INDIANAPOLIS — Pacers Vice President of Player Personnel Ryan Carr usually speaks to the media just once a year ahead of the NBA Draft, but this year is different. Indiana will pick sixth overall Thursday, marking its first single-digit pick since 1989, and the franchise knows the stakes are high.
“It’s been a long time, and obviously you want every player you pick, no matter what number, to succeed,” Carr said. “But the sixth pick, this guy, we want him to be a foundational piece for us, and (we’re) looking forward to adding that piece.”
Carr said he expects about seven players to be considered among the top five picks, and the Pacers are doing their due diligence on whoever might get left out.
Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and Duke’s AJ Griffin have done individual workouts for Indiana, and Carr revealed Tuesday that Iowa star Keegan Murray visited for an unannounced individual workout, too. The other headliners the Pacers have hosted are G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels and Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe, who participated in group workouts.
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Sharpe is a bit of a mystery after choosing not to play for the Wildcats during his lone season there, and Carr said he appreciated the chance to see the 19-year-old up close.
“I give him a ton of credit,” Carr said. “They decided they were gonna (have him) do competitive workouts, which, again, I give a lot of credit for because we haven’t been able to see him a lot. … His journey was very unique, so it was really good. We were obviously excited to get him in here.”
Carr, as expected, would not reveal his big board or what players he favors. But from the outside looking in, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey is in a different tier than his aforementioned counterparts, and Carr thinks highly of him.
Ivey did not work out for Indiana, but the team met with him at the NBA Draft Combine, attended his pro-day and spoke to him recently through a Zoom call.
“His speed, I think, is what sets him apart,” Carr said. “There’s just not many players with that kind of speed, the ability to put the pressure on the rim and score. And then he’s really improved over the past couple years his shooting and has shown the ability to hit 3s. … Somebody that fast, if he can hit a jumper and go by you, I don’t know how you guard him.”
The Pacers “don’t have any reservations about (Ivey) at all,” according to Carr, but he would most likely take a trade for Indiana to move up and draft him. Carr said the franchise “feels really good” about the No. 6 pick but it’s always brainstorming ways to move up or down in the draft.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon is “likely” to be traded this week, and Washington and New York could be possible suitors in exchange for the Nos. 10 and 11 picks, respectively. Carr didn’t address any specific trade scenarios and said his job is to evaluate and make suggestions to team president Kevin Pritchard and general manager Chad Buchanan so that “all questions can be answered.”
After visiting with dozens of players leading up to the draft, Carr said the most gratifying part every year is getting to know them beyond what they do on the court.
“(Mathurin is) a great example. He’s been through a lot,” Carr said of the Montreal native. “He’s been to Mexico, he’s been all over the place to play. French is his first language … and for a kid like him, (he’s) probably learned to use that to motivate himself and be the player that he can be. He was a fun kid to get to know.”
Of course Carr can’t base his decisions off of who he thinks “could be friends with my kid,” so his approach is to find a balance between what the team needs and what a player offers.
“The season to get here wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” Carr said of the Pacers finishing 25-57. “But hopefully (the No. 6 pick) is the reward for all of the players, our guys, going through a tough season and our whole staff, and being able to hopefully help us get back to where we want to be.”