John Smallwood | King makes best of bad situation

Posted: June 29, 2007

OK, so the Sixers didn't make the huge splash most fans wanted and move up in last night's NBA draft.

If Sixers president and general manager Billy King is to believed, it wasn't from a lack of effort.

"We did everything we could to move up and get a big [man] - it didn't work out," King said. "We were really close to pulling off a deal. We had discussions with every team from [pick] 5 all the way down to 11. There was nothing that they asked for that we weren't willing to do.

"You'd have to ask those teams why they decided to keep their picks."

So what are we to make of the Sixers' drafting Georgia Tech freshman forward Thaddeus Young with the 12th overall pick and then giving the Miami Heat the draft rights to Ohio State freshman Daequan Cook, a future second-round pick and cash for the rights to Colorado State forward/center Jason Smith, whom the Heat drafted at 20, one slot before the Sixers took Cook with the second first-round pick?

I'd call it making the best moves out of an unfavorable situation.

The Sixers wanted to move up, tried to move up, but couldn't move up.

Jeff Green, Yi Jianlian, Joakim Noah and Spencer Hawes are big men who would have looked better as Sixers this morning than Young, and while the 7-foot Smith is a big man the Sixers liked, he's a settled-for selection.

"You always like to move up," King said, "but I'm happy. Jason Smith is someone we had highly rated on the board. We thought about taking him at 12.

"We had Thaddeus ranked high on our board. When you look at where we had guys ranked and what we ended up getting, I'm very happy."

Going into the draft, the Sixers needed to be aggressive. I thought it was imperative that they move up.

They didn't.

Still, considering that they couldn't move up, they did the best they could to maximize the situation.

They went for the potential that Young represents.

With 14.4 points a game, Young ranked 15th in scoring in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference. He shot 47.8 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent (39 of 93) on three-pointers.

He turned 19 only a week ago.

Certainly, there were players who would have made a more immediate impact for the Sixers.

Florida State fifth-year senior forward Al Thornton was one such player the Sixers passed on. But clearly Young's upside was more attractive than Thornton's maturity.

And if you think about what the Sixers are trying to accomplish, what happened last night was not a bad approach.

This isn't about a quick fix.

It's about rebuilding.

It's not about improving a few games this season.

It's about building a franchise that can get back into the mix as a contender for a championship.

Outside of getting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, who went first and second overall, nothing the Sixers could have done last night, even moving up in the draft, was going to immediately elevate them to contender status.

So King stayed focused on the bigger, in this case longer-term, picture.

Young is about upside, even he didn't think he'd be the Sixers pick at 12.

"It was a big surprise," Young said via conference call. "I thought [the Sixers] were going to probably take [Kansas forward Julian Wright, who went 13th to the New Orleans Hornets] or Thornton [who went 14th to the Los Angeles Clippers].

"I'm a lottery pick, but that's over with. Now I have to come in and work hard and earn anything that I get."

Everything King did in the draft can be viewed as a move geared toward later success as opposed to immediate impact.

Considering he's working on an expiring contract, that couldn't have been the easiest thing to do.

Still, considering the way things played out, they were the best things for the Sixers.

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Send e-mail to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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