The 1996 NBA Draft was one of the best drafts in NBA history.
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and many more great NBA players were part of the special class.
In that draft, the Indiana Pacers were coming off of a season where they went 52-30, but lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks.
They had the tenth overall pick in the draft thanks to a prior trade.
At the time, they were led by shooting guard Reggie Miller who averaged 21.1 points per game in 1995-96.
Their starting point guard was Mark Jackson, who averaged 7.8 assists per game in 1995-96.
Therefore, the Pacers selected a big-man in Erick Dampier.
During his 16-year NBA career, Dampier only played one season (his rookie year in 1996-97) in Indiana.
After his rookie season, he was sent to the Golden State Warriors in a deal that landed the Pacers Chris Mullin.
Looking back, the draft selection was not a very good one by the Pacers when they could have selected Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and others.
What if the Pacers had drafted Nash?
At the time, the Pacers had a starting point guard in Jackson, so they did not need a point guard.
However, the following season the Phoenix Suns traded for Jason Kidd (after selecting Nash 15th overall) and while they had Nash, they had a superstar in Kidd as the starting point guard.
Nash only played 10.5 minutes per game during his rookie season.
Therefore, he could have done the same thing in Indiana.
The Pacers had been coming off of a 50+ win season, so they had merit to draft for a need rather than someone based on potential who would play sparingly at a position they already had filled.
Even so, the idea of Nash and Miller in a backcourt is a scary one.
Nash did not have his breakout season until the 2000-01 season on the Dallas Mavericks when he averaged 15.6 points and 7.3 assists per game.
That same season, Miller was 35 years old, but still averaged 18.9 points per game.
The season before that?
The Pacers had made it all the way to the NBA Finals where they lost to Bryant and the Lakers.
Their point guard that season was a 34 year old Jackson who averaged 8.1 points and 8.0 assists per game.
Nash only had averages of 8.6 points and 4.9 assists per game that season, but he was also only 25 years old.
Maybe if a younger Nash had been given the keys to the Pacers offense, he would have had his breakout season even sooner than when he had it on the Mavericks in 2001.
Nash and Miller in a backcourt could have been very exciting.