3 2023 NBA Draft targets for Indiana with No. 26 pick – Fitnessnacks & Sports

    Will the Indiana Pacers be able to fight their way into playoff contention during the 2023-24 season?

    Indiana finished with a record of 35-47, good enough for fourth in the Central Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

    The Pacers ended last year’s draft with Arizona forward Bennedict Mathurin, Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard and French guard Hugo Besson. Mathurin had a productive rookie season for Indiana, finishing with averages of 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in 78 games played and 17 starts.

    “(Bennedict) Mathurin is learning a lot about playing as a starter in high-level games and what that’s all about,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said in late March. “I like his vibe, I like his approach, and I like that fact that he is a sponge for information right now.”

    Who could the Pacers look out for at the No. 26 pick? Will they be able to find a diamond in the rough later in the first round?

    Dereck Lively

    Will the Pacers be able to bring in more reliable bigs before the start of the season?

    Forward Jalen Smith, who placed second on the team with 5.8 rebounds per game and third with 0.9 blocks per game, has a player option for the 2024-25 season. Center Myles Turner, who signed a 2-year extension with the Pacers in January, will become an unrestricted free agent in 2025 should he not sign another extension.

    Along with drafting forward Jarace Walker out of Houston, Duke center Dereck Lively could be a solid option for the Pacers to invest in as they continue to build their roster of the future. The 7-foot-1-inch big from Philadelphia, Pa., placed third on the Blue Devils with 5.4 rebounds per game and first in blocks per contest with 2.4 despite playing in just 20.6 minutes per game. He highlighted his season with a 14-rebound and 8-block performance against the North Carolina Tar Heels, grabbing five offensive boards as Duke took a 63-57 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

    “He’s the ultimate team guy,” said Duke head coach Jon Scheyer, via Duke Athletics. “Any NBA franchise will be lucky to have a guy like Dereck because of what he brings to the table, of course from a basketball standpoint, but just as much as who he is as a teammate.

    “I’m so proud of what he’s done and wish him, Kathy and his family the best as he takes the next step. He’s going to be great at the next level.”

    Lively’s interior presence would be a welcomed addition to a Pacers team that averaged 41.5 blocks per game, good enough for 24th in the NBA.

    Dariq Whitehead

    Whitehead entered the 2023 NBA Draft in March, reflecting on what he learned following a solid rookie season at Duke.

    “To my Duke Family, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for your support this past year,” Whitehead’s March statement read. “Through the ups and downs, I’m beyond grateful for the love and encouragement you’ve shown me during my time in Durham. I will always be a Blue Devil.”

    A former 5-star recruit out of Newark, N.J., Whitehead chose the Blue Devils over offers from Florida State, Kansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma State and Rutgers, according to 247Sports. He scored 8.3 points, grabbed 2.4 rebounds and hit at a 42.9% clip from the 3-point arc, good enough to lead the team in percentage from long range.

    “I think it’s just putting the value on himself that he’s more than just a scorer,” Scheyer said in February, via On3. “The way he shot the ball? He does that in practice too. That’s not just a fluke. He’s a legit, really good shooter.

    “The thing for him is adding an attack to the basket. Because game plans are gonna try and take away the three from him. He missed some finishes. I think he’ll make those. The more he does that, the better.”

    Whitehead may be able to contribute early with his ability to knock down shots from deep, adding to a Pacers team that hit 36.7% of its 3-point shots last season, good enough for 11th in the NBA.

    Colby Jones

    Jones, a 6-foot-6-inch guard from Birmingham, Ala., placed third on the Xavier Musketeers with 15 points per game while leading the squad with 4.4 assists per contest. He shot 50.9% from the field and 37.8% from the 3-point line, peaking at 90.9% from the floor when the Musketeers took on Providence in March.

    Jones scored 29 points when the team took down the Providence Friars in a 94-89 win in Amica Mutual Pavilion.

    “Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you won because of a player or two players. We won tonight because (Xavier guard) Souley Boum and Colby Jones were outstanding,” Xavier head coach Sean Miller said, via the Associated Press. “Souley Boum was as good as any guard in the country tonight. Colby was right there with him. In large part that’s why we won.”

    Jones could be a talented scoring and playmaking option off the bench for the Pacers, contributing right away with his size and skill on offense to add to a Pacers reserve unit that ranked in at No. 2 in the league with a 61.3 offensive rating.

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