The Pacers entered the draft with the need to add a starting power forward to pair with center Myles Turner in the frontcourt. Turner signed a two-year, $60 million contract extension in January, locking down the former No. 11 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft until 2025. Forwards Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson will be under contract for Indiana next season, according to sports contract and salary website Spotrac.
The Pacers traded the No. 7 pick to the Washington Wizards for the No. 8 pick and two second-round selections. They would take Houston forward Jarace Walker before moving on to select Belmont guard Ben Sheppard, G League Ignite guard Mojave King and Miami guard Isaiah Wong.
Who did the Pacers take with their selections in Thursday's draft?
Round 1, No. 8: Jarace Walker, Houston
Walker, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from New Freedom, Pa., was a former 5-star recruit from the 2022 recruiting class. He chose Houston over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, LSU, UConn, Florida State, Georgia, Howard, Michigan, Nebraska and Syracuse, among others, according to 247Sports.
Walker scored 11.2 points, grabbed 6.8 rebounds and blocked 1.3 shots per game during his lone season with the Cougars. He had a 16-point, 11-rebound, five-assist and four-block performance when Houston fell to the Miami Hurricanes in March Madness, grabbing three offensive rebounds as the Hurricanes earned an 89-75 victory in the Sweet 16.
Walker worked out for the Pacers earlier this month, showcasing his talent on offense and defense before sitting down for a one-on-one interview.
“My playmaking, offensive rebounding and just good shot creation.” Walker said when asked what strengths on offense would translate best to the next level, via The Pacers. “Getting a shot for myself, and creating for myself and others.”
Round 1, No. 26: Ben Sheppard, Belmont
Sheppard, a four-year veteran at Belmont, earned averages of 18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists during his final season with the Bruins. He saw his percentages from the 3-point line increased during every one of his seasons with Belmont, peaking at the 41.5% he shot last year.
Sheppard took second place in the Missouri Valley Conference with 18.8 points per game, taking one spot behind Valparaiso guard Ben Krikke. His shooting and overall versatility can make him a solid fit for the Pacers.
“He's kind of a little off the radar maybe to some people, but he's a player that's got better and better with each year at Belmont,” Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan said, via NBA.com. “A guy that just moves without the ball, knows how to play without the ball, is a high-level shooter.”
Sheppard took pride in his versatility when he sat down with the Pacers for a one-on-one interview of his own.
“Super versatile,” Sheppard said when asked how he would describe his game. “Both on the defensive and offensive side. I feel I can do a lot. Most people know me as a shooter, a 3-and-D-type guy. But I think I’m more than that. I can pass the ball too, rebound, stuff like that.”
Round 2, No. 47: Mojave King, G League Ignite
King, a 6-foot-5-inch guard from Dunedin, New Zealand, played for G League Ignite last season. He earned averages 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game over the G League's regular season and its Winter Showcase Tournament.
King said he played in transition during his one-on-one interview with Indiana, making him a solid fit for a team who scored 1.18 points per possession in transition. The figure put them at fourth in the league in front of the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks.
“I'd describe my game as someone who likes playing in transition,” King said, via The Pacers. “Playing fast, getting up and down. I like to shoot threes as well. My athleticism is definitely a big part of my game, so I like to show that as well in these workouts. I like to try and get up, play at the rim a lot as well.”
Round 2, No. 55: Isaiah Wong, Miami
Wong is a four-year veteran with Miami. He averaged 14.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and one steal per game over 132 games and 112 starts with the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-4-inch guard shot a comfortable 38.4% from the 3-point line during his final season with Miami.
Wong worked out with the Atlanta Hawks this month, highlighting how he can be a sparkplug for a team.
“(I can be) a player that can offense and defense and just be a spark plug to a team and help the team as much as possible and just be a hard-worker,” Wong said in an interview with Hawks.com, via Inside The U. “I just want to be one of them players that you know he's going to give his 100 percent effort on the court.”