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...

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

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The Associated Press

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach you, gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.

New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

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New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

It's a new year for the Eagles, but the same lowered expectations for Marcus Smith. The 2014 first-round pick recorded only seven tackles and 1½ sacks over his first two NFL seasons, so at this point you can forgive people for being pessimistic about his development.

Smith doesn't blame Eagles fans for being disappointed with his career up to this point. The 24-year-old isn't content with the way things have panned out thus far, either, but sounds as though he's ready to turn the page in a new scheme.

"I understand they want their first-round draft pick to play," Smith said of fan criticism. "I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn't. I learned a lot of things from my first to my second year and I think I've grown and matured a lot, and this third year you'll see a lot different Marcus."

That won't do much to sway public opinion that he's a draft bust. The Eagles, however, are hoping a position change will unlock the potential that led the club to take Smith with the 26th overall selection in the draft.

Smith came to the league a raw prospect to begin with, and was immediately asked to take on the many responsibilities of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In a 4-3 alignment under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the third-year pro will line up at defensive end, where he'll primarily be used to create disruptions in opposing backfields.

"This is a scheme that greatly limits what he's asked to do," Schwartz said. "Difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact.

"He's very athletic. He's got great size. He's done very well so far, but let's reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them."

Smith admits it's a role he was more accustomed to playing in college.

"I never really dropped into coverage before," Smith said reminiscing of his time at Louisville. "I dropped into coverage in some spurts, I knew how to do it, I was athletic enough to do it, but their thing was they wanted me to go rush the passer and be able to make plays. That's what I'm doing now."

This could be an opportunity for Smith to hit the reset button, in a manner of speaking. He was overwhelmed and couldn't get on the field in a complex 3-4. Schwartz's 4-3, on the other hand, is much more streamlined, letting linemen pin their ears back and do one thing well rather than force them to be jacks of all trades.

"I feel like with Jim Schwartz, we have a great relationship to where I can just go make plays and not think about anything," Smith said. "He always talks about that with me. He says, 'Just go make plays, I don't want you to think.'

"Scheme is definitely more simplified. It's really just go get the ball. His philosophy is hit the ball on the way to the quarterback because we know sacks change games, so if you get a sack fumble and you're able to scoop and score, that's what changes a game. That's what Schwartz's philosophy is."

Believe it or not, there might still be hope for Smith. His 1½ sacks were registered in the final two games of the 2015 season, a late surge that could've been seen as a sign of progress, yet wound up flying under the radar at the conclusion of a lost year. After all, it's not at all uncommon for some players to need a year or two to adjust to life in the NFL.

If Smith has any chance of shedding the dreaded bust label, he certainly has a perfect mentor in teammate Brandon Graham. The 13th pick in 2010, Graham experienced similar hardships when his Eagles career didn't get off to a brilliant start, but has since proven to be a capable starter.

Graham's situation wasn't identical, as his progress and opportunities were derailed in large part because of injury. Regardless, he understands as well anybody the lack of playing time and criticism that comes with failing to live up to high expectations.

"We talk pretty much every day," Smith says of his relationship with Graham. "He actually went through something worse than I did because he went through a couple of years with not playing. He talks to me about it all the time, and told me to keep my head down and keep working and everything will fall into place."

As of now, Smith is currently lining up opposite Graham with the second-team defense, behind Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. The Eagles also used a seventh-round pick on Alex McAllister.

Still, despite the competition, despite his lack of production to date, Smith is keeping a positive outlook and feels as though he has every opportunity to be productive as part of a rotation.

"The way we play and how fast we play, [Schwartz] wants an eight-man rotation," Smith said. "He wants us to be able to be fresh. All of us can play 25-30 snaps a game. He wants us to be well-rested and ready to go because we're gonna be going.

"Whoever is starting, whoever's not starting, I think when you get in the game, just go get it. Once the coaches put you in the ballgame, you've just gotta be able to make plays."

There's no question Smith is running out of chances with the Eagles, that his reclamation story is already beginning to wear thin. The truth is his roster spot might even be in jeopardy if the roster was much deeper, and any contribution in 2016 will be viewed as a pleasant surprise.

There's also no question the physical ability is there. Smith is 6-foot-3 with sub-4.7 speed and told reporters he weighs close to 260 pounds. Point him in one direction with a singular goal — get into the backfield — and the Eagles may squeeze some production out of him yet.

NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

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NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

ASHBURN, Va. -- DeSean Jackson isn't taking part in voluntary team workouts, and the Washington Redskins don't seem to care.

Jackson was the only healthy player not at Redskins Park this week for the first organized team activities of the offseason. But teammates and coach Jay Gruden brushed off Jackson's notable absence, saying the veteran wide receiver knows how to get prepared.

"The last time I looked up the word `voluntary,' it is his choice," Gruden said Wednesday. "He's been in the league nine years I believe it is and he knows what type of shape he has to come in. Obviously last year he pulled his hamstring, and people are gonna say he was out of shape, but he wasn't really. I think he'll be ready to go."

Jackson missed six games last season after injuring his hamstring in the opener. After returning Nov. 8, he made 30 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns.

The 29-year-old has one year left on his contract and is still expected to be a big part of Washington's offense with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Jordan Reed and fellow receiver Pierre Garcon even after the Redskins drafted Josh Doctston out of TCU in the first round.

Veteran defensive back DeAngelo Hall said players understand Jackson's situation.

"As long as these guys are working I don't think we mind too much," Hall said. "Yes you want him here, but this is an offense he knows and he knows himself. When you have a guy that knows (himself), you kind of what them to train the way they want to train."

Cousins likes having OTAs to get on the same page with receivers and go over the nuances of running routes and recognizing coverages. He's the unquestioned starter for the first time, which he said gives him "permission to take ownership" of the team.

With that ownership, Cousins followed the theme of downplaying Jackson not being around.

"DeSean will get here," said Cousins, who's on a one-year deal with the franchise tag and had no update on long-term contract talks. "He was here the last few weeks and was able to work with us. He knows what's best for him and what he's gotta do to be ready this fall. I'm excited for whenever he does get here and expect to get a lot of work in."

Jackson must attend 90 percent of offseason workouts to earn a $500,000 bonus in his contract.

Hall said because Jackson's home is in California and with him having a newborn, it makes it easier to comprehend why he didn't make it to optional workouts. From the standpoint of the secondary that's trying to work in All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, it'd be nice to have Jackson on the field.

"I'm just excited about getting him out here, Josh is excited about getting him out here," said Hall, who was one of the first-team safeties along with David Bruton Jr. "We want to go against him. We're juiced up to get him out here."

Gruden joked that Jackson "popped in and had a cup of coffee" at the team's facility but otherwise expressed no real concerns. He also doesn't know when Jackson will make an appearance.

"He'll probably show up here, could be next week could be whenever," Gruden said.