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How Much Will Hayward Cost The Pacers?

Friday, 25 Jun 2010 | 9:29 AM ET

The newspapers and the office chatter in Indianapolis today will surely be focused on what could have been.

If only the Utah Jazz at the ninth pick didn't take Gordon Hayward.

Utah Jazz draft choice Gordon Hayward (r.) with NBA commisioner David Stern, Madison Square Garden Theater, NY.
Oliver Quillia for CNBC.com
Utah Jazz draft choice Gordon Hayward (r.) with NBA commisioner David Stern, Madison Square Garden Theater, NY.

Just one pick behind were the Pacers of Indiana, the state where Hayward grew up, doing the "Steve Alford Workouts" he watched on tape on the hoop in his driveway. The state where he played his high school ball, and of course won the state championship his senior year. The state where he became a Final Four hero in college at Butler.

It would have been good for Indiana, they'll say. It would have been good for the NBA to see a team that had been bleeding cash to get an immediate bump.

"When I was little, that's who I dreamed I would play for," Hayward said of the Pacers, after he was picked by Utah. "Probably because I lived there, and that's something I think every little boy in Indiana did. They pretended they were Reggie Miller in their backyard."

Instead, the Pacers were left with Paul George, a forward from Fresno State, who — put it this way — doesn't exactly have the phones ringing at Conseco Fieldhouse right now.

The way it all worked out, the pressure is actually off all parties. It's off Hayward and the Pacers because they didn't have a chance to pick him. And it's off George, who admitted, with a laugh, that luckily his selection didn't occur with Hayward still available.

While there might be disappointment in the Hoosier state, the way it went down, makes it easier for fans to swallow.

It's not like what the Jacksonville Jaguars will have to live with if Tim Tebow, a star at all levels in the state (Florida) like Hayward, turns into a star.

It's not like what was on the line when the Houston Texans in 2006, passed up on Vince Young, fresh off a national championship at Texas, for Mario Williams.

And it's certainly not like what the Pacers did in 1987, when the team had the nerve to select Reggie Miller with Alford still on the board. The entire state revolted. We all know what happened next.

2010 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City
Oliver Quillia for CNBC.com
2010 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City

And that's really the lesson in the hometown selection.

For all the fans disappointed at missing out on Hayward, it would help to remember the lesson of what happened in 1987.

Maybe the luck of having Hayward fall to them would have caused mayhem in Indiana, but it's just a blip if things don't run smoothly.

The Charlotte Bobcats were loving the "ring-a-ling-a-ling" in the 24 hours after they scored North Carolina teammates Raymond Felton and Sean May in the 2005 draft. Although it was a guard-thin draft, the Bobcats likely would have sold more tickets over time if they took Danny Granger or David Lee instead of May.

Four years later, the Bobcats resisted the marketing appeal of North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, coming off a national championship season, and picked Gerald Henderson instead. The Pacers, of all teams, selected Hansbrough with the next pick. The jury is still out.

"If you want to draft a hometown guy, you'll sell some tickets, but what matters is how long you sell those tickets for," said Bill Sutton, associate director of the DeVos Sport Business Management program at UCF. "If the player is the real deal, it's a good business move. If he's not, that spike goes away."

Sutton says fans gravitate to guys who they know from the local community, especially in an era where free agency and big money have diminished loyalty.

"It makes sense to want a guy who played his high school and college ball in the state to play for your pro team," Sutton said.

Ohio and Minnesota love LeBron James and Joe Mauer because they're homegrown from youth to pro. But what needs to be remembered is they're also loved because they're good.

Today, most Pacers fans don't care if they got Paul George or Boy George. What they didn't get is Gordon Hayward. Only time will tell if what seems like cruel fate now will turn into a blessing.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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