NBA Draft Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

While we don’t claim to be NBA gurus here at Them’s Good Eaton, we like to think we’re in tune enough with this Draft stuff to provide you with a preview. It won’t be anywhere near 10,000 words — though we do suggest reading that back and forth between Bill Simmons and Chad Ford, as it’s quite good — but hopefully we’ll scratch the surface and provide you with a few links to let you dig deeper should you desire.

Without further ado, then, let’s get on with it…

1.) What do the Sixers need?

Well, despite their success this year, they need a lot. Their most pressing, immediate need is a low-post scorer, and while Ed Stefanski & Co. can certainly hope that Elton Brand is interested in coming to Philly, it’s probably unlikely and certainly unwise to bank on that. The problem is that there isn’t going to be an impact big man available at 16 — at least not someone who can step in and start right away.

What about the team’s other needs? Well, a shooter is certainly a necessity, since the Sixers have lacked someone who can be counted on to knock down open 3’s since the midseason Kyle Korver trade. Finally, with Andre Miller’s contract up at the end of the year, the Sixers will need a long-term solution at point guard (for all his strengths, Lou Williams doesn’t fit the bill of “pure point”).

Lots of holes to patch, and only one pick to do it with.

2.) What do we know about Ed Stefanski?

Well, he’s no Billy King. That means that we can feel infinitely more comfortable with Fast Eddie’s method of building a franchise — no more $487 million contracts for Kenny Thomas — but let’s not forget: Billy King’s one strength is that he was relatively successful on draft day, picking much of the Sixers’ current core (Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert, Louis Williams, etc.).

Stefanski was named GM of the Nets in 2004, and while Team President Rod Thorn ultimately called the shots, we figured it would be worthwhile to take a look at Stefanski’s track record.

2005 Draft: SG Antoine Wright (16th pick), C Mile Ilić (43rd pick)

Okay, not good. Taking Wright left on the board, amongst others: Danny Granger, Hakim Warrick, and David Lee. The Ilić pick I can live with, since taking a flier on a 7’1″ European in the second round is usually a worthwhile gamble, but the Nets did pass on both Lou Williams and Ryan Gomes — both TGE favorites, for obvious reasons.

2006 Draft: PG Marcus Williams (22nd pick), PF Josh Boone (23rd pick), SG Hassan Adams (54th pick)

This is a lot better. Williams was universally hailed as a steal when the Nets nabbed him at 22, but he’s spent his first two years backing up Jason Kidd and Devin Harris, so he hasn’t yet gotten a chance to take over the offense. Boone started 53 games last year, his second in the league, averaging 8.2 points and 7.3 points in 25 minutes. Adams was an undersized but athletic shooting guard who I liked, but he never panned out at the NBA level.

2007 Draft: PF Sean Williams (17th pick)

Undeterred by his immaturity, the Nets rolled the dice with the ultra-athletic Williams. So far, it’s a gamble that has paid off. In only 17 minutes per game, Williams averaged a promising 5.6 points and 4.4 boards, and he finished second in the NBA in block percentage behind only Marcus Camby (see the Glossary at Basketball Reference for an explanation).

Alright, so what kind of conclusions can we draw from this? Well, this backs up Stefanski’s professed commitment to defense and athleticism, as all of the first round picks but Marcus Williams were highly rated defenders heading into the draft. Stefanski has also demonstrated that while he’s not adverse to taking risks — many teams were scared off by Sean Williams’ off-the-court issues, though his upside is certainly undeniable — he hasn’t yet taken a “boom or bust” type freshman (all of his first rounders were college juniors). The last part is something we here at TGE like, as you can see from our next question…

3.) Who should the Sixers avoid at all costs?

This is more personal opinion than anything, but we hate — HATE — your prototypical “So what if this guy only averaged 5 points per game last year… have you seen what he does in workouts?” type prospects. The action figure at the top of this post should make you shudder at the thought of someone who looks good in drills but can’t actually play the game of basketball.

Now this doesn’t mean that we think all raw prospects are necessarily bad picks. Clearly, the Sixers saw a lot they liked in Thaddeus Young last year, and they appear to have been right on the money.

But let’s put it this way: the NBA Draft is not the MLB Draft. In baseball, you have 50 rounds to take as many fliers as you possibly can on raw athletes, knowing that if one or two of them pan out, you’ve had a good draft. Check out the San Diego Padres’ 1999 draft: only 2 players out of the 46 they selected ever made it to the majors as Padres, but one of them was a 15th round pick named, ummm, Jake Peavy. So at the end of the day, that’s a successful draft.

