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