A Summary of the Sixers' Likely Draft Prospects

A Summary of the Sixers' Likely Draft Prospects

For a number of reasons—the excellent post-season that just finished, the looming threat of a lockout, the relatively weak pool of talent to choose from—the 2011 NBA draft has been the least-buzzed-about draft the sport has seen in recent memory. Though there's some intrigue due to the inevitable surge of trade rumors around this time of the year (none the least of which involving our own Andre Iguodala), the lack of any real marquee names and the involvement of a whole lot of unknown quantities in this draft has taken a lot of the sizzle out of it—and that's for the teams drafting at the top. For our beloved Philadelphia 76ers, selecting this year with the 16th and 50th pick, things are even more muddled and less exciting.

All this is sort of my long way of saying "Sorry about not writing about the draft more this year, but I didn't really care all that much and neither should you probably." I will be going to the Prudential Center in Secaucus, New Jersey (the Prude, as I like to call it) tomorrow to attend said draft, but barring some sort of home-run trade-up—which is fairly rare in the NBA, especially for the Sixers—I don't expect the outcome of the evening to have a terribly large impact on the Sixers' future. Like my father has taken to saying recently, "Having the 16th pick in the draft gets you Marreese Speights." In other words, whoever the Sixers draft—especially from a historically weak class like this—is far more likely to be a role player that flashes in and out of the rotation than a legitimate building block.

Of course, every so often, the 16th pick can also get you Jrue Holiday, so it's still worth talking a look at the likely candidates for selection, and contemplating which might be the best fit for the Sixers. Here's a look at five of the players most likely to be called by David Stern with the 76ers' logo in the background tomorrow night.

Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas (pictured above):

Right now, Hamilton looks like the clear favorite to be the Sixers' golden boy on draft night. Ken Berger of CBS Sports wrote today about him going to the Sixers like it was already a done deal, and Chad Ford has had the Sixers taking him pretty much since he started doing this year's mock-drafting. The main asset Hamilton has to offer the Sixers is shooting—39% from deep in his sophomore year at Texas—which at his height (somewhere between 6'7" and 6'9") and position could be a real boon to the team if Andre Iguodala is traded and Evan Turner still needs some work on his jumper next season. Drafting Hamilton wouldn't solve the team's primary need (size/interior presence) and might make for a glut at the wing if Thaddeus Young is resigned and 'Dre sticks around, but otherwise, he's an interesting fit.

Markieff Morris, PF/C, Kansas:

Kansas prospects always seem like the hardest to gauge in terms of pro potential, because their teams are always so loaded with talent and they end up playing such a system brand of basketball. That said, many are high on Markieff Morris, who averaged 14 and 8 for Kansas last year on 58% shooting as the team's primary interior presence, along with brother Marcus, who is seen as slightly more talented and projected to go in the lottery. Markieff is known for being a good defender, something the Sixers desperately need down low, but might be a little lacking on the offensive end (though he does have a steadily improving jumper). He's also slightly undersized for a center, making it unlikely that he's the long-term solution in the middle. Kate Fagan refers to Markieff as "the safe selection," saying he "quiets those fans chanting for a rebounder," but qualifying that he "possesses, perhaps, the least amount of upside at the No. 16 spot." Probably true, but as Fagan also points out, this might not be the draft to reach for a home-run guy when "a solid single would do."

Nikola Vucevic, C, USC:

An enticing prospect for the Sixers namely due to his height—at about seven feet with a nine-and-a-half-foot wingspan, Vucevic probably the longest player in an undersized draft, and of course, the Sixers need big guys more than just about anything else. Vucevic is a solid player on both ends of the court, showing a nice touch around the basket and averaging a block-and-a-half per game in his Junior season at USC. The main drawback with him, though, is his athleticism—his vertical leap has been measured as being worse than a good deal of guards in the draft class, and his lateral foot-speed has been questioned, two qualities which set off red flags for the guy being a potential stiff. He might still be worth a dice-roll for a team that occasionally played Thaddeus Young at center last year, but the lack of athleticism hardly makes him a natural fit for a team whose identity is centered largely around young legs.

Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas:

Another Longhorn forward linked to the Sixers has been the solid Tristan Thompson, a player with good athleticism, good measurements, a good knack for rebounding and defense and a good game around the basket. Of course, you might be able to deduce from the overuse of the word "good" in that sentence that the main problem with Thompson is that he doesn't appear to be great at any one particular thing—and the last time we drafted a guy like that, at a pick much higher than #16, it turned out more interestingly than we would have liked. Still, people love Thompson's motor, and it seems fairly likely that he'd be a good bench contributor for the Sixers, maybe like a slightly less-explosive version of the Bulls' Taj Gibson, or perhaps even our old friend Reggie Evans.

Justin Harper, PF, Richmond:

Harper is getting some buzz as the sleeper pick for the Sixers, as he apparently wowed the team with his attitude in workouts, and he has a nice shooting stroke, hitting 44% of his threes last year at Richmond. He seems a little bit like the reverse Thaddeus Young—like Thad, he's a long, athletic stretch four, but whereas Thad has no faith in his jumper and spends most of his time looking for ways to the basket, Harper is all about the jumper, and occasionally forgets to attack the rim. The best-case scenario for Harper, as cited by Fagan, is that he turns into a Rashard Lewis-type, but with his Lewis-like flaws—weak defender, poor body strength, no interior game—Liberty Ballers says that in all likelihood, Harper is "not a consideration unless the Sixers get a second draft pick."

Also Garnering C

Donatas Matiejunas, PF, Lithuania
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
Tyler Honeycutt, SG/SF, UCLA

Would Be Cool if They Somehow Fell to Us:

Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo
Klay Thompson, PG, Washington State
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles vs. Vikings
1 p.m. on FOX

Eagles +3

A familiar face comes to town on Sunday when the Eagles host the Vikings, the NFL's last unbeaten team at 5-0.

There's more to this matchup than a certain jilted quarterback returning to Lincoln Financial Field though. After an inspired 3-0 start, the Eagles have come out flat in two consecutive games, both losses. If this squad has any hope of getting back on track in Week 7, they can't afford to focus on the high-profile former teammate in purple sleeves.

Grinding it out
How good is the Vikings' defense? Even though they're ranked fourth in the league against the run and eighth in yards per carry allowed, they've faced the second-highest number of rushing attempts. Simply put, between a fierce pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary, offenses are afraid to put the ball in the air against this team.

Opponents have decided the best way to beat the Minnesota defense is by keeping the ball on the ground — shorten the game, try to create manageable third downs and play the field position game. Of course, the best way for the Eagles to beat Washington's 28th-ranked run defense last week, with a fifth-round rookie right tackle making his first career start mind you, also would've been to hand the ball off early and often, which wasn't exactly the game plan that we saw.

As good as Carson Wentz is, the Eagles probably aren't going to beat this team by airing the ball out. It may be inefficient and look ugly, but this time, head coach Doug Pederson needs to lean on the ground attack and take the pressure off of his first-year quarterback and tackle. Otherwise, a Vikings defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks and fourth in interceptions can take this game over.

Self-inflicted wounds
Ticky-tack calls or not, you can't blame the judgment of the officials for all of the penalties the Eagles have taken the past two weeks. Last week in Washington, they drew 13 flags for 114 yards. The week before, it was 14 flags for 111 yards. Is it really any coincidence in two losses the Eagles have been penalized 27 times for 225 yards? Unlikely.

Were one or two or even a handful of those calls excessive? Have officials missed some potential calls that could have gone the other way? Yes and yes, as is always the case. When it's that many penalties for that many yards though, you can only place so much blame on the refs.

Simply put, the players need to clean up their acts. According to TeamRankings.com, the Eagles are committing the most penalties per game at 9.8. Only one other team is above 9.0. All excuses aside, the Eagles lack discipline right now, and it's hard to beat anybody when they are continuously shooting themselves in the foot, let alone the only undefeated squad in football.

No gimmes
There is no bigger indicator of winning and losing in the NFL than turnovers. So what happens when the two teams who cough the ball up the least are going head-to-head?

