Like his twin brother Amen, Ausar Thompson measured in with a 7-foot wingspan at the draft combine this week. Add that to his elite athleticism and growing offensive game and there is an elite-level prospect available. He would fill an immediate need for the Pacers on the defensive end of the court as a versatile wing. Indiana is still very much in the talent-gathering business and adding Thompson would be a great pick for years to come.
26. Kris Murray, Iowa
Murray, who is training with his twin brother, looks to be a great option for teams in this range. He was the only Division I player to average at least 20 points, seven rebounds and one block with at least 65 3-pointers this season and should step in as an athletic wing player at the next level. With three first-round picks this year, the Pacers can fill quite a few needs on draft night.
29. Andre Jackson, Connecticut
Jackson was one of eight players in the country to record at least 225 points, 200 rebounds and 150 assists last season. After shooting just 28.1% from 3-point range, Jackson is working daily to improve his shot and said it is his biggest point of emphasis during his pre-draft training. But it will be his rebounding and potential as a lockdown defender that teams will love at this stage of the draft.
Nothing is more valuable in the NBA right now than wings who can shoot, and Dick is the best shooter in this draft. He made more than 40% of the 5.7 3-pointers he attempted per game for the outright Big 12 regular-season champs and would fit nicely alongside Tyrese Haliburton.
26. Marcus Sasser, Houston
Sasser is a combo guard who played a big role in helping Houston secure a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. His ability to playmake and reliably make jumpers will give him a chance to stick in the NBA even if he is a little on the small side.
29. Terquavion Smith, NC State
Smith already has a strong pull-up game and the athleticism to make big plays on both sides of the court. If he becomes a more efficient version of himself and adds strength, he'll turn out to be very worthy of a late first-round selection.
The Pacers need a power forward and it would be a no-brainer to select Whitmore if he falls into their lap at No. 7.
Whitmore's freshman season was delayed by thumb surgery and he didn't consistently produce at the level that was expected upon his return, but the flashes were bright enough to see his high ceiling of potential. The 18-year-old is a powerful athlete with a blend of size, strength and speed. He's a force around the basket and dunks everything, bullying his way to the rim off the dribble or using his explosive leaping ability to throw down lobs.
He's another versatile forward who fits the mold of a desired archetype in today's NBA and All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton would elevate Whitmore to another level immediately.
26. Rayan Rupert, New Zealand Breakers
The Pacers are in a rebuilding phase and could use some depth on the wing.
A product of the NBL Next Stars program, Rupert comes into the draft with some professional experience playing a limited role for the New Zealand Breakers. At 6-7 with a 7-3 wingspan, Rupert is a versatile defender who has the length to hold his own in the paint but the quickness to keep up with wings. He's a raw product offensively, but he's a willing shooter, shot creator and passer.
29. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
The Pacers may look to add to their frontcourt depth chart, pairing Jackson-Davis with a younger Whitmore (No. 7 overall) to fill that void.
Jackson-Davis was been one of the most productive players in the NCAA, averaging 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He's a non-shooter from the perimeter — which is why you won't see him as a first-rounder in some mock drafts — but his skill, feel for the game, switchability on defense and activity on both sides of the ball should warrant consideration around this range.
It helps his case that Jackson-Davis played his college basketball right down the road at Indiana.
The Scout: Walker is about as well-rounded a forward/big prospect as you'll find. He's 6-8 with a 7-2 wingspan. He's a terrific passer and playmaker, particularly as a short-roll weapon out of ball screens. Walker improved a bit as a shooter this past season, making 34.7 percent from 3, albeit on limited volume. But where he really makes his mark is on defense. Walker is a tremendous, instinctive defensive player whose reactivity and basketball IQ makes him a wildly impactful help defender flying all across the court. On top of it, he's switchable as a man-to-man defender who can manage all but the quickest guards (and that includes sliding up onto centers because of his shredded 240-pound frame). There are some questions on how he'll score effectively in the NBA if the jumper doesn't come along, and that could resign him toward being more of a rotation player if it doesn't happen. But Walker will help you win basketball games.
