Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Posted: 1:26 p.m.
By Sean Kane
Next Thursdays NBA draft may be the last opportunity the 76ers have for a while to upgrade their roster. The league's CBA expires on June 30 and a lockout is looming, and as the NFL has taught us so well, no free agent signings or trades can take place during a lockout. Plus, the state of flux the organization is in considering the pending sale of the team complicates the completion of any deals. Suddenly, the draft becomes the only sure thing this offseason.
So how can the 76ers get better next Thursday? Their biggest area of need is the frontline. If they pull off a trade involving Andre Iguodala between now and the draft, the chances of them taking a perimeter player increase (think Jordan Hamilton of Texas or Klay Thompson of Washington State). But until that happens, it makes more sense to think big. Here are five names that could be on the board when they make the 16th pick.
1. Kenneth Faried (6-8, 225, PF, Morehead State)
The 76ers are in need of a presence inside, an energy guy that will help them improve on being the eighth-worst rebounding team in the NBA last season. Rebounding was the biggest difference when the 76ers went toe-to-toe with Eastern Conference heavyweights like Orlando and Miami (in the four games they lost to the Heat in the postseason, they were beat on the glass by an average of 8.5 rebounds per game).
No one in college basketball rebounded the ball better than Faried, who led the nation (14.3 rebounds per game) as a senior and ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leading rebounder. But his skills aren't limited to the boards alone. He blocked close to 2.5 shots and scored 17.3 points per game.
Faried broke onto the national radar during the NCAA tournament, capping Morehead State's first-round upset of Louisville by blocking the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer after piling up 17 rebounds. With four years of college experience, Faried will be ready to contribute immediately on the 76ers' thin frontline. He won't need the ball to be a factor in the NBA; he's content protecting the rim and rebounding.
The biggest concerns when it comes to Faried are his size and the level of competition he faced in college. He measured 6-foot-6 without shoes at the combine and played in the Ohio Valley Conference a mid-major devoid of the caliber of athletes you'll find in the Big East, Big Ten and Big 12.
2. Markieff Morris (6-10, 245, PF, Kansas)
Morris also fits the mold of an athletic big man who can protect the rim and run the floor. The Philadelphia native was the less heralded Morris twin during his time at Kansas (Marcus was the Big 12 Player of the Year), but Markieff thrived on doing the dirty work defensively and on the glass. Morris is an excellent interior defender who averaged more than eight rebounds last season as a junior.
He's no slouch offensively either. Morris averaged 13.6 points and made 58.9 percent of his field goal attempts. More impressively, he shot 42.4 percent from three-point range last season, attempting more than 1.5 three-point shots per game.
3. Tristan Thompson (6-9, 225, PF, Texas)
Thompson has a ton of talent and potential; the only question is whether he will still be on the board when the Sixers pick. Most projections indicate he won't be, but keep in mind Jrue Holiday wasn't supposed to be there when the 76ers made the 17th pick in the 2009 draft. Thompson averaged 13 points and eight rebounds as a freshman at Texas.
His frame has all the makings of a terrific rebounder and shot blocker. He made great strides offensively during his time in Austin, a lefty who is a handful to defend on the low block. If Thompson slips past the Bobcats (nine), Suns (13) and Pacers (15), he would be a great value pick for the 76ers.
4. Tobias Harris (6-8, 225, PF, Tennessee)
Harris' stock has been on the rise the last few weeks. A versatile forward, hes able to play on the block as well as knock down the perimeter jump shot. Harris averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as a freshman at Tennessee. There are concerns over his conditioning, but he worked hard on that area in college and has continued to do so in the months leading up to the draft.
Harris could be considered a bit of a reach with the 16th pick, but at just 18 years old he has the potential to blossom into the type of player that could eventually be considered a steal in the middle of the first round.
5. Trey Thompkins (6-10, 250, PF, Georgia)
Thompkins has been projected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round. He would be considered more of a reach than Harris with the 16th pick. But if the 76ers really like him, they may elect to take him at 16 rather than hope he falls to them in the second round. Unlike a lot of big men in this draft, Thompkins has an extensive body of work that can be evaluated. He played three seasons at Georgia, averaging 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds as a junior last season.
He's not an elite level athlete, and like Harris, there have been questions raised about his conditioning. But Thompkins has great size and is a well-rounded post player with reliable range from 18 to 20 feet.
Possibilities in the second round (the Sixers have pick No. 50):
-Lavoy Allen, 6-9225, PF, Temple
-Rick Jackson, 6-9640, PF, Syracuse
-Jamie Skeen, 6-8240, PF, VCU
Related: Sixers to extend qualifying offers to Young, Hawes Sixers continue pre-draft workouts Wednesday