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I returned from my Croatian vacation (had to use the rhyme) to find the sports world turned on its head. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it does seem as though a lot has happened, most importantly, the NBA draft.

I’d like to thank Mike from Green Pinstripes for valiantly donning his NBA cap to get the picks up here.

Before I get into who the Sixers took, and what these picks mean, I want to go back to what I viewed as the Sixers’ needs going into the draft. When you look at this team from the most-basic viewpoint, they needed to upgrade two spots in their starting lineup, shooting guard and power forward. Willie Green and Stephen Hunter could have a spot on this team, but that spot cannot be in the starting lineup.

I didn’t think they necessarily needed to get a pure SG, or a pure PF for that matter, because I think Iguodala and Dalembert are both versatile enough to switch positions if a viable C or SF was available.

So, assuming the Sixers agreed with my assessment, and identified those as their two highest-need positions, I think this draft was a calculated success. I don’t think this viewpoint will be shared by most, and I’ll admit that when I first saw the results I was pissed, but I had a few days on a boat to think things through, and I came around. Call it a refreshing new outlook on life for the Depressed Fan, call it hopeless optimism, call it whatever you want, but there is some logic behind it.

The Players

#12Thaddeus Young (6’8”, 210 lbs. SF, Georgia Tech, 19 years-old) A raw, explosive, lefty small forward with a tremendous upside. He’s an open-floor threat with a nice jumper (42% from three as a freshman). Young needs to get bigger, but his defensive skills and all-around game should compliment Iguodala nicely. Young could and probably should wind up in the starting lineup with Iguodala moving to the 2. This pick probably makes Rodney Carney expendable. On the other hand, Young is, well, Young. He only had one year at Georgia Tech and there are several question marks. He’s no sure thing. (Here’s a Thad Young video. Sorry, no embedding allowed, f’ing NCAA.)

#20 Jason Smith (7’0”, 233 lbs., PF, Colorado State, 21 years-old) A legit face-up power forward with good hops, shot-blocking skills and much improved rebounding numbers (10.1 per game his junior year, up from 7.3 as a soph.) He runs the floor very well and has range on his jumper which may extend to the three-point line, and a nice mid-range jumper. The Sixers swapped picks with the Heat for cash to grab Smith at #20, lower than most draft boards had him going. Again, Smith is a work in progress. He needs to develop, and get bigger to be an impact player at the pro level, but he has the potential to be a special player. Upside, again, being the operative word. He’s still a year or two of hard work away from realizing even a portion of his potential, but in the short-term, he’s an upgrade over Steven Hunter immediately, and could step right into the starting lineup. (Keep reading to see who may steal minutes from him this season.)

Jason Smith Video

#42 Derrick Byars (6’7”, 215 lbs., SG/SF, Vanderbilt, 23 years-old) The SEC player-of-the-year is a seasoned wingman, a good perimeter shooter, with range extending to three, and a good on-the-ball defender who can muscle up with some of the more physical perimeter players in the Eastern Conference. Byars was projected to go in the late first round, and the Sixers traded down to get him at #42 from Portland. Byars isn’t an exceptional athlete, he isn’t an exceptional shooter, he isn’t an exceptional ball handler. What is he, you ask? He’s a winner, a leader and most important, he’s ready to contribute now. He doesn’t have the same upside a guy like Young has, but he’s a much more of a known quantity.

#55 Herbert Hill (6’10”, 232 lbs., PF/C, Providence, 22 years-old) Herbert Hill was projecting to go much earlier in the draft at the end of the NCAA season, as early as the end of the first round, but he had a huge drop off. He had a breakout season in his senior year at Providence, he has an excellent post game, and not much else on the offensive end. On defense, he’s an athletic big who can get off the floor and block shots, and he uses his athleticism very well. Needs work on his fundamentals and footwork. Sound like Moses Malone’s next project? I think so.

The Strategy

Forgive me if you think I’m giving Billy King and the Philadelphia braintrust too much credit, but the way this draft panned out leads me to believe that they recognized their two biggest needs and were determined to meet them.

They took the swingman with the biggest upside (in their eyes) at #12, and traded up to get the power forward with the biggest upside at #20. Young has the potential to be a star in this league, and Smith does as well. His skill-set is very rare for a seven footer. With their final two picks, they picked up guys who are closer to being NBA-ready right now, at the positions of need.

If I were making these picks, would I have gone in the same direction? Probably not. At #12 I would’ve probably gone for Thornton, but I didn’t know he was nursing a wrist injury that’s going to probably require surgery. I love Smith at #20, and the trade was cash to the Heat, so I’m behind that 100%. I’m not a huge fan of Byars, I would’ve liked to have seen the Sixers move up to get Morris Almond (he went #25 to the Jazz), and I think Hill was a steal at #55. (They traded down to get Hill and “future considerations”).

Here’s the rub: The Sixers picked up 4 players who could make the roster and provide upgrades this year. If it pans out like that, you have to consider this draft a success. Should King have traded up? Only if he could’ve gotten Oden, Durant, Horford, Jeff Green or Corey Brewer. That wasn’t going to happen. The Sixers took some chances, which is completely acceptable considering they’re a 41–45 win team without any changes from last year, in my opinion.

So, who makes the roster and who doesn’t? Here’s my best guess.

Definitely in: Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert, Kyle Korver, Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams, Jason Smith, (Willie Green or Rodney Carney, one will probably be traded)
Probably in: Steven Hunter, Shavlik Randolph.
Hopefully in: Joe Smith (I really hope they bring him back).
On the bubble: Derrick Byars, Herbert Hill, Louis Amundson.
Out: Bobby Jones (hopefully), Kevin Ollie (hopefully).

If you’re expecting the Sixers to make any kind of splash in free agency, think again. It’s an extremely thin free agent class, and I don’t think the Sixers are going to be players at all. If there’s one guy from ESPN’s top 25 list I’d like to see them go after, it’s a guy commenter Mix Masta pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Theo Papaloukas. He’s an experienced (older) Euro-guard who could probably be had for the mid-level.

Tomorrow, I’ll break down the entire Atlantic Conference. Changes were made throughout the division, and I’ll have my take on all of it.

One final note: It looks like Yi is dead-set against playing for Milwaukee, ever. There was a rumor floating that King offered all of the Sixers picks and Korver to get Yi. Let’s hope this rumor had no validity, and let’s also hope that King doesn’t get any crazy ideas if/when the Bucks realize they’re going to have to move him.

by Brian on Jul 2 2007
Tags: Basketball | Sixers |