Things get dicey around the fifth pick in this draft class. Barring something unforeseen, the four players currently off the board feel like locks. At this point, GMs will sort between preference, fit, depth insurance, pressing needs, and pre-draft performances. For an Indiana Pacers team that seems interested in competing now while still building something new, Adrian Griffin Jr. is a strong bet to lean on.
Younger than many of his contemporaries, Griffin is a talented two-way player with an ideal frame for a modern NBA wing. Through his lone season at Duke, Griffin shot an astounding 48.3% from deep. Pundits will shoehorn him as a 3-and-D prospect, but it’s more complex than that.
On one side of the coin, Griffin flashed brilliance as a creative and tough shot-maker who generally thrives in physical competition. His downfall is that he got caught lacking on defense more than one might be comfortable with despite him having the tools to make a serious impact on that end.
Griffin’s dormant potential as a breakout star rests in his on-ball capabilities. If he figures out how to tighten his handle and manipulate defenses on a consistent basis, Griffin could be scary. Still, he’ll be an effective low-usage, off-ball player early in his career. He’s a savvy cutter who relocates around the court to put himself in optimal positions. Whether that results in a dunk, pull-up, or catch-and-shoot triple, Griffin remains fearless and composed. That same mindset persists when driving to the basket— an area where he generally draws a lot of fouls.
As a defender, Griffin remains intriguing yet unpolished. At times, he uses his strength and quickness to pester opponents on the perimeter and off drives—albeit he has yet to fully realize the functionality of his athleticism. With the proper coaching and repetition, he should become a fine defender in the pros.
By selecting Griffin at No. 5, the Indiana Pacers are shooting for the stars. The 18-year-old’s ceiling is high and floor remains low, but given the middle ground that Indiana is stuck in right now, a long-term investment in the wing position would be a wise choice.