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
onsideration:

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

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State got bullied a bit Saturday, but never gave up its lunch money. 

It spent the second half taking control of the schoolyard.

After getting pushed around for much of Saturday night’s first half, the Nittany Lions were anything but punchy after the break. Penn State (No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings) got its high-powered offense into gear in the second and roared back for the school’s first victory in the Big Ten Championship game, 38-31, over No. 6 Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) are bound for the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season and are outright conference champions for the first time in 22 years.  

Penn State trailed by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter but allowed just three points the rest of the night. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 384 yards and a title-game record four touchdowns to spark a comeback that saw the Nittany Lions outscore the Badgers 24-3 in the second half. McSorley was named Big Ten Championship game MVP.

Wisconsin missed a 48-yard field goal early in the second half and Penn State needed just 11 seconds to take advantage. McSorley (22 for 31) hit Saeed Blacknall with a 70-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to a touchdown. Saquon Barkley tied it at 28 later in the third with a 1-yard scoring run.

Blacknall ended the night with six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had eight grabs for 118. 

Wisconsin retook the lead with a short field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter but Penn State went ahead for good on the ensuing drive, which ended with McSorley’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Barkley.

Tyler Davis added a 24-yard field goal later in the fourth and the Penn State defense sealed the victory when Grant Haley stuffed Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 with 1:01 to play.

The Nittany Lions fumbled the ball away twice in the opening half — one was returned for a short Badgers touchdown — but only trailed 28-14 at intermission after McSorley hit Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown with under a minute to play in the half. 

Mike Gesicki caught McSorley’s first scoring pass, a 33-yarder, late in the first quarter.

Clement finished with 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Badgers (10-3), who also got scoring runs from Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale. Bart Houston was 16 for 21 for 174 yards. 

Smelling the roses?
Penn State is likely off to Pasadena for the fourth time in school history and is seeking to reach .500 in college football’s longest running postseason game. The Nittany Lions defeated Oregon 38-20 in the 1995 game but fell to Southern California in their other two trips, in 2009 and 1923.

It appears the Trojans might be their opponents once more; No. 4 Washington won the Pac-12 championship Friday night but appears headed for the playoff. The Rose Bowl gets its choice of Pac-12 runner-up Colorado (10-3) or 9-3 USC.

There is a chance Penn State could be selected to the College Football Playoff, but No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Washington all won this weekend, while No. 2 Ohio State was idle. The playoff will be announced at noon on Sunday.

He’s fine
Sophomore running back running back Saquon Barkley showed no ill effects of a right foot injury suffered during a Nov. 26 win over Michigan State. He added the go-ahead touchdown — and another mention in Penn State’s record book — for good measure.

Barkley, who left in the third quarter of Nittany Lions’ penultimate victory, hauled in a touchdown pass from McSorley in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give Penn State the lead for good. He had a short scoring run earlier in the period.

Barkley broke Evan Royster’s sophomore rushing record with a 19-carry, 83-yard night to push his season total to 1,302 yards. He set the mark for Penn State freshman (1,076) last fall.

Nice run
Wisconsin’s Andrew Endicott’s 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter snapped a shutout streak that had seen Penn State outscore its opponents 82-0 in the second halves of games. The last scoring play before Endicott’s boot came in the second half of a 45-31 win over Indiana on Nov. 12.