Six prospects who could be drafted by the 76ers

Rajon Rondo was a No. 21 pick and has won an NBA title.
Rajon Rondo was a No. 21 pick and has won an NBA title. (WINSLOW TOWNSON / Associated Press)
Posted: June 19, 2011

Last of five parts

The No. 16 pick in the NBA draft is, as most fans know, no-man's land.

It's a stretch of road past one destination and miles from another. Your team has done too well to earn a meaningful pick, too poorly to have contended for a title.

This is where the 76ers find themselves as the draft, scheduled for Thursday, approaches. The Sixers hold the No. 16 and No. 50 picks in what has commonly been described as a weak draft.

The team has holes in its roster, but by the middle of this draft - the league's yearly opportunity for its franchises to better themselves - it's unlikely that the remaining talent will be bright enough to fill any of these holes.

A solid NBA player is the goal.

A few guys fit that mold.

So when NBA commissioner David Stern approaches the podium about 90 minutes into the draft, the Sixers almost certainly will go one of two ways: drafting a big man for need or taking a swingman for talent.

The Sixers' summerlong plan, if we ignore the elephant in the room of the potential lockout and assume the offseason continues, does not require this year's draft pick to become a starter. The hope is that he provides strong backup minutes, whether on the interior or on the wing.

(It should be noted, as well, that this plan does not currently include Andre Iguodala.)

The following is a list of six prospects, in alphabetical order. One of them likely will become a Sixer on June 23.

Justin Harper

(Power forward, 6-foot-9, Richmond)

Harper is this year's sleeper. The Sixers loved his attitude and demeanor, which, believe it or not, counts for a lot. He possesses athleticism and a scorer's touch, all in the body of a power forward. The best-case scenario is that Harper develops into a smooth-shooting big man, a la Rashard Lewis.

He's not atop the team's draft board, but if a few guys get swiped off the board before it gets to No. 16, don't be shocked if his name is the one Stern calls.

Markieff Morris

(Power forward, 6-10, Kansas)

Morris is the safe selection. He quiets those fans chanting for a rebounder, quiets those thinking the franchise redundant for considering drafting a swingman.

He possesses, perhaps, the least amount of upside at the No. 16 spot. But perhaps it would be foolish to swing for the fences when a solid single would do.

The Sixers could use Morris in the mold of Reggie Evans. He could fill the backup minutes that Marreese Speights, who likely will be traded, filled during the 2010-11 season.

Unlike Speights, Morris will bring toughness and rebounding, which is exactly what the Sixers need from the role.

Donatas Motiejunas

(Power forward, 6-11, Lithuania)

Realistically, the Sixers need a center more than they need a power forward. But are they so desperate for size that they'd take a flier on a skinny international player whose game is more finesse than strength?

Motiejunas, whose stock has bounced up and down the first round, is among only a handful of legitimate big men in the draft. Because of that, the Sixers will take an up-close look at Motiejunas during a predraft workout early this week.

He's a long shot, but if the team's top few guys are off the board, and if he turns in a strong workout, Motiejunas is a possibility.

Chris Singleton

(Small forward, 6-9, Florida State)

Singleton will almost certainly be off the board by the time the Sixers pick, but if he isn't, consider this a case of "separation vs. need." The Sixers have said they will draft for need - a big man - if there is no distinct separation in talent. That is to say, if they have a swingman and power forward graded out equally, they will select the power forward.

But it's unlikely the team has too many power forwards graded as well as Singleton. If he's still on the board, he has a distinct talent separation from some of the power forwards the Sixers are considering.

There are perhaps only one or two big men the Sixers would draft ahead of Singleton.

Tristan Thompson

(Power forward, 6-9, Texas)

We'll make a bold statement here and say that the Sixers would draft Thompson ahead of Morris, were both players available at No. 16.

Thompson is a borderline lottery selection, but the Sixers love his passion at both ends of the floor. His physical measurements almost exactly match those of the Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith (about 6-7 without shoes, 7-0 wingspan). By NBA standards, Thompson is not an elite athlete, but at 20 years old and known for scrappy, gritty play, he'd blend nicely with the Sixers' young core.

Nikola Vucevic

(Center, 7-0, Southern California)

The Sixers see Vucevic as a productive NBA player, a guy who will become a solid, long-term professional. As recently as two months ago, Vucevic was predicted to be a second-round pick. After last month's NBA combine in Chicago, where he measured tallest in socks (6-101/4) and tallest in shoes (6-113/4) of the 55 prospects present, he began creeping up the draft board.

His stock, arguably, has risen more quickly than anyone else's.

Many general managers walked away from the Chicago combine thinking, This guy is better than we thought.

The Sixers were one of those teams. Although it seemed unlikely his stock would keep on rising, past even the Sixers' standing at No. 16, the latest mock draft on ESPN.com has Vucevic going to the Houston Rockets at No. 14.


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at kfagan@phillynews.com, or @DeepSixer3 on Twitter. Read her blog, "Deep Sixer," at http://go.philly.com/dsix

 

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