Making Things Interesting: The Sixers' Options With the 15 Pick

Making Things Interesting: The Sixers' Options With the 15 Pick

#16, #17, #2, #16, #15. That weird year in between there aside (WHADDUP
ET), the Sixers are no strangers to picking in this stretch of the first
round of the NBA draft—the ever-creamy middle. The players we got with
those picks have, for the most part, been the kind of players you
normally end up with when you pick out of the lottery—borderline
rotation guys (Marreese Speights, Nik Vucevic) who help on occasion and
hurt on others. We did, however, get the boy Jrue Holiday with the 17th
pick a few years back, and he was just our best player in a second-round
playoff series that we improbably pushed to seven games, so it's not
just like we can tune this stuff out entirely, either. We just gotta
find a way to make it interesting.

So who's up for the Philadelphia 76ers this draft? Well, as always,
names abound, and with a variety of needs that need filling for the
Ballers—big men, floor-spacing shooters, young and generally talented
basketball players—the choices are many. Let's discuss some of the more
likely options:

Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor

The player currently going
to the Sixers according to Chad Ford's 273rd ESPN Mock Draft, Perry
Jones III was the lust of all the basketball world going into the 2010
NCAA season, but has seen his stock taper off considerably due to concerns about his effort level and emotional maturity. (Always the same
with these super-athletic big guys, seems—except for the guy going #1
this year, anyway.) Still, despite the risks, super-athletic big guys
that can rebound and score easily don't come around very often, and
considering that description fits precisely nobody on the Sixers' roster
at the moment, he might be worth rolling the dice on. For that reason,
I'm mildly skeptical he'll even be available for the Sixers at this
point—"Everyone is both scared to take him and scared not to take him,"
Ford says, and I imagine for at least one of the 14 GMs coming up before
the Sixers, the latter will outweigh the former.

Terrence Ross, SG, Washington

The guy who was mocked
to the Sixers most frequently before Jones was Ross, the kind of
positionally-ambiguous wing scorer the Sixers have been hesitant to take
in recent years (minus that guy they took at #2), for fairly logical reasons. He doesn't seem to be a first-option-type scorer, but he's more of a knockdown shooter than
the Sixers' current wing players, and could be a Jodie Meeks with
superior size and athleticism. Ford now has him going off the board
before #15, though, and you could probably argue that replacing Jodie
Meeks shouldn't be the team's highest priority in this draft anyway.
Personally, I'd prefer they go big, but after swinging and grounding
meekly to second on Nik Vucevic last year, maybe a shooter is in order.

Tyler Zeller, C, UNC

The one guy in this draft that
would be mildly disappointing if he went to the Sixers would probably be
Zeller, the four-year center out of UNC. Like many four-year guys,
Zeller has the polished game to be a consistent contributor, but not
necessarily the upside to be a core piece, and from his description, he
sounds like a slightly more athletic version of Spencer Hawes. Despite
this, his ability to be an instant rotation guy means that he's
projected to go higher than the Sixers would likely land him anyway, so
it might be a moot point, but if he did fall to Philly, it would seem a
waste to spent another first-round pick on a center that can't be a
defensive anchor.

Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State, and Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

Two
more project big men, one with more of an offense-oriented game
(Moultrie, also said to be a great offensive rebounder, but a mediocre
shot-blocker) and one with more of a defense-oriented game (Leonard, a
skilled and athletic defender but raw offensive talent). I would say
that if the Sixers were going to select a predominantly one-way player
up front I would rather it be a defensive presence like Leonard, though
having an athletic offensive big like Moultrie to run with our guards
would certainly be enticing as well. They like both guys over at Liberty
Ballers, with perhaps a little bias towards Leonard,
doing a good job of explaining why he shouldn't be judged on his skin
color, as he fares favorably in athletic comparison to guys like Hawes
and Cole Aldrich. Interesting.

Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

The most confusing guy
in the draft right now is probably Sullinger, a superstar power forward
for Ohio State originally projected as a lottery pick, but whose stock
has fallen so far over the last few weeks that the NBA didn't even send
him a Green Room invitation for tomorrow night. The main reasons for
that come from his pre-draft workouts, where he tested poorly in
athletic trials (though explosive athleticism was never his game) and
his back was flagged for possible future medical issues, dropping him
out of the lottery and possibly out of the first round altogether, as
happened when Kansas' Darrell Arthur fell to the Grizzlies at #27 in
2008 when he was similarly flagged pre-draft for a worrisome heart
condition.

All that said, the Sixers are still talking about taking Sullinger
at #15, and it's not hard to see why—the guy was dominant for much of
his college career, with strength to make up for his lack of
athleticism, and the ability score and rebound with the best of them in
the post. He doesn't fit the mold of what the Sixers are looking for by a
long shot, but if they have a chance to take a flier on a guy as smart
and talented as Sullinger outside of the lottery and none of their other
dream guys as available...well, at least he won't be another Marreese
Speights, right? I'm certainly intrigued, and more importantly, so is my
dad, whose instincts on these matters are rarely wrong. And hey,
another Ohio State guy to pair with Evan Turner! Anybody know if his
Twitter account is any good?

