Stephen A. Smith: 76ers won't commit to a No. 2 pick in NBA draft

Posted: June 24, 2010

As the NBA draft approaches, there is a desire to look at these 76ers differently, to believe, yet again, that this year will be different from practically all the rest. There is hope that another Allen Iverson will be found - and that another Shawn Bradley won't. But as decision time arrives, the Sixers are either unclear about the direction they're going or playing mind games with the public to keep us all interested.

Just days ago general manager Ed Stefanski did everything but kiss a No. 2 jersey and declare Evan Turner out of Ohio State as the team's choice in the draft. Yesterday it was coach Doug Collins' turn: "I can't tell you who we're picking. But I can tell you that this kid out of Syracuse, Wesley Johnson, had one terrific workout for our team. He's a special player. He has a lot of skill. And if we get him, we'll be lucky to have him."

Then there's the issue of Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors. He's the versatile forward every scout has described as the off-the-chart athlete in the draft. He provides the perfect excuse for Stefanski and Collins' game of poker, as they throw every draft board prediction in the sewer with a smile on their face.

"I came here with the mind-set of improving this team," Collins said a little more than 24 hours before the Sixers pick second in Thursday night's NBA draft. "There may be some folks that don't see too much in this team. Maybe it's me being the eternal optimist, but I see some pieces on this squad that can really excel with the right nurturing and guidance.

"[Assistant] Aaron McKie raves about the abilities of point guard Jrue Holiday. I'll be in the ear of Andre Iguodala and I'm confident he'll continue to get better. We may need a piece here or there, but I truly don't believe we're far away. Particularly when you look at the whole picture."

Right now it looks like Iguodala, Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Lou Williams. And if the Sixers see something else, we'll know exactly who that is by whom they draft tonight.

Numerous NBA scouts swear Turner is a versatile guard, capable of playing both guard spots more than the small-forward position. They say he's extremely skilled, comparable to Portland's Brandon Roy coming out of college - but is still a below-average NBA athlete.

Prognosticators don't say the same about Johnson, believing he's an above-average NBA athlete who can shoot, rebound, defend, and block shots from the weak side. The problem? The jury's still out on Johnson's defensive ability because he played a 2-3 matchup zone at Syracuse as opposed to man-to-man. Plus he's more of a small forward.

Translation: If the Sixers draft Johnson, they either believe Iguodala is really a two guard or they're using the No. 2 pick on Johnson to strengthen their bench.


When the discussion turns to Favors, no one from the Sixers has mentioned him voluntarily. Considering that Favors has the biggest upside of them all, someone who is expected to grow physically and mentally into a bona-fide star within three years, it is a bit suspicious that he hasn't been mentioned more. Particularly since the Sixers are a bit thin at that position.

"The one thing I will tell you we're looking for is someone capable of starting and ready to produce for us right now," Collins said. "That's what you use a No. 2 pick for. You expect that individual to be able to come in and contribute right away. To help the team as soon as possible."

Sounds good. Until you contemplate how much help the Sixers need. Then you wonder what rookie could possibly help this team.

Now that Samuel Dalembert is gone and the Sixers acquired center Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni, they may have added toughness and scoring on their front line. But what about Elton Brand?

Brand is the forward owed $51 million over the next three seasons, who's still recognized as the man who inhibited the Sixers' ability to play defense in a fashion that propelled them to the postseason two years ago.

"This is a new day," Collins said. "A new slate. Everyone starts out fresh with me, and those who do the right things, the right way, will play. No favorites."

Hold on now. We haven't heard that before.

Maybe a new and better day has arrived, after all. Even if the No. 2 pick isn't the complete answer to their prayers.

Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or

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