Pacers draft pair of UCLA big men, Kevin Pritchard discusses Paul George situation

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 5: T.J. Leaf #22 of the UCLA Bruins dribbles the ball down court during the game against the Califorinia Golden Bears at Pauley Pavilion on January 5, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, NY. – The Indiana Pacers selected a pair of UCLA big men in the 2017 NBA Draft to help lead the rebuild and made a move early Friday to add another player to the roster.

UCLA forward TJ Leaf was selected with the no. 18 overall selection in the first-round. Leaf is a 6′ 10″ stretch power forward who averaged 16.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG in his freshman year with the Bruins.

The Pacers also selected  UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu with the 47th overall pick in the second-round of the NBA Draft.  He was teammates with Leaf. The team made a trade early Friday to acquire the draft rights for Edmond Sumner, the 52nd overall pick from New Orleans. The Pacers acquired Sumner in exchange for cash considerations.

The team’s first-round pick, Leaf, boasts an above-average wingspan at 7’0″ and averaged over a block a game for Steve Alford’s group. Following the selection, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said that he had an opportunity to spend some time with Leaf when he was in Indianapolis for a pre-draft workout.

“I think he has a great feel for the game,” McMillan told me media at Bankers Life Fieldhouse about 20 minutes after the pick was made. “I really love his spirit. When he came in, his workout was really good. He’s a very positive kid, a very confident kid and believes in team basketball. He believes in playing the game the right way.”

McMillan also noted that Leaf’s strong basketball IQ and versatility stood out during his workout and are qualities that will make him a strong addition to the Pacers roster.

However, much of the draft night attention focused on how the Pacers are handling offers to trade Paul George. Pacers President Kevin Pritchard called hearing the news of George’s desires to leave Indiana and potentially play for the Lakers after next season as a “gut punch.” While Pritchard says the front office entertained numerous offers to trade the All-Star, they did not want to rush into a deal.

“We have a lot of things still ongoing. Multiple things came up tonight that we looked at including draft picks, but at the end of the day, there’s so much other stuff that don’t include draft picks that we decided to stay put and look at everything that is on the board in the future,” Pritchard said late Thursday night.

“There’s enough on the board that we feel good about that we could make a move at anytime,” Pritchard added, indicating that conversations are ongoing. “We don’t want to be rushed. We want to be methodical in our decision making. We have to do what’s best for our organization.”

As for the Pacers top pick in the 2017 Draft, it’s going to be a little bit of a homecoming as Leaf’s father is originally from Indianapolis. He played high school ball for Jack Keefer at Lawrence North in the late 70s and then starred at the University of Evansville. He was drafted by the Pacers in 1982, but didn’t sign.

His mother is from Evansville and most of her family still lives there.

Watch an interview the Pacers posted with Leaf following a workout earlier this draft season.

“I just have a ton of family here and my roots are from here, so it would be a lot,” said Leaf on the idea of being drafted by Indiana.

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