Following the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, the Indiana Pacers joined the NBA. They haven’t won an NBA title, although they have had some famous players on their roster. They have committed many mistakes, such as poor draft picks and trades.
Overall, the Pacers have struggled throughout their NBA history.
Here are the worst draft mistakes by the Indiana Pacers:
1978 NBA Draft
Indiana Pacers Selected: Rick Robey, 3rd Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Larry Bird (6th Overall Pick)
In the 1978 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers made a big mistake by selecting Rick Robey as their third overall pick. Robey didn’t perform well and was traded halfway through his rookie season. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics picked Larry Bird as the sixth overall pick, who became one of the greatest players in NBA history, leading the Celtics to championships and earning multiple MVP awards. Indiana’s regret is Boston’s joy as Bird was passed over by five other teams.
1983 NBA Draft
Indiana Pacers Selected: Steve Stipanovich, 2nd Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Clyde Drexler (14th Overall Pick)
In the 1983 NBA Draft, the Pacers selected Steve Stipanovich as their second pick to address their frontcourt needs. Although Stipanovich had decent numbers during his five seasons with the team, his career was cut short due to a knee injury. The Pacers missed out on Clyde Drexler, who was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers as the 14th pick. Drexler became a top shooting guard in the NBA, leading his team to the Finals and eventually winning a championship with the Houston Rockets in 1995.
1989 NBA Draft
Indiana Pacers Select: George McCloud, 7th Overall Pick
Better Available Picks: Shawn Kemp (17th Overall Pick)
In the 1989 NBA Draft, the Pacers made another mistake by selecting George McCloud as a top-10 pick. McCloud turned out to be a huge bust, averaging low numbers during his four seasons with Indiana. Meanwhile, Shawn Kemp, who was picked 17th overall, had a successful career as a consistent double-double player and All-Star for the Seattle SuperSonics, reaching the NBA Finals in 1996.
1993 NBA Draft
Indiana Pacers Selected: Scott Haskin, 14th Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Sam Cassell (24th Overall Pick)
In the 1993 NBA Draft, the Pacers made a mistake by selecting Scott Haskin, who played only 27 games in his career and performed poorly. They could have chosen Sam Cassell, a point guard who had a successful career, including All-Star appearances and three NBA championships.
2006 NBA Draft
Indiana Pacers Select: Shawne Williams, 17th Overall Pick
Better Available Picks: Rajon Rondo (21st Overall Pick), Kyle Lowry (24th Overall Pick)
In the 2006 NBA Draft, the Pacers made another mistake by selecting Shawne Williams, who had a short and underwhelming stint with the team. They could have chosen Rajon Rondo, who won NBA championships and earned multiple All-Star and All-Defensive Team selections. Kyle Lowry was also available, and he went on to achieve success with the Toronto Raptors, including an NBA championship and multiple All-Star appearances.
Here are worst trade mistakes by the Pacers:
1980 trade between the Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers Receive: George McGinnis
Denver Nuggets Receive: Alex English, 1980 First-Round Draft Pick
In 1980, the Pacers made a catastrophic trade by sending George McGinnis to the Nuggets for Alex English. McGinnis’s career was winding down, while English became a prolific scorer, winning a scoring title and earning multiple All-Star appearances. The Pacers struggled during that period, with their best season being a 41-41 record.
1981 trade between the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers
Indiana Pacers Receive: Tom Owens
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: 1984 First-Round Draft Pick
In 1981, the Pacers made one of the worst trades in NBA history by trading a future first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Tom Owens. The pick they gave away turned out to be the second overall pick in 1984, which could have been used to select either Sam Bowie or Michael Jordan. While there was no way to predict Jordan’s future greatness, the Pacers missed out on the opportunity to make that choice.
1993 trade between the Indiana Pacers and the Seattle SuperSonics
Indiana Pacers Receive: Derrick McKey, Gerald Paddio
Seattle SuperSonics Receive: Detlef Schrempf
The Pacers made a regrettable trade in 1993 by sending Detlef Schrempf to the Seattle SuperSonics. Schrempf went on to become an All-Star and a key player for the SuperSonics, helping them reach the 1996 NBA Finals. In return, the Pacers received Derrick McKey and Gerald Paddio, who had limited success with the team.
2011 trade between the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs
Indiana Pacers Receive: George Hill
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Kawhi Leonard, Davis Bertans, Erazem Lorbek
In 2011, the Pacers traded Kawhi Leonard, their 15th overall pick, to the Spurs for George Hill. Leonard went on to become a superstar, winning multiple championships and Finals MVP awards. Hill was decent for the Pacers, but the trade is considered a major mistake given Leonard’s success.