The Choice is Yours: Evaluating the Sixers' Options Before the 2009 Draft

The Choice is Yours: Evaluating the Sixers' Options Before the 2009 Draft

As you may have heard, the 2009 NBA Draft is occuring tonight. As the Timberwolves man the phones trying to figure out what to do with their 27 first-round picks and Blake Griffin attempts to convince himself that he'll be the first high draft pick in Clippers franchise history not to turn out disastrously, the Sixers are indeed in the mix down at #17. With our shooter needs seemingly satiated by the recent trade for Jason Kapono, the priority turns to the two other roles currently not adequately filled on the team--a center and a point guard, with the latter currently being in far more plentiful supply.

So what do we do? Let's examine the options, in approximate order of likelihood:

 
Ty Lawson, PG, UNC

The 2009 ACC Player of the Year is currently projected by ESPN draft guru Chad Ford as the pick that will fall to the Sixers, and I for one can think of worse things. Leading UNC to a #1 seed and stealing the spotlight from the victory tour that was Tyler Hansbrough's senior year, Lawson became a virtual phenom with his excellent play in the Tar Heels' NCAA championship run, despite a left ankle injury many thought would keep him out of the tourney altogether. He's basically the exact opposite of Andre Miller, a quick-footed, tenacious defender (over two steals a game last year) who can shoot the lights out from beyond (an astounding 47.2% last year). He can penetrate, he can distribute, and he can finish on the break, all without making too many mistakes (a stellar 3.5 assist/TO ratio).  “I just think with the way I play, with Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, I can be real good for this team,” Lawson has said. "I like to play fast paced and things like that. I think I’m a good fit for this team.”

So what's the downside? Well, he's on the small side at just 6'1", and some worry his style and lack of mid-range game might not translate well to the pros. Perhaps more pressingly, he might not get to #17, having impressed some in recent workouts and apparently drawing the interest of the Pacers (#13), Bucks (#10) and even the Knicks (#8). But I know I'm not alone on this board in saying that I'd be elated to have Lawson drop to us--he seems like just about everything that the Sixers need in a point right now.(He even has Thad's official endorsement).


Eric Maynor, PG, VCU

Lawson's main competition in the draft--or perhaps just his primary back-up should he not be available--is Eric Maynor. The key phrase consistently thrown around when talking about Maynor is "NBA ready"--certainly a sexy phrase for a team like the Sixers that may be drafting a guy to take the keys on day one. Maynor averaged an impressive 22 points and six assists in his senior season, and his stock was also helped by his play in the NCAAs, as he nearly led an 11-seed VCU to a first-round upset of UCLA. He's quick like Lawson and has a good defensive rep, and is also more traditionally point guard-sized at 6'3". The knock on Maynor is that he's yet to really play against stellar competition in the Colonial Athletic Association, and that he might not be a pure knockdown shooter yet. Still, with the experience and the stats, you gotta like this choice pretty OK too.

 
Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest

Slightly more controversial on the draft boards is Wake Forest point Jeff Teague. Midway through the sason last year he was the best player on the best team in the country, leading Wake to a victory over UNC and a #1 national ranking, but he fizzled some since, and played poorly in the team's first-round upset at the hands of Cleveland State. He's more of a natural scorer than the other points the Sixers are looking at, but he did have a great offensive season last year (18.8 ppg, incuding 44% shooting from deep) amidst stellar ACC competition, and averaged a couple steals a game for his trouble as well. The Sixers worked him out, but needing more of a pure point and already having a shoot-first tweener option with Louis Williams, I'd have to think they'll only take him here if Lawson and Maynor are already off the board.

 
B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State

Perhaps the biggest enigma (from this country, anyway) in the draft this year, and a longshot selection for the Sixers, is B.J. Mullens of Ohio State. Before last season, he was considered to be as high a prospective pick as the #1 overall, but after a less-than-inspiring freshman season (8.8 ppg, 4.7 rebounds) he's dropped to more of the Sixers' range. Some scouts still love him for his height (7'1" with freaky long arms) and supreme raw athleticism, especially in a draft incredibly short on big men, but the knocks on him are many, as everything from his IQ to his defense to his work ethic have come into question. The Sixers seem more eager to draft a player that can help them now then to take on a multi-year project like Mullens, but if they're not thrilled wih any of the choices left at the point when it comes time to pick, it might be worth taking a gamble on Mullens as a potential center of the future.

Possible Sleeper Selections: Wayne Ellington (SG, UNC), Darren Collison (PG, UCLA), Austin Daye (SF, Gonzaga)

Would Be Great if They Somehow Fell To Us: Brandon Jennings (PG, Italy), Jrue Holiday (PG, UCLA), Jonny Flynn (PG, Syracuse)

Dream On: Tyreke Evans (SG, Memphis), Stephen Curry (PG, Davidson), Ricky Rubio (PG, Spain)

A note on possible trades before we go: Rumors have recently had the Sixers shipping Samuel Dalembert to Charlotte for Vlad Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed and a swapping of picks (Charlotte's #12 for our #17) in a classic "I'll show you my lousy overpaid players if you show me yours" deal. It's not terribly attractive, but getting to #12 might be our only shot at getting Lawson, so I'd probably at least consider the deal if I was Ed Stefanski. A possible thought, though: Apparently Boston is losing patience with Rajon Rondo, and is willing to listen to offers for the elite point guard. Hey Danny--Thad Young and the #12 pick for Rondo? I know, I know, just a thought...

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”