By Michael Marot The Associated Press
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers could do just about anything in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
They might add another scorer to the bench. They may consider dealing their first-round pick for a veteran player. Heck, general manager Kevin Pritchard acknowledged this week, he may even trade up.
About the only real certainty is that the Pacers want to find a couple of missing pieces to make a title run next season.
“We know where we’re at and where we’re trying to be — a top team,” Pritchard told reporters Tuesday during the team’s informal pre-draft availability.
Indiana is getting close.
Since taking over as interim coach during the 2010-11, Frank Vogel led Indiana to the playoffs in a half-season, to a first-round victory over Orlando in his first full season as head coach and to the Eastern Conference finals this year before losing in seven games to two-time NBA champion Miami.
To continue that trend next season, the Pacers need to re-sign power forward David West, an unrestricted free agent, reduce their turnovers and add depth to a bench that was not as effective as needed against Miami.
Team executives believe they can do all three.
While they can’t re-sign West till next week, those at team headquarters believe another summer of workouts will help clean things up offensively, and if Danny Granger returns to form after missing 76 games with a knee injury last season, the Pacers may have the big scorer they lacked against Miami.
It’s a draft most analysts believe is deep, rather than top-heavy, and that could play right into the hands of the Pacers. The Pacers are scheduled to make one pick in each of the two rounds, Nos. 23 and 53 overall.
“I think that we can get better shooting as every team in the league can get, we can get a defensive player or two at different positions, playmakers, so we’re looking at those elements more than individual players,” president of basketball operations Donnie Walsh said. “I feel like the bench will get better as time goes on. I think the guys that played in the playoffs pretty much did what we expected them, too.”
Pritchard has a penchant for being aggressive on draft night and he could be again. While acknowledging his phone has been ringing since last week, and Pritchard isn’t ruling anything out.
Rumors have heated up over the possibility of a trade for Jimmer Fredette, the 2011 college player of the year. Fredette was considered a big-time shooter coming out of school and was taken No. 10 overall before struggling with the Kings. In two NBA seasons, he has made seven starts, scored 7.4 points and shot 40.2 percent from the field. Critics contend he’s not a good defender or rebounder, ingredients that may not fit well with Indiana’s philosophy.
The Pacers have brought in more than three dozen players for workouts, and there’s no clear consensus on who Indiana will take.
Mock drafts have Indiana projected to take anyone from Tim Hardaway Jr. to Ricky Ledo. The common thread is that each is a guard, a move that could help Indiana improve.
“It’s been my history to move and be active,” Pritchard said with a smile. “Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. What we want is somebody who fits what we’re about, who can come in and may be able to crack our rotation.”