Yesterday I labeled the Philadelphia 76ers as one of my losers from last week’s draft. I wish to elaborate on that as I promised.
Here’s the issue, this is the first draft since the Sixers jettisoned Allen Iverson to Denver for two first round picks, an expiring contract and the services of point guard Andre Miller. Andre Miller and the rest of the leftovers for Philadelphia made great strides at the end of the season to keep playoff dreams alive but ultimately kill any luck in the NBA draft lottery.
There’s a good and bad side to that story. The good is that you help develop a young team against NBA talent and give them confidence for the following season. Young players like incumbent A.I. (Andre Iguodala), Louis “Baby Louie” Williams and Rodney Carney were put in a more prominent role to show that they deserve to stick around for the franchise. Meanwhile, the Sixers won meaningless games and their hopes of nabbing college stars like Greg Oden or Kevin Durant were erased.
I admit, I was one of the people hoping they would tank games and eventually cussing in disgust when I caught a glimpse of the boxscore after a Sixer victory. The two picks they netted from Denver were going to be in the later part of the draft and their league worst record was later the #12 pick instead of top 6. Some fans would have preferred to see Andre Miller rerouted to a contender for a first round pick and, as we seen in the playoffs, plenty of teams could’ve used a reliable point guard.
Enough of my ranting, its all in the past. My column on the draft hoped that the Sixers would pick up either Al Thornton or Julian Wright, both solid forwards with their own identity. You see what you get from both of them althought Wright had a high ceiling for his potential. I also hoped for the Sixers to dive into the international waters and pluck one of the foreign prospects in the later stages of the draft. The last time the Sixers had an International guy in their locker room was when they had a Greek sharp shooter (who wasn’t so sharp at shooting) named Efthimios Rentzias who was later nicknamed “Effin’ Stiff” by 610 AM’s Al Morganti. I already ranted, raved and drooled all about Marco Belinelli, Rudy Fernandez and Tiago Splitter, all of whom will begin their NBA careers in a city not named Philadelphia.
So on draft night, the Sixers went with (drumroll please) Georgia Tech freshman forward Thaddeus Young.
My thoughts exactly. Thad Young is labeled as another pet project for the Sixers. It will take some time before he develops into the supposed star the Philly front office foresees him becoming. According to NBA scouts, the 19-year old Young needs work on everything! Ballhandling, shooting, strength, assertiveness, aggressiveness, algebra, parallel parking, you name it.
Why were the Sixers impressed? The “Mike Mamula” syndrome. For those who don’t know what this is, its when a player has a great individual workout and impresses teams enough to spend high draft choices and big dollar figures on unproven talent (like former-Philadelphia Eagle and scouting combine stud Mike Mamula). When asked what he liked about Young, the first thing Sixers GM said was “I liked his age, …” believing that Young is mature at this point in his life.
Ok, Thaddy is in the league now and he might grow into a nice player. But I believe the other two available forwards fit the Sixers better now and for the future. Thornton could come in and score the ball now and would be more poised to dominate for the Sixers as soon as the 2008 season after he gets some notches on his belt now that he’s in the NBA. Julian Wright needed to develop a better long range jumpshot, but can come in and defend as soon as tomorrow. Young’s main issue is that he has to grow into the player the Sixers want him to be. Literally.
The Sixers are envisioning Young as their future power forward and hope he can pack a few pounds and inches on his 6′8 frame. The southpaw has already been thrown into the fire, so to speak, to defend post players in the summer leagues. So far, he’s been abused pretty good by no names and your next door neighbor’s cousin.
With their second pick, the Sixers flip-flopped with Miami to get seven-footer Jason Smith from Colorado State. Smith has gained some acclaim in recent weeks with his workouts. But Smith reminds me of that tall kid playing pick-up games who tries to be a jump shooter throughout the entire game and never abuses the smaller kids with his size. Smith is a guard in a center’s body as he possesses some quickness, finesse and a nice touch on his jump shot. Hopefully the young Smith familiarizes himself with the painted area of the basketball court. The Sixers also picked up Derrick Byars (who looks like a steal in the second round) and Herbert Hill out of Providence.The plan we all heard about pre-draft was that the Sixers would not rely on need and draft the best player available, yet chose Young over better prospects. They also wished to finagle with their picks, trying to move around and were adamant on not bringing in four rookies to training camp. They moved up, down and around and still came up with four players. The Sixers were also keen on finally getting into the international market for foreign talent and hopefully keeping someone overseas to continue developing and not wasting a roster spot. They did draft two international players but were only doing so for other teams as they gave up the rights to Finland PG Petteri Koponen and Ukrainian center Kyrylo Fesenko, who really looks like a great high-energy player.
The Sixers also had a three-year plan in place after Allen Iverson’s trade, with several phases involved. The first was removing Iverson and Chris Webber, the second was the draft. But with some of their selections, the Sixers won’t be ready to compete by year three if Young doesn’t grow three inches or these youngsters simply don’t grow up into the players the Sixers need them to be.
As Philly fans have grown to say after disappointments:
“There’s always next year . . . “
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