the 1989 NBA Draft pool.
McCloud was a spot-up shooter who never fared well in the professional ranks.
The Pacers’ Track Record of Drafting Within The First 10 Picks Bodes Well For The Team’s Future
For the most part, the Pacers have a respectable track record of drafting within the first 10 draft selections.
While Indiana hasn’t had that opportunity since 1989, the team’s first-round selection in 2022 – whoever that is – will drastically turn the Pacers’ fortunes around within the next few years.
Indy has a 10.5 percent chance of snagging the first overall pick – something that has never happened in its NBA franchise history.
Could the Pacers make history on May 17?
The Pacers are now 0.5 games ahead of the 4th worst record in the League.
Speaking Jaden Ivey staying home into existence pic.twitter.com/spGllQAidz
— AKRiley (@AKRileyy5) January 5, 2022
Some local fans have been clamoring for Purdue Boilermakers hotshot Jaden Ivey to remain in-state and play for the Pacers.
Ivey and Tyrese Haliburton would form one heck of a backcourt tandem for the Blue and Gold.
The Pacers also can’t go wrong with either forward Jabari Smith Jr. or center Chet Holmgren, who would make Goga Bitadze expendable.
Whoever the next Pacers first-round selection is, it all starts with the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night.