Trading Andre Iguodala to move up in the draft

As he
has been prior to each of the last two NBA drafts, Andre Iguodala's name
is being mentioned in myriad trade rumors. Seemingly every team
drafting in the lottery is in desperate need of an upgrade at the small
forward position, so for teams without a realistic shot of getting
Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—the only two prize SF
prospects in the draft—Andre Iguodala might be a reasonable alternative.
(Then again, so might Rudy Gay, Wilson Chandler, Luol Deng, or any
number of other threes with proven talent and big contracts.) If we
could move 'Dre to the Warriors for their #7 or the Raptors for their
#8, that might be the best return we get for him, and would enable us to
take a higher-upside guy like Andre Drummond or John Henson with our
pick.

Still, after two years of the trade deadline coming and going with
Andre Iguodala remaining stationary, we know better than to put too much
stock in the rumors, and were I a betting man, I'd probably bet on Dre
going three-for-three and still being on the Sixers' roster on June
29th.

So, in conclusion, by my humble and misguided estimation, the Sixers...

Should Take: Perry Jones III or Jared Sullinger (Take a chance, why not? Move forward or backwards, guys)
Will Take: Meyers Leonard if available, Terrence Ross if not
Would Luck Out If They Got: John Henson or the chance to move up in the draft
Should Resist Taking: Tyler Zeller

Talk to you guys again later tonight.

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood will finally make his NFL debut on Saturday. After missing out on the team’s first two preseason games with a quad injury, Smallwood can’t wait for his first action.

“I’m really excited, ready to go,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game.”

Smallwood held out some hope that he would play against the Steelers, but said he never cleared the final hurdle.

“The trainers and coaches didn’t feel like I had my last burst,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was up to full speed, I was about 85 percent running. I didn’t feel like I had that last gear … this week, I’m back to full speed.”

As he discussed last week, Smallwood has maintained his focus and tried to learn from watching his teammates while on the sidelines. Given his desire to impress as a rookie and the fact that he’s never missed a game before in his football career, that’s obviously been a challenge. Running backs coach Duce Staley and veterans like Darren Sproles understand that and have paid close attention to Smallwood’s development.

“Darren talks to me all the time about it, he asks me every day how I’m doing and what I need to do,” Smallwood said. “I think just having him and the other running backs in my corner is definitely a positive.”

One facet that Smallwood has been constantly working on is his pass-blocking knowledge. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Tuesday stressed the importance of all his backs being strong in pass protection, and said he was encouraged by Smallwood’s progress in that phase of the game.

“Even though he was a great runner in college, you could see glimpses of him in the passing game, you could see him in protection, that he was a willing blocker,” Reich said. “And he had the aptitude when you talked to him in the interviews and when you watch film with him, you can see that he gets it and he processes it, and that’s a very important part of it. So his continued progress to get on the field is going to have to come in the passing game, as well.”

Smallwood is pleased with his understanding of the Eagles’ pass-blocking schemes, but he knows he always has to be on his toes, just in case a question flies his way.

“I think I’ve been progressing very well with [pass blocking,]” Smallwood said. “Just learning techniques and learning the system, all the calls the line has, and I think I’ve picked it up. Duce throws random questions at me and I’m right on time with them, so I think I’m doing very well in that area.”

On Saturday, he’ll be dealing with more than questions; Smallwood will have to pick up linebackers and safeties trying to hit his quarterback. He’s looking forward to it.

DL Martin (knee) day to day
Defensive lineman Mike Martin is another Eagle who has been frustrated by a lingering leg injury.

Like Smallwood, Martin has yet to play in the preseason. Since twisting his knee several weeks ago in training camp, Martin has mostly been on the sidelines. Now he’s back to practice, though Martin said he’s “just easing back into it, not trying to throw myself in there hard right off the bat.”

It seems unlikely that Martin will play against the Colts. While he classified his situation as “a day-by-day thing right now,” it’s hard to imagine him going from “easing back into it” to the heat of an NFL game.

While he’s been out, Martin, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in 2012, has aimed to learn as much as he can.

“Anytime you miss time and can’t be out there, it sucks, but I’ve been in my book and haven’t missed much on the mental side of it,” he said. “Every day I’m just trying to pick up where I left off.”

Once he returns, Martin can’t wait to play in Jim Schwartz’s defense and create chaos for opposing offenses along with Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and his other talented teammates on the defensive line.

“[This defense] is just an attack style, which is really great for me,” Martin said. “That’s the type of player I am and it fits me perfectly.”

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

The Phillies are loading up with right-handed hitters for Tuesday's series opener at U.S. Cellular Field against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon.

Odubel Herrera is out of the lineup and Aaron Altherr takes his place in center field. Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel are in the outfield corners. 

Carlos Ruiz serves as the designated hitter against Rodon, who has huge platoon splits. Righties have hit .305/.365/.484 against Rodon; lefties have hit .220/.268/.286.

Rodon has a changeup to stave off right-handed hitters, but he's used it only eight percent of the time this season. He's thrown his 94 mph fastball, sinker or slider with 92 percent frequency (see game notes).

Emmanuel Burris gets a start at second base.

Ryan Howard is out of the lineup. U.S. Cellular Field is the only active stadium in which he's never played. The Phillies haven't been there since 2004.

1. Peter Bourjos, RF
2. Aaron Altherr, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Emmanuel Burris, 2B