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.

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The postseason accolades and awards are nice, but Soul defensive back Tracy Belton has a much higher goal.

Named as the Arena League Football Defensive Player of the Year during an awards ceremony Friday, Belton, considered the passion and spirit of the Soul defense, is more than comfortable putting aside individual honors and pushing his teammates to greater heights.

Reaching the ArenaBowl against the Arizona Rattlers Friday in the Gila River Arena (7 p.m./ESPN) the prize is out there, and Belton has his blinders firmly affixed. The focus and concentration is not in question, so the task ahead remains paramount.

“I want that ring, I need that jewelry,” Belton said during media day Friday. “Oh yeah, it would definitely be nice to get that ring.”

To obtain that shiny piece of hardware, Belton and his defensive teammates have the task of trying to shut down the most potent offense in the league.

Guided by quarterback Nick Davila, the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, the Rattlers are averaging 80.3 points per game. From an offensive standpoint, Arizona led the AFL in many offensive categories, including scoring, total offense, rushing, third-down conversion and fourth-down conversion.

To complement the offense, the Arizona defense ranked first in the league in defensive scoring defense, rushing defense, interceptions, turnover ratio and sacks allowed.

In a league which glorifies offense, the task ahead for the Soul defense is considered a challenge. After all, these teams each finished with a 13-3 mark and each defeated the other team on their home turf.

“To win this game, we hope they make mistakes,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “They are very explosive, but our secondary is playing at a high level. For us, we need to limit our mistakes.”

If Davila, who is the first player in AFL history to win the MVP award three times, is to be challenged, the Soul’s offense need to be proficient. Coming into the ArenaBowl, the Soul averaged 59.0 points per game. That was good enough for fourth in the league, but quarterback Dan Raudabaugh put up better numbers, in certain categories, than Davila.

In head-to-head competition, Raudabaugh tossed more touchdown passes (14 to 13), passed for more yards (541 to 431), completed more passes (48 to 32) and averaged more yards per game (270.5 to 215.5) through the air. Yet, the Rattlers’ offense is swift, quick, efficient and lethal.

“In this league, the quarterback is the most important position,” Davila said. “You have to make decisions quickly, and facing a defense like Philly, that’s the challenge for us. It’s about limiting mistakes. The team which makes fewer mistakes is the team that usually wins.”

Notes
Since the Phoenix Mercury are scheduled for a home game in Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix Friday night, home site for the Rattlers, the title game was switched to home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. … Among league leaders this past season for the Soul, Belton was fourth in tackles, Jake Metz led in sacks, Darius Reynolds was sixth in receiving and Jeramie Richardson was second in rushing. … In comparison of QBs, Raudabaugh was second in the league in passing (101 TDs, 63.3 passing percentage) and Davila placed third (110 TD passes, 69.6 passing rating). … This is the third league title meeting between these two teams. The Soul dropped the previous two championship games, 72-54 in 2012 and 48-39 in 2013.

You gave us the 'Good One,' Chooch, thanks for the memories

You gave us the 'Good One,' Chooch, thanks for the memories

The Phillies were one strike away from winning the World Series and Citizens Bank Park was in a full roar.

Carlos Ruiz trotted to the mound for a quick chat with closer Brad Lidge.

Lidge wanted to try to put away Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinkse with his signature slider, a pitch that had helped him go 48 for 48 in save chances during that magical season. Ruiz was in complete agreement. After catching the pitcher all season, he knew how good Lidge’s slider was. He also knew that Lidge threw three versions of the pitch, a get-me-over offering that he used to get a first-pitch strike, a backdoor bender that he used against lefty hitters, and The Good One, a sharp, downward-breaking dagger that left hitters flailing at air as it cork-screwed toward the dirt.

On that spectacular October night nearly eight years ago, Ruiz looked into Lidge’s eyes and issued a directive: Give me the good one. Lidge complied. Hinske swung over the vicious slider. Ruiz fished it out of the dirt and Harry Kalas shouted, “The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball” as the stadium erupted in euphoria. Ruiz, the kid who wasn’t even a catcher when the Phillies first scouted him in the summer of 1998, sprinted to the mound, collapsed to his knees and joined Lidge in a joyous hug, the image of which will remain emblazoned in the minds of Philadelphia fans, well, forever.

Ruiz’s words to Lidge — Give me the good one — gained new resonance on Thursday because the veteran catcher, beloved by teammates and fans, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later (see story).

Ruiz spent 11 seasons with the Phillies and when you consider where he came from and what he accomplished, well, he always gave the team and its fans the good one.

“I’m excited, but also sad,” Ruiz said moments after the trade became official.

Excited because at age 37, and firmly in the twilight of his career, he has the chance to join a first-place team and get to the postseason one more time.

And sad because, “I have so many memories in Philadelphia.”

The greatest, of course, was the World Series championship, catching the final out and rushing to the mound to join Lidge as the pitcher dropped to his knees, looked to the heavens and shouted, “Oh, my God, we just won the World Series!”

But there were so many others.

Ruiz was a backbone member of five NL East championship teams and the best catcher a Cy Young winner named Roy Halladay ever pitched to. Halladay said it himself. Ruiz caught four no-hitters, including two of Halladay’s. He was an All-Star in 2012.