One thing the Eagles did correct in Washington was the little giveaway problem that cost them the game in Detroit. After losing their first fumble and throwing their first interception of the season in the final three minutes of their loss at Detroit, the offense went back to playing turnover-free football on Sunday, one of the positive things that could be said for the performance.

Yet the only team that's committed fewer turnovers than the Eagles is the Vikings, who have just one through five games. The ball security these clubs have displayed is remarkable bordering on unheard of. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? The first one to blink, or in this case make a mistake, might just cost themselves the game in what could be a tightly contested tilt.

Just a pit stop
If it feels like the Eagles' 34-3 romp of the Steelers at the Linc was a long time ago, well, it has been almost a month. Since then, there's been a bye week followed by trips to Detroit and Washington, putting the last home game at exactly four weeks ago.

Don't get used to the feeling either. After their game against the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles go back on the road for two contests against the division rival Cowboys and Giants.

What does it all mean? Besides a travel-heavy stretch, it suggests this sandwich game with the Vikings is an especially significant spot on the Eagles' schedule, particularly given the slow starts they've jumped out to as the visiting team of late. That can't be blamed entirely on going on the road of course, but it certainly hasn't helped. Vikings or not, the Eagles could use a positive showing on Sunday before they go away again.

The Bradford Bowl
You didn't really think we were going to completely gloss over Sam Bradford, did you? Not even mention his name?

It's interesting, because right now, the trade that sent Bradford to the Vikings and cleared the way for Wentz to start at quarterback for the Eagles looks like a win-win. Both head coaches agreed with that sentiment as well. Mike Zimmer says Bradford gave the Vikings an energy back after starter Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with an improbable injury, while despite coming back down to earth a bit the last two weeks, it's obvious the Eagles' future is bright with Wentz.

That being said, there are some additional bragging rights at stake for both signal-callers this week, whether they acknowledge it or not. If the Eagles win, it shows their gamble on Wentz being prepared to start right away was justified. If the Vikings win, pundits could argue the Eagles never should've traded Bradford in the first place.

These are only narratives of course, and the Eagles' investment in Wentz and the Vikings' desperation trade for Bradford are both left to be judged somewhere down the road, long after this game has been played. Nonetheless, the result on Sunday is sure to spark some interesting debate in the coming days.

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21


STATE COLLEGE – As his team slogged through back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two years as Penn State’s head coach, Langhorne native James Franklin heard time and again that he was in need of a signature victory.

Now he has one, even if he refuses to admit it.

Junior cornerback Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left as the Nittany Lions stunned second-ranked Ohio State 24-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” Franklin said.

Not exactly.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

The fans stormed the field after the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (Wisconsin). It was also PSU’s first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1999 (Arizona) and its first over a team slotted as high as No. 2 since 1990 (Notre Dame).

Ohio State (7-1) saw winning streaks of 20 straight road games and 17 straight Big Ten road games come to an end, despite building a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

The Lions whisked 90 yards in five plays to cut the gap to seven with 13:32 left in the game, with quarterback Trace McSorley running two yards for the TD.

Freshman linebacker Cam Brown then blocked Cameron Johnston’s punt to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Davis with 9:33 remaining, making it 21-17.

Ohio State mounted a drive behind J.T. Barrett, their splendid quarterback, moving from its own 13 to the PSU 28. Barrett’s 34-yard connection with wide receiver Noah Brown was the big play.

But the Buckeyes stalled, and Tyler Durbin came on to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Penn State safety Marcus Allen made a leaping block, however, and Haley scooped up the bouncing ball and beat Durbin and Johnston, the holder, down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

Ohio State’s final drive of the night ended with a pair of Penn State sacks, the last a combined effort by defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan with 1:02 left.

When the final gun sounded, several Penn State players sprinted toward the south end zone and launched themselves into the front row of the stands, Lambeau Leap-style, among the delirious students. And thousands of fans, all clad in white for PSU’s traditional White Out, flooded the field.

“This is for everybody,” Franklin said later. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years (a reference to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath), and this is a big step in the right direction, in terms of healing. I said very, very early on that for us to get where we want to be, we need this entire community together, and a win like tonight – I know I’m biased – but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.”

Moments later, he caught himself and said he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he added, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”