Kazemi playing only way he knows how for Sixers

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Kazemi playing only way he knows how for Sixers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sixers fans will quickly grow to love second-round pick Arsalan Kazemi.

The Iranian-born 23-year-old is a hustler who is constantly in motion and finds his way to the backboard.

“He is amazing,” Sixers assistant coach Michael Curry said. “It is easy to see why his teammates and all his coaches like him. He just plays hard. Not the most athletic, not the fastest. Very seldom does he miss an assignment. He is always in the right place. He makes effort plays and he gets a lot done because of that. He has been doing well. I am happy to see that.”

Kazemi scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting Thursday afternoon in the Sixers’ 90-89 loss to the Magic during Orlando Pro Summer League action (see story). The 6-foot-7, 226-pound forward also grabbed six rebounds.

Kazemi hopes to make a reputation on the glass in the NBA just like he did in college. In three of his four collegiate seasons, Kazemi averaged double-figure rebounds. As a senior at Oregon he pulled down 10 per contest, the 15th-highest mark in the country.

From 2004 to 2006, the NCAA’s leading rebounder was Paul Millsap, who averaged 12.7 boards per game at Louisiana Tech. Millsap was selected 47th overall by Utah in the 2006 draft and has since averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds a game in seven seasons with the Jazz. That production landed Millsap a two-year, $19 million free-agent deal with the Atlanta Hawks this offseason.

Kazemi, who was selected 54th overall in last month’s draft, has closely followed Millsap and would like nothing more than to follow in the forward’s footsteps.

“As a rebounding guy, Paul Millsap was leading the nation in college for three years,” Kazemi said. “I was on top for a while and he came into the league and started improving on his game, so that is the closest guy I can think of [having a similar game].”

Kazemi’s offense is nowhere near that of Millsap when the Hawks’ new big man entered the league in 2006. However, Kazemi is sure he can develop his overall game with time.

“I have to get stronger and I need to work on my outside game and shooting from the corner,” he said. “Those are the two big things I need to work on.”

Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie has no doubt that Kazemi will put in the work to become a solid NBA player.

“He is a lunch-pail kind of guy,” Hinkie said. “People may say he is undersized, but I say look around and see there are a lot of undersized guys that make an impact bigger than just their size. I think he has shown who he is this week. He is a winning basketball player.

“He knows who he is, that’s important. And he plays hard all the time. That’s not refreshing as a fan. That’s important if you care about winning and he does and he shows it on every possession.”

The summer league is a time to experiment. In Kazemi’s case he has seen action at the small forward after playing mainly as a power forward in college.

“He plays the four the best right now,” Curry said. “Athletically that fits him. He is not quite the size. Some matchups at the three he is able to do a really good job as well.”

“I like to play the three,” Kazemi said. “I played the three for my national team during world championships, so I know that I can play both positions.”

Given his status as a second-round draft pick and the Sixers’ need to have some ready-made NBA players to fill out the bench, Kazemi’s grip on a final roster spot is uncertain. Still, at some point Sixer fans will see more of the player nicknamed “The Beast From the Middle East” and he is sure they will enjoy how he performs on the court.

“I kind of felt that at Oregon they didn’t know me at the beginning, but after awhile they really liked me because of the way that I play,” Kazemi said. “Fans and coaches all love that player that plays hard, so I am just going to keep on doing what I am doing. As a rookie going into the league you just have to play defense and make the hustle plays and bring energy to the team and that is what I am going to do.”

Reports: Sixers to be 'serious suitors' for Barnes, interested in Waiters

Reports: Sixers to be 'serious suitors' for Barnes, interested in Waiters

The Sixers didn't get a chance to speed up the process as much as they would have liked during the draft, but it appears they're going to try during free agency.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Sixers plan to be "serious suitors" for Golden State Warriors restricted free agent forward Harrison Barnes.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Barnes averaged a career-high 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds last season for the Warriors and shot 38.3 percent from three. The four-year veteran didn't produce as well in the playoffs, averaging 9.0 points on 34.2 percent shooting from three and 38.5 percent shooting overall. He would give the Sixers an outside threat who can finish around the rim. The question is whether he'll be able to create his own shot and flourish without the star-studded Warriors lineup around him.

