The NBA Draft and last call at Rock Lobster share one thing in common and it’s not a European that no one invited emerging from the crowd to hug David Stern after pick 57. Both are considered the land of opportunity. A world where “upside” trumps video from 40 games played during the last college basketball season.

It’s a time of the year when 29 teams just saw another team hoist the trophy. Often, it’s so close to the last game of the NBA Finals that teams can’t think rationally. For example, Houston is rumored to be stockpiling picks in the hopes that Orlando will trade them Dwight Howard for a one-year rental. And that they’ll be able to convince Deron Williams to sign a free agent deal. Neither has any desire to buy a house in Houston.

This week, the Pacers front office bid adieu to Larry Bird and David Morway, welcomed Donnie Walsh and promoted Kevin Pritchard. All smart men. All have been part of one of the most prolonged rebuilding efforts in NBA history. A third-place finish in the East and a series loss to the Miami Heat is a pretty good season.

The Pacers need to realize this is step two in a series of steps.

(An aside here) In February of 2011, I was down in Dallas for the Super Bowl. I remember sitting in a Mexican restaurant, arguing about the Pacers over under-seasoned guacamole and oversized margaritas. My point was the NBA is not like college basketball or the NFL. The parts equal the parts; there is no sum that is greater than the parts themselves. The Pacers didn’t have a top-five player at any position, and in a superstar-driven league, that meant the Pacers would finish as a team where their players ranked. If you have the 16th-best player at each position, that makes you an 8 seed. It’s just math because you don’t play NBA games with 15 guys, you play them with eight, four of whom have a real impact.

But, I was proven wrong this season. George Hill, Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Tyler Hansbrough, and Roy Hibbert did something they shouldn’t have on paper. I’ll concede that Granger has been an All-Star and Hibbert was one this season. Still, Nike isn’t basing 2013 sales on advertising plans with any of these guys.

The knee-jerk reaction (and what fans in central Indiana are clamoring for) would be to make a big move to put them over the top. Let me say that I love Indianapolis, but it’s not a place where many 25-year-old millionaires are going to choose to sign as free agents. So, you build through trades or the draft. And the Pacers have done this well. Would I entertain a Danny Granger for Eric Gordon trade? Yes, I would. But New Orleans has the leverage there and won’t be forced into a sign-and-trade for their lone NBA talent (prior to the 8:30 p.m. first pick). Don’t overthink the fact that Granger is your superstar, but maybe the #3 option on other teams. Don’t trade him for two picks or a second-year player with tons of upside. What you have is working. Stay the course.

So, in the coming weeks you re-sign George Hill and Roy Hibbert at market value and allow this team to continue to grow together. You follow the Oklahoma City model as compared to Miami. (And let me say the OKC model is much easier with multiple top-5 picks, which the Pacers have not had. What Larry Bird has done to assemble this team has been remarkable.) You re-sign Leandro Barbosa at a good price to get you some scoring off the bench. You find a Joel Pryzbilla-type to back up Hibbert. And you find two or three other pieces to look good in warm-ups on the bench during games.

And tonight you draft another piece of the puzzle. A point guard like Kentucky’s Marquis Teague to groom for a year in case you decide Darren Collison isn’t worth a big contract as a back-up point guard next year. A wing player such as Vanderbilt’s Jeff Taylor or a big body such as Vandy’s Festus Ezeli to add to your rotation. Even a power forward who falls – such as St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson – could witness on the bench for a year and then become your back-up if you only re-sign one of the two impending free agent power forwards (West and Hansbrough).

Patience. Stay the course. Allow this plan so long in the making to come to fruition. You won me over this year; you must be doing something right.

A few draft predictions (I mean wild assumptions) prior to the first pick:

– If Jared Sullinger is on the board once the lottery concludes at number 14, every NBA team should take him. At that point in the draft, you’re most likely looking at a role player who will contribute for no more than five years. Sullinger’s production makes him worth the injury risk. He’s DeJuan Blair with more college accolades.

– I don’t think there will be as many trades as the experts expect tonight. If this draft is so deep (and so lacking superstars), most teams are going to have a lot of guys with similar grades on the board. It doesn’t make sense to give up additional assets to trade up for a player who has a carbon copy who will fall in your lap.

– Will be an interesting night for the Tar Heels. I don’t like Harrison Barnes nearly as much as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal, but he’ll go high. I think Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall could all fall out of the lottery. Might be that there are so many similar frames (Meyers Leonard, Andre Drummond, Terrence Jones, etc.) and if you are flipping coins, you go back to the tape. Because of the Tar Heels’ depth, those guys don’t show up as often on the tape.

– The Hornets would be wise to use the #10 pick on a center to take some pressure off Anthony Davis. Meyers Leonard or Andre Drummond would be a good risk worth taking. You can always find a serviceable point guard (Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Andre Miller) that a team is willing to move because they have two and both are due paydays.

– I like Draymond Green, but he is a man without a position. He doesn’t have an NBA power forward body and he’s not quick enough to guard NBA small forwards. But, he’s a great locker room guy and worth the first pick of the second round for a team that needs to establish a winning culture.

– I am extremely biased, but Vandy’s John Jenkins is the best shooter (by far) in this draft, especially in terms of contested threes. Vandy’s Jeff Taylor is the most athletic wing in this draft. And Vandy’s Festus Ezeli has the most NBA-ready body of the centers in this draft. If you get any of those three in the second round, you’re getting extremely strong value.

– Three players worth trading a future second-rounder to get a pick between 50 and 60 and select in this year’s draft: Kentucky’s Darius Miller (will be a great role player and defender on a good team), Marquette’s Jae Crowder (this year’s Kenneth Farried of Nuggets fame), and Kevin Jones from West Virginia (productive college player who will carve out a 10-year career as an 8-point, 5-rebound guy in limited minutes off your bench – He’s Ryan Gomes, but you don’t know who Ryan Gomes is, but he’s been in the league 10 years, averaging 8 and 5).

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