Indiana Pacers 50th anniversary: All-Decade team, 1987-97

Nov 18, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A general view of the 50 year logo on the court prior to the game between the Indiana Pacers and the Phoenix Suns at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers are celebrating their 50th year as a franchise in 2017. Here we present the Pacers’ All-Decade team for their third 10 years of existence, 1987-97.

The early years in the NBA were difficult for the Indiana Pacers, but things began to look up as the franchise embarked on its third decade.

Under the leadership of general manager Donnie Walsh, the Pacers began to build a team (mostly through the NBA Draft) that would ascend, and ultimately, contend.

Indiana made the NBA Playoffs seven times during this decade, including two appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals (1994 and 1995).

New rivalries were born, as the New York Knicks provided a formidable playoff foe for the Pacers in the early ’90s. New stars also appeared on the horizon, several of whom will be featured on this All-Decade team.

The 10-year period between 1987-97 signaled a reemergence for the Indiana Pacers, creating a transition from a rather gloomy first NBA decade for the franchise; hope and success were now the words of the day.

In honor of the Indiana Pacers’ 50th season as a franchise, we are naming an All-Decade team for each 10-year span in the team’s history.

Each Pacers All-Decade team will have five members and they are listed in alphabetical order. We continue the series now with Indiana’s third decade as a franchise, 1987-97. You can check out the previous All-Decade teams here: 1967-77 and 1977-87.

Dale Davis

Statistics: 9.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 0.9 APG

Dale Davis’ statistics may not jump off the page, but his contributions and importance to the Indiana Pacers certainly should.

Davis was chosen by the Pacers with the 13th pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, and at the time, many pundits saw this choice as a “reach” since Davis did not have much offensive skill.

Those critics turned out to be quite mistaken. Dale Davis supplied rugged rebounding and virtually unequaled toughness, helping Indiana become a playoff team and eventually a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.

Davis also knew how to play within himself, as he focused on defense, rebounding and scoring close to the basket on dunks, layups, lobs and putbacks.

Dale Davis was a prime example of a player whose value went far beyond the statistics — he was the heart and soul of the Indiana Pacers for the better part of a decade.

Reggie Miller

Statistics: 18.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG

Reggie Miller’s career with the Pacers started in rather inauspicious fashion: his selection in the 1987 NBA Draft was met with a loud chorus of boos by fans in attendance at Indiana’s draft party.

Many Pacers fans at the time pined for their team to choose New Castle High School and Indiana University star Steve Alford, and when the All-American guard was available but passed over by the Pacers, fans nearly rioted.

Reggie Miller did not need long to turn those boos to cheers, however, as he more than justified his status as the No. 11 pick that year.

Miller’s NBA career is now the stuff of legend, particularly in the state of Indiana. He was highly productive, but he was also known as a deadly clutch shooter, leading Indiana to a number of memorable playoff victories in his 18 years with the team.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame welcomed Reggie Miller to its ranks in 2012, putting the final touch on a long and stellar career that will likely never be matched by anyone who wears an Indiana Pacers uniform now, or in the future.

Chuck Person

Statistics: 19.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

Ah, the art of deception. The Indiana Pacers wanted Auburn forward Chuck Person in the 1986 NBA Draft, but the New York Knicks had their eye on him as well.

The Pacers put the word out that they were going to pick a big man with the No. 4 overall choice, so the Knicks would not feel the need to trade up to nab Person.

New York thought they would get their man with the fifth pick, but Indiana wisely chose Person, the player they wanted all along, at No. 4.

Chuck Person had a very productive and consistent six-year career with the Pacers, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1986-87 and by his third season, posted a career-high 21.6 points per game.

Person’s shooting prowess and toughness personified the best of the Indiana Pacers during this decade, and he played a very important role in the team’s rise during the late 80s and early 90s.

Detlef Schrempf

Statistics: 17.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.1 APG

The only player on this list who was not an original draft choice of the Indiana Pacers, Detlev Schrempf, was acquired by the team in a 1989 trade with the Dallas Mavericks.

Schrempf was underutilized during his time in Dallas, and given more opportunity to play, he blossomed into an All-Star with the Pacers.

The German forward was not known for his defense, but he had an all-around offensive game that was impressive for a 6-foot-9 player.

He could shoot from deep, post up, penetrate with the dribble, rebound and pass. Schrempf’s best season in Indiana was the 1992-93 campaign, in which he averaged 19.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.

At a time when there were few foreign players in the league, Detlef Schrempf helped usher in the era of European players entering (and in some cases dominating) the NBA.

Rik Smits

Statistics: 14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG

In the 1988 NBA Draft, Donnie Walsh and the Indiana Pacers decided to take a chance with their second overall pick and select 7-foot-4 center Rik Smits from tiny Marist College by way of the Netherlands.

Many wondered if the Dutch big man could make the huge leap from Marist to the NBA, and as it turned out, he had to prove himself right out of the gate.

With Indiana’s starting center, Steve Stipanovich, unable to continue his pro basketball career due to a knee injury, Smits was thrown into the fire as a rookie, and he acquitted himself quite well.

Smits was not a great rebounder or shot-blocker, but he was very effective as a scorer — he possessed a skillful post game, as well as a feathery outside jump shot.

Rik Smits spent 12 seasons with the Pacers, and he was a very key piece at a time when having a productive center was a must for any quality NBA playoff team.

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