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.

Tonight's lineup: After benching, Odubel Herrera back in leadoff spot

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Tonight's lineup: After benching, Odubel Herrera back in leadoff spot

It seems like Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided pulling Odubel Herrera in the seventh inning of a tied game on Monday is enough punishment for failing to run out a ground ball.

The centerfielder will be back in his customary leadoff spot when the Phillies take on Justin Verlander and the Tigers tonight at Comerica Park (see game notes).

Much of the talk surrounding the Phillies in the last 24 hours has centered on Herrera after Mackanin yanked him from the game Monday (see story). After all, Herrera's .335 batting average leads an offense-starved team that averages just 3.24 runs per game, second-worst in the majors. Before he was pulled on Monday, Herrera was 3 for 4 with an RBI and had a 15-pitch at-bat against starter Mike Pelfrey to start the game.

Tommy Joseph will start again at first base after clobbering his second homer of the season on Monday. Despite another night of immense struggles (see story), Ryan Howard is again in the lineup as the designated hitter in the American League park.

The only change to to the lineup from Monday see Carlos Ruiz starting behind the plate to catch Jeremy Hellickson.

Star outfielder Justin Upton will sit again for Detroit as he nurses a quad injury. Mike Aviles will start in his place in left.

Both teams' lineups can be found below.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Carlos Ruiz C
7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
8. Tyler Goedell LF
9. Peter Bourjos RF

Tigers
1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera 1B
4. Victor Martinez RF
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Cameron Maybin CF
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
8. Mike Aviles LF
9. Jose Iglesias SS 

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

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Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Anyone who follows the NFL knows to avoid reading too much into spring workouts. You don't gain valuable insight into a player's game-day ability by observing his speed in shorts or run-stuffing technique when tackles aren't being made.

First-year Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sidestepped several questions after Tuesday's OTA about how specific players are fitting into his defensive scheme, but he made an exception for one position group in particular: his starting safeties.

The Eagles this offseason spent $35 million apiece to extend Malcolm Jenkins and sign Rodney McLeod away from the Rams. Jenkins got $21 million guaranteed, McLeod got $17 million, and they rank fifth and ninth among NFL safeties, respectively, in annual average salary.

"That was money well spent," Schwartz said Tuesday. "I'm sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year — saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let's not judge yet — but both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I'd be very surprised as the year went along if they're not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They've been very impressive so far."

Jenkins, who has emerged as the Eagles' most vocal leader, is coming off two terrific seasons. He set career-highs last year in tackles (109) and forced fumbles (three), intercepted two passes and returned one 99 yards for a touchdown. He graded out as the best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. 

McLeod ranked 10th, eight spots ahead of Walter Thurmond, Jenkins' partner last season.

"I think we all believe that," Jenkins said when asked about the safety duo's chances of being one of the NFL's best. "The way that practice has been going so far and just what Rodney adds to the secondary, I think we're real excited about that tandem and what we'll be able to do. Both of us are very versatile, both of us know the defense and can get guys lined up and can problem-solve. All the rest of it we can do, but when you have guys that can quarterback the defense and problem-solve, it gets you out of a lot of bad looks."

Jenkins had watched McLeod on tape so he knew the type of player the Eagles were adding. What stood out most to him was how "violent" McLeod played in St. Louis, how he played much bigger than his 5-10/195-pound frame. But what's impressed Jenkins most in OTAs with McLeod is how he sees the field and reads situations. Those instincts are what Jenkins thinks can make the pairing special.

"Now playing next to him, you really start to see the smarts and his football IQ, knowing different defenses, ways to adjust things, having the ability to use tools for different situations," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He's an extension of a coach on the field. Talk about a guy being able to quarterback your defense on the field, he's somebody who understands the totality of the defense and has that ability to communicate and get guys lined up. It's just good to have two guys back there now that can do that.

"I think from what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table from a football standpoint, I think our talent level can put us in that conversation (of the NFL's top safety tandems). But once we really get in tune with each other as far as calls, tools that we can use ... when you got two guys with high football IQs, you can really be special."

Jenkins and McLeod have been playing left and right safety interchangeably so far in practice. McLeod says that this voluntary workout period for the safeties has been about figuring out which of them does what better. He'll have a better idea of their specific roles once training camp comes.

Jenkins and McLeod were in constant communication on the sidelines after coming off the field for certain plays at Tuesday's practice. Jenkins was doing a lot of the talking and McLeod a lot of the listening. McLeod would explain what he saw and why he broke the way he did, and Jenkins would coach him up and advise him what to do next time they see a certain look. 

"Big competitor, man. Just from Day 1, offseason drills and things like that when we compete, even in the weight room you can just see how he gets after it," McLeod said of Jenkins. "It carries over into the field, big trash talker. He carries a swagger about him. Very smart and instinctive player.

"Me and Malcolm, I think we're gonna build something great here and you can see glimpses of it in practice now."

Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

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Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

The Philadelphia 76ers haven't found themselves in a position of power much on the hardwood over the past few seasons, but when it comes to the 2016 NBA Draft, the Sixers are in the driver's seat.

As longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge put it in a column on Monday, the Sixers are one of four teams that will "run the show" on draft night. The Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns are all poised for a big draft night as well.

Not only do the Sixers have the first gigantic decision of the evening but they have a handful of assets, in the form of additional picks as well as moveable players, to make another big splash on draft night (Thanks, Sam Hinkie).

The first debate in Philly will clearly be Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Once that decision is made though, things could still be very interesting for Bryan Colangelo.

Aldridge goes on to discuss the logjam in the Sixers frontcourt that Sixers' observers have been talking about forever, but he also adds that, "There is strong support within the organization for Nerlens Noel, who provides defense and rebounding that none of Philly's other bigs provide."

Not only does Aldridge state that there is strong support for Noel, he also says that the team would like to get back up into the early portion of the draft.

Yet the Sixers already have Okafor at the four, and possibly Saric next year. Taking Simmons wouldn't make sense unless they were determined to trade Okafor, whose up and down rookie season hasn't adversely affected his value around the league. And trading Okafor would be the easiest and best way for Philly to get another high first-round pick, which the Sixers covet.

Coveting another high first-round pick and actually obtaining it are clearly different things. Unless the front office finds a way to put a package together involving the 24th or 26th picks this year and some sort of future considerations, the player who can certainly get you back near the front of this year's draft is clearly Jahlil Okafor.

The Sixers fan base is mixed on the idea of trading Jahlil Okafor. Boston seems like an obvious fit with their No. 3 overall pick being the prized target.

June 23rd will be a very interesting night to see how Bryan Colangelo, his father, Josh Harris, and his co-owners feel about such a deal.