Not so in the NBA. You have two rounds, and you have only a couple of shots to get it right, so gambling on 45-to-1 odds isn’t exactly the way to go. Sure, maybe you hit and find yourself a superstar, but you’re wasting a pick and stripping your roster of valuable depth if you miss, which is incredibly likely.

With that convoluted analogy out of the way, here’s a few of the raw players we want to see the Sixers stay as far away from as possible…

DeAndre Jordan (7’0″, 260 lbs.), Texas A&M — Someone who averaged 8 points and 6 boards, then rode the bench during crunch time of the NCAA Tourney? No thanks.

Alexis Ajinca (7’1″, 225 lbs.), France — When we think of French centers, we think of Frederic Weis. ‘Nuff said.

Anthony Randolph (6’11”, 220 lbs.), LSU — Will somebody feed this kid? Athletic as hell, but his tweener status and thin frame scream “bust.”

JaVale McGee (7’0″, 237 lbs.), Nevada — His stock is apparently dropping faster than the Bluth Company’s. Even if he reaches his potential, he won’t be very good defensively.

Donte Greene (6’10”, 220 lbs.), Syracuse — Not quite as raw as some of the others, but we’d like to see a guy who’s 6’10” do more than stand outside and hoist 3’s. Just a gut feeling, but we feel like he’s got “poor man’s Tim Thomas” written all over him. And that’s saying something.

The ironic thing, of course, is that the Sixers are in the market for a big man, and one or several of these guys is likely to be available at 16. I’m sure it will be tempting for Stefanski & Co. to dream of 4 years from now, when a 6’11”, 250 pound Anthony Randolph is the NBA’s leading shotblocker and averages 20 and 10 thanks to an unstoppable midrange game, but it wasn’t long ago that guys like Kwame Brown, Stromile Swift, and Nikoloz Tkitishvili were being looked at the same way.  Those who do not learn from history…

4.) So who would you be okay with?

We like Stefanski, and given how things have worked out so far during his tenure here at Philly, we trust his judgment. But if we were in his shoes, here’s who we’d be targeting…

Darrell Arthur (6’9″, 215 lbs.), Kansas — He’s a bit lightweight and is more upside than finished product, but unlike anyone on the above list, he’s already had success at the highest level. Fantastic around-the-rim instincts, can run the floor, and has the tools to be a pesky defender.

Brandon Rush (6’7″, 211 lbs.), Kansas — We love our NCAA champions, huh? Rush would fill the need for a perimeter shooter, he’s a good defender, and he’s a winner.

Chris Douglas-Roberts (6’7″, 200 lbs.), Memphis — He doesn’t necessarily fill any of the needs mentioned above, but he’s a unique talent that we like a lot. He’s great off the dribble, has an improving midrange game, and can be a great defender with his length. Some might view this as a reach, but he might just be worth it.

Marreese Speights (6’10”, 245 lbs.), Florida — Call it a hunch, but we just like him better than some of the other big guys. The knocks on him are his conditioning and his awareness, but he’s an above-average athlete with good size who already has a fairly polished offensive game. If the Sixers want to go big and Arthur isn’t on the board, we’d rather roll the dice with Speights than any of the boom or bust guys mentioned above.

5.) Where can I get more info?

Before this becomes the 10,000 words we promised it wouldn’t be, we’ll wrap this up by giving you the links we promised.

  • Draft Express is our go-to site for all things draft related (including in-depth player profiles)
  • Depressed Fan has some great Sixers-specific stuff: a look at Pick 16 over the last few drafts; the case for trading up to get Kevin Love; and a mega-batch of links, including some comments on John Hollinger’s rankings
  • Philadelphia Inquirer pieces: focus on the big men the Sixers could be targeting; and Phil Jasner and John Smallwood run through the probable candidates
  • Stephen A. is not front and center this year. Thank God.

1 Comment

Filed under Philadelphia, Philadelphia Sixers

One response to “NBA Draft Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

  1. I think you pretty much nailed it. If we’re stuck at #16 and there are no shockers who drop out of the lottery, I think I’d put them in the exact same order as you have them here. Speights is the only upside guy with a developed offensive game, the other guys haven’t developed any kind of game. Ranolph is the one guy I absolutely do not want to see on the Sixers.

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