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...

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

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