INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers were impressed with Cassius Stanley’s athleticism. New coach Nate Bjorkgren liked his versatility.
Now, Indiana will try to figure out where the 6-foot-6, 193-pound Duke guard fits best.
The Pacers ended a four-hour wait Wednesday night by selecting the 21-year-old freshman with their only pick in the draft, No. 54 overall.
“We had him graded much higher than where he ended up being drafted,” general manager Chad Buchanan said. “We were happy he was there.”
Indiana wasn’t expected to make a major splash on draft night — as it did last season — because Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard traded Indiana’s first-round pick to Milwaukee for guard Malcolm Brogdon in 2019.
But what the Pacers think they found was a shooting guard full of potential.
In his only college season, Stanley started 29 games, averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.7 steals while earning ACC all-freshmen honors. Three other players on that all-freshmen team — Patrick Williams, Cole Anthony and Duke teammate Vernon Carey Jr. — were selected in the top 32 picks.
Stanley slid despite getting rave reviews from some familiar names.
“G @cassius_stanley with his 44″ vertical is one of the best athletes in the NBA Draft,” Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter. “A gym rat and a competitor, he will be a better NBA player than college player!”
The Pacers believe it’s possible.
Buchanan acknowledged Bjorkgren is looking for players who can dribble, pass and shoot, and while the Pacers believe Stanley can excel at all three, they see Stanley’s long frame and athletic skills making him an even better defender.
Where exactly he fits next season, on a deep roster with title aspirations, isn’t exactly clear. He could start with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Indiana’s G-League affiliate, to help him develop as the Pacers chase playoff success.
Indiana has been swept in the first round three of the past four seasons.
But Bjorkgren thinks Stanley can help the Pacers, perhaps even next season.
“Nate really likes his ability to get to the paint, which is a big part of what Nate wants to do,” Buchanan said. “We all feel like he has the potential to be a tremendous defender and that’s what we think he can hang his hat on.”
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