The Fit: The Pacers have a real need for defensive players. They were 26th in defensive rating this season despite getting nearly 2,000 minutes from an elite defensive center in Myles Turner. Realistically, they need guys who can play strong help defense as well as provide switchable, aggressive on-ball defense. Walker would be a strong start in this respect, and he'd be a strong complement next to Turner because of that ability to make plays and pass.
26. Rayan Rupert, New Zealand Breakers
The Scout: Rupert is arguably the first NBL Next Star in Australia to make a positive impact on a winning team. He was terrific as an aggressive, defensive-minded wing for a New Zealand Breakers team that made the NBL Finals this past season. At 6-7 with a 7-3 wingspan, Rupert has immense upside on that end. He's laterally quick and aggressive, plus has strong instincts in help defense for a teenager. How far Rupert goes will be determined by his offense. He's an iffy shooter right now who isn't quite strong enough on the ball to make consistent plays. He has good passing vision from growing up as a guard, but he doesn't really have the handle or burst to pressure the defense yet. He's a project, but the physical tools make him one with very real upside.
The Fit: The Pacers have multiple first-round picks and certainly can afford to take a bit of a risk on talent. The team has its point guard of the future in Tyrese Haliburton and a tremendous pressure wing in Bennedict Mathurin who lived at the foul line this season. Next, with Rupert, they could try to shore up the perimeter defense that was a borderline catastrophe at times this season.
29. James Nnaji, Barcelona
The Scout: Nnaji is a developmental big with prodigious tools. He is 6-11 with an enormous 7-5 wingspan and is one of the few players in this class outside of Wembanyama who will have plus size for the NBA center position. He's an awesome vertical athlete who is an elite catch-and-finish player around the basket because of his catch radius and hands. Defensively, he's pretty OK in drop coverage for a player who is still young in the game. And the tools for contesting around the basket are terrific. He hasn't been wildly productive this season while playing on a loaded Barcelona team, but teams are intrigued by any big this big, this explosive and this coordinated.
The Fit: The Pacers' third pick of the first round, Nnaji would represent an interesting potential developmental option in the middle. As a rebuilding team with an actual option at the center position already in Turner, they can afford to be patient with Nnaji as he develops the intricacies of his game. The team does still have incredibly athletic 2021 first-round pick Isaiah Jackson on the roster as a developmental big, but he has been a bit too hit or miss because of strength issues on the interior and technique issues on the perimeter (he is very jumpy and overaggressive). Year Three will be a make-or-break year, potentially, for Jackson. So it might make sense to have an option in the fold beyond him.
Hendricks continues to be a consistent riser in the draft due to his size and the way he seemingly plays position-less basketball. His versatility in this range might make him more appealing than the other guards because he has multiple skills at different positions and plenty of upside. Because of his length, he's a proficient spot-up shooter, particularly in the corner, and shows signs of being a reliable secondary scorer at the next level.
26. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
Jackson-Davis made a strong statement to close out the season and showed how valuable he is in a two-man game off-ball screens and in high-low situations. He might not be the biggest forward in this draft class, but he has crafty footwork around the rim and a much improved midrange game.
29. Jalen Wilson, Kansas
Wilson showed improvement from his sophomore year to junior year and proved to scouts there's still room for growth in his game. He took on more of a leadership role this past season at Kansas and played with more confidence and shot more consistently. The Clippers could use more size at the wing position with both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard suffering injuries this past season.
Hendricks has given off high-floor, high-ceiling vibes with convincing shooting and defensive versatility, plus room/time to build on the flashes of pull-ups and drives past closeouts. Indiana should picture a cornerstone three-and-D forward who'll be valuable, regardless of how much his off-the-dribble game develops.