Meanwhile, the AP's Michael Scotto reports the Sixers (and Kings) are interested in Thunder restricted free agent Dion Waiters. Waiters, 6-4, 225, has averaged 12.8 points and 2.5 assists per game in his four-year NBA career. He is a Philadelphia native and played high school ball at Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.

Barnes, 24, made just under $3.9 million last season, while Waiters, 24, made just over $5.1 million. Because both are restricted free agents, the Warriors and Thunder can match any offer the respective players receive. Barnes turned down a four-year, $64 million last year and is likely to receive a max offer, which should be around $23 million.

Either would give the Sixers an upgrade, and given their meager payroll, they can certainly afford to overpay if needed. They should have about $60 million in cap space, as the new cap is projected to be $94 million. 

Golden State selected Barnes out of North Carolina with the seventh overall pick of the 2012 draft. Waiters was originally taken fourth overall by the Cavaliers in 2012. 

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up Monday was point guard. Today we look at shooting guards.

Sixers shooting guards for 2016-17
Nik Stauskas (guaranteed — $2,993,040)

Hollis Thompson (club option — $1,015,696)

Isaiah Canaan (restricted, qualifying — $1,215,696)

Current SG situation
As much as point guard is a huge need, the off-guard is also a concern for the Sixers.

Stauskas, the former lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings, was a major disappointment last season. Sauce Castillo was given plenty of opportunity to show that his rookie season was a fluke and just a result of the Kings' mercurial roster and coaching situation. Known as a shooter from his stellar career at Michigan, Stauskas shot 33 percent from three on 325 attempts last season. That's simply not good enough.

Thompson is a one-dimensional player. He's a shooter. A hot and cold one at that. Thompson doesn't bring enough to the table as a ball handler or a defender to be a long-term solution, but the Sixers may pick up his club option. Thompson is a career 39 percent shooter from three, but his overall field-goal percentage has gone down in each of the last three seasons.

We're calling Canaan a shooting guard simply because he is not a good enough ball handler to play point guard, the position his six-foot frame suits. Canaan is a streaky shooter that really brings nothing else to the table. I'm mostly complimentary of Sam Hinkie's tenure in Philly, but his continued love for Canaan was something I never understood.

This situation may change if the Sixers are able to sign 18-year-old draft pick Furkan Korkmaz. The Turkish sharpshooter was taken 26th overall and will need to be bought out from his club, Anadolu Efes. Korkmaz will certainly be a project but if he can shoot the basketball consistently, he might play.

Reach free agent

DeMar DeRozan (unrestricted)
DeRozan didn't disappoint in a contract year, averaging a career-high 23.5 points per game and helping lead the Toronto Raptors to the No. 2 seed in the East and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. There's still a great chance he could return to the Raptors (they can offer a year more than any team trying to sign him away from Toronto), but teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Heat, Knicks and Magic are rumored to be interested in DeRozan. Even if DeRozan were to consider the Sixers, I don't think he makes sense here. He's 26, which means the Sixers would be wasting his prime years. Plus, he's not a great shooter. This team is being built around Ben Simmons, and a shooting guard that is just a career 28 percent shooter from three doesn't seem like a fit.

Possible fits

Dion Waiters (restricted)
It seemed possible that the former No. 4 overall pick would return to the Thunder, but a draft-night trade that netted OKC athletic guard Victor Oladipo makes Waiters' future there murky. There's been speculation that the Philly native would be open to a homecoming. He's certainly had his issues, but Waiters has shown the ability to score at the NBA level. He shot a career-high 36 percent from three last season (38 percent in the playoffs). He's also only 24.

