Pollard over Duncan? Well, Maybe
San Antonio had the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA draft, having been stratospherically lucky by winning the lottery despite having the third-worst record the previous season.
Tim Duncan, the All-American center from Wake Forest, was the consensus choice to go first, but Gregg Popovich had his doubts. He liked this center out of Kansas, Scot Pollard.
“It’s a true story,” Popovich said before the Spurs played the Pacers Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I loved the way Scot played. Timmy was really smooth and all that, so (you wonder) ‘is that going to translate? Is he going to be tough?’ He was long and lanky and thin and Scot Pollard was out there kicking you-know-what and taking names.
“It was actually a conversation. I also have to say that notion didn’t last real long. But it did come up.”
Pollard wound up going 19th to Detroit – higher than he anticipated, but lower than he should have given the way the careers of the first-round picks that season turned out. Pollard played 11 seasons, including three for the Pacers. He now works on the Pacers’ broadcast crew, for both television and radio.
Pollard made his mark as a role-player who offered intangibles such as defense, toughness, and selflessness. He was a strong rebounder, but averaged just 4.4 points. Duncan, now in his 17th season, is a certain Hall of Famer with career averages of 19.7 points and 11.1 rebounds.
Safe to say, the course of history would have been changed drastically had the Spurs gone with Pollard.