All in all, it was a pretty good run for a guy who signed for $8,000 off a sandlot in Panama in 1998. That same year, the Phillies signed Pat Burrell for $8 million. Ruiz would have signed for nothing.

“All I wanted was a chance to play professional baseball,” he said. "I'm thankful the Phillies gave it to me."

At the time of his audition for the Phillies, Ruiz was a 19-year-old second baseman. Phillies scouts were skeptical of his ability to make it as an infielder. They warmed to him when he said he’d give catching a try. He learned the position on the fly and made a steady progression up the ladder until arriving in the majors in 2006 and becoming a regular in 2007, the year the Phillies broke a 14-year playoff drought and won the NL East.

Ruiz was a favorite in the clubhouse for his good nature and team-first attitude. He would do anything for the team, anything to win, and you can’t fake that stuff. That won him the admiration of teammates. In 2012, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his love for Ruiz in typical Papelbon style. He called Ruiz “a Panamanian redneck.” Years later, Cameron Rupp, the man who supplanted Ruiz as starting catcher, praised Ruiz for his mentorship. It’s not easy for a player to groom the man who will take his job, but Ruiz did it earnestly and graciously. Today, Rupp is arguably the most improved player on the Phillies’ roster.

“Carlos was the everyday guy for more than eight years,” Rupp said. “I’m sure it was hard. It can’t be easy. But he never stopped helping me. There might be guys who wouldn’t do something like that, but not him.

“I can’t tell you how much he helped me. He’s awesome.”

Ruiz’s hustle, his non-stop effort, and, oh, yes, his place on championship teams — that’s what Philadelphians love most — earned him a special spot in the hearts of fans. Cup your hand to your ear and you can still hear those fond shouts of Choooooch from the stands.

They will be heard again when Ruiz goes on the team’s Wall of Fame someday. But for now, he heads off to Los Angeles to join another former Phillies fan favorite and champion, Chase Utley, in a late-career run at one more moment of postseason glory.

You gave us the Good One, Chooch.

NFL Notes: Browns trade '13 No. 6 pick Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

NFL Notes: Browns trade '13 No. 6 pick Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

CLEVELAND -- Barkevious Mingo never really fit in with the Browns.

The Patriots will try to find an ideal spot for him.

A major disappointment in Cleveland, Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft was traded to New England on Thursday.

The Browns received a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft for the linebacker.

Mingo, a former LSU standout, has recorded just seven sacks in three seasons and spent much of last season on special teams.

Mingo's size -- 6-foot-4, 240 pounds -- and speed have made him intriguing, but Cleveland's coaching staff couldn't find the best way to utilize him. The Browns moved the 25-year-old Mingo from outside linebacker to inside earlier this summer.

Cleveland declined to exercise the fifth-year option on Mingo's rookie contract in May. With the trade of Mingo, left tackle Joe Thomas and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert are the only first-round selections by Cleveland from 2007 to 2014 that are still with the team (see full story).

NFL: Harrison, Matthews and Peppers talk with PED investigators
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Green Bay Packers defensive players Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers met this week with NFL investigators looking into allegations linking them to performance-enhancing drugs, the players' union said Thursday.

Matthews and Peppers met with league representatives on Wednesday, while Harrison did so on Thursday, according to the NFL Players Association.

Last week, the league threatened Harrison, Matthews, Peppers and free agent Mike Neal with indefinite suspensions if they did not meet with investigators. All of them were mentioned in an Al-Jazeera television interview with Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. In the December report, Sly made claims of PED use by several athletes, including Harrison, Peyton Manning and the three others, but later recanted his claims.

The since-retired Manning was cleared after a separate NFL investigation in which he granted interviews and provided all records sought by league investigators.

The league's deadline for cooperation from the four current players was Thursday. The NFL first notified the four on Jan. 11 about the investigation into the Al-Jazeera report (see full story).

Dolphins: Team intensifies efforts for Zika control at stadium
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins and Miami Marlins say they've intensified mosquito-control treatments at their stadiums because of the Zika virus.

The Dolphins' stadium is more than 10 miles from the nearest area of the virus outbreak. Even so, the Dolphins say they decided weeks ago to undertake additional treatments as a precaution.

Construction workers are at the site daily completing the latest phase in a $500 million renovation. The first home preseason game is next Thursday against Tennessee.

The Marlins and Miami-Dade County have stepped up spraying in and around Marlins Park "in an abundance of caution," team president David Samson said Thursday. Treatments targeting the mosquito that transmits Zika are being used even though the Marlins play most of their home games indoors under a retractable roof.

Marlins Park is about 2 miles from the nearest area of virus outbreak.

Treatments at the 265-acre Dolphins stadium site include the parking lot and follow recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those treatments are expected to continue through the football season and beyond.

Vikings: New stadium sells out for inaugural season
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have sold out their new stadium for the inaugural season.

The team announced on Thursday that they've started waiting lists for tickets and suites. The official capacity at U.S. Bank Stadium will be 66,655, with more than 60,400 seats committed for the entire season and the remaining single-game seats also sold out.

Returned tickets from visiting team allotments typically make a small number of seats available the week of each game.

The Vikings host San Diego on Sunday in an exhibition game, their first action at the $1.1 billion venue. The regular-season opener is on Sept. 18 against rival Green Bay.