Allen Crabbe (restricted)
Crabbe, also 24 and also a former first-round pick of the Cavaliers, had his best season at the right time. The Cal product played in 81 games last season, averaging 10.3 points in 26 minutes a game for the Blazers. In my humble opinion, Crabbe would be the Sixers' best option. Again, if you're looking to build a team around Simmons, Crabbe's offensive game fits perfectly. Crabbe can shoot (39 percent from three, 87 percent from the line), he moves well without the basketball and can pull up off the dribble/on the break. He's a California native, so he may not want to leave the West Coast, but the Sixers can offer him a starter's minutes and money.

Dark-horse candidates

Bradley Beal (restricted)
Bryan Colangelo has said that he's looking for the right pieces this offseason and was more willing to give more money for fewer years while he evaluates his younger players. Beal could be an exception. The No. 3 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in 2012, Beal just turned 23 on Tuesday. He's averaged 16 points per game and shot 40 percent from three for his career. He does have an injury history, which may scare off teams from giving him a long-term deal. Beal has missed a total of 81 games in four seasons, so basically a full year's worth of time. Beal is intriguing, but I'm not sure the Sixers should give him a max deal.

Eric Gordon (unrestricted)
Going off of Colangelo's desire to sign high-money, low-term contracts, Gordon would make some sense. Gordon, 27, has also struggled with injuries throughout his career. He could be looking for a prove-it deal. The Sixers could offer him a great opportunity to make big money, play a lot of minutes and help a young team that has struggled to put the ball in the hole. Gordon has scored 16.6 points per game in his career. He shot 38 percent from three for the Pelicans last season, down from the 45 percent he shot from distance in 2014-15.

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up is point guard.

Sixers point guards for 2016-17
T.J. McConnell (non-guaranteed, $874,636)

Kendall Marshall (non-guaranteed, $2,048,257)

Current PG situation
The Sixers' biggest hole is at the point guard spot. Brett Brown has deemed this position the most important on the court, yet it has been the most changing. 

Last season, the Sixers did not establish a consistent starting point guard until they re-acquired Ish Smith in December. Smith wasn't brought in as the long-term point guard of the future, though. He is an unrestricted free agent again this summer and should receive interest from other teams after a solid season stepping into the starting role. 

There are several young point guards on the market, but the Sixers would benefit the most from bringing in someone with veteran experience to be a leader on the court. While incoming rookie Ben Simmons can play point-forward, the team plans to start him off at the four spot and let him learn the NBA first before assigning him ball-handling duties. With that in mind, a good free-agent fit would be able to play off the ball when Simmons does run the floor. 

Of the current players, McConnell has developed into a backup option after emerging as the sleeper of last season's team. The Sixers would be getting a bargain with his contract value (see below). The sparingly-utilized Marshall has a non-guaranteed deal at just over $2 million for next season and the team could get more return spending that money elsewhere. 

Reach free agent
Mike Conley (unrestricted)

Even in spite of his injuries, Conley is the best point guard available in free agency. He averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 turnovers for the Grizzlies last season. Conley has a high basketball IQ and is playoff-tested. He will garner big money on the market, and the Sixers are not necessarily looking to break the bank this summer to fill the role. Conley could stay with the Grizzlies, who put together a Justin Timberlake-led video to express their interest in keeping him. He will turn 29 in October. 

Possible fits
Matthew Dellavedova (restricted, $1,434,095 qualifying offer)
Could there be another Australian on the Sixers next season? Brown, who coached there, is a fan of Dellavedova's game. Dellavedova, 25, averaged 7.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds for the championship-winning Cavaliers. Dellavedova could have double value to the Sixers: he could run the floor and give Simmons a sense of familiarity being from Australia. 

Jeremy Lin (unrestricted)
Lin was a backup for the Hornets last season and could earn a paycheck this summer as a starter. He would like to find a long-term team, which may not fit into the Sixers' plans for the future. Lin, though, does have six years of experience and averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds mostly off the bench for the Hornets. 

Greivis Vasquez (unrestricted)
Vasquez's sixth season was cut short after only 23 games because of foot surgery last December. Coming off of injury, could he be available at a discount? When healthy, he is a high-energy ball handler. Vasquez averaged 5.7 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game last season.