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...

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.