26. Noah Clowney, Alabama
Clowney can help himself in workouts with the three-ball that flickered on and off throughout his freshman season. Teams ultimately know they'd be getting a project regardless. The Pacers could deem it worth waiting for his three-and-D, power forward archetype to fully take shape.
29. Leonard Miller, G League Ignite
Miller has pushed himself into the first-round mix, showing the type of improvement that will sway teams to bet on more development. The idea of a 6'10", 19-year-old wing who can push the break, attack closeouts, score with touch and potentially make threes will look enticing in the 20s.
The other Thompson twin is a tremendous prospect in his own right. Like his brother, Ausar is an elite athlete at 6'7 with a 7-foot wingspan who wrecks havoc defensively and thrives when the game is in transition. He's a better shooter than his brother, though his jumper isn't exactly a strength yet after hitting 29.8 percent of his threes on 3.8 attempts per game. Ausar is more of a wing while Amen projects as a point guard, and isn't as dynamic off the dribble. Instead, Ausar projects as more of a connective off-ball perimeter player, which could give him a cleaner projection to the league than his brother if his jumper fully comes around.
26. Jordan Hawkins, Connecticut
Hawkins was the perimeter star of UConn's run to the national championship, and his movement shooting ability makes him an enticing fit in the NBA. The 6'5 guard doesn't create much with the ball in his hands, but he can zip around screens and hit threes playing off the ball. His footwork coming off pindowns is pristine, and the way he gathers himself to get off a shot so quickly is impressive. Scouts will wonder about his decision-making after he finished with more turnovers than assists on the year, but the team that drafts will be doing so for his shooting.
29. Bobi Klintman, Wake Forest
Klintman is a 6'10 Swede with a projectable 3-and-D skill set as a modern power forward. While he only averaged 5.3 points per game as a freshman at Wake Forest, Klintman showed off an impressive catch-and-shoot stroke (36.8 percent from three) and moves well in space. He's extremely raw, but the sales pitch is intriguing enough to get him looks at the end of the first.
Walker could go as high as No. 5 to Detroit in this draft so this would be a nice value for the Pacers. He's a physically ready prospect who plays with relentless energy on both ends and projects cleanly as a do-it-all power forward who can stretch the floor.
26. Colby Jones, Xavier
One of my favorite prospects in this class. Jones is one of those players who can fade in and out of games, then you look up and he has 10 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Impacts winning in a variety of ways.
29. Terquavion Smith, NC State
Smith is a twitchy athlete who I thought was a first-round talent a year ago before withdrawing and returning to NC State. He basically held steady production-wise but his improvement as a passer and decision-maker has unlocked even more upside for him.
Based on the catch-all metric C-RAM, via Cerebro Sports, UCF's Taylor Hendricks trailed only Miller for the best mark among all freshmen.
Hendricks is one of just ten high-major freshmen to record at least 35 dunks and 3-pointers in the same season. Eight of the previous nine were lottery picks and seven heard their name called as one of the first seven picks in their respective draft class.
Although he was not a consensus top-50 recruit coming out of high school, after such an impressive freshman year, it is easy to see why Hendricks may continue to rise during the pre-draft process.
26. Bilal Coulibaly, Metropolitans 92
Bilal Coulibaly is climbing up mock drafts and big boards of late, and it's easy to see why.
While he played well as teammates with Wembanyana in France's top-tier division, he was especially productive in the LNB Espoirs for the under-21 age group. Coulibaly averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game across 16 appearances in the LNB Espoirs.
He led all players in pure scoring prowess (PSP) and defensive statistical impact (DSI), per Cerebro.
29. Colby Jones, Xavier
Xavier's Colby Jones is a do-it-all guard who projects well as a very solid contributor at the next level. He nearly had a triple-double during the NCAA men's tournament, recording 10 points and 14 rebounds with 7 assists during a victory over Pitt.
Jones and Podziemski were the only non-seniors in Division I men's college basketball to hold a rating of 65 or higher in each skill of the five-metric suite (5MS), per Cerebro Sports.