Stephen A. Smith | King's picks: Ho-hum or hmmm?

Posted: June 30, 2007

This is what you get with a draft like this, on a night when the 76ers were busy looking for answers to all the questions they have spent years creating: more questions.

Who is Thaddeus Young? Can he really play? Was he really worth passing on a hyped stud named Al Thornton? And why did the Sixers bother giving Miami anything for a center (Jason Smith) who never quite seemed to win enough, even if he is 7 feet tall?

If Billy King, the Sixers' president, general manager and anything else he wants to be these days, was making any attempt to alleviate Philadelphia's concerns, he wasted his time. No one knows what the Sixers are capable of, or what they're going to do next season, or even whether they are worth paying attention to.

Hence, the questions.

But . . . if King was trying to build a team, one without star power but enough parts to make you say, "Hmmm," consider the Sixers a success story. At least for the time being.

Give King credit for this much: Character evidently means a lot to him. We may not know whether Young is capable of supplanting Steven Hunter or playing alongside Samuel Dalembert, but his 4.3 grade point average and membership in the National Honor Society leave no doubt about the character of this young man, so much so that you're more apt to recognize his upside rather than his unwillingness to be a ferocious rebounder.

As for King's willingness to take Young instead of Thornton, Florida State's explosive forward? Well, let King explain that one. He is the man who pulled the trigger, after all.

"I look at Thaddeus' upside, his athletic ability, and the fact that he's long," an exhausted King said yesterday afternoon. "I think he's taller than Al Thornton. Looking at it, I think it's obvious that Al is more ready to play right now, but I was gauging the potential for a long body of work for what we're trying to do, so I thought Thaddeus was definitely the better fit for us."

We'll live with it.

It's easy to do because it's clear King did everything he could to improve this team, including paying off the Miami Heat at No. 19 so they would sell the Jason Smith pick to the Sixers for a future second-round pick and cash instead of giving it to another team. According to numerous sources, King heavily pursued the No. 6 pick held by Milwaukee by offering several packages, including the Sixers' No. 12 and No. 21 picks. But contrary to popular belief, it was not for Georgetown's Jeff Green, but China's Yi Jianlian.

I would torture Sixers fans by noting that Yi, at 6-11, is almost as tall as Smith. He's also versatile, comparable to Toronto's Andrea Bargnani or someday even Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki - not to mention that the Sixers could have made millions off his name just by showing their games in China. But that would be cruel and unnecessary punishment.

It is worth mentioning that aside from chasing after unrestricted free agent Joe Smith this summer - "We're going to be talking to Joe Smith about coming back. I'll have that discussion with his agent, Dan Fegan, come July," King said - the Sixers are comfortable with what they have.

"We're going to be a team that's sharing the basketball," said King, fully aware that it was something the Sixers haven't done much of over the years. "I still think we've got to have all five guys rebounding the basketball, because that makes your defense better, which is what we need."

Actually, the Sixers need a lot of things.

But at least they have made a start.


Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith

at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/stephensmith.

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