Sixers could be in running for Ohio State's Sullinger

Jared Sullinger
Jared Sullinger
Posted: June 09, 2012

CHICAGO - It always happens.

With so much time dedicated to poking, prodding, and overanalyzing every NBA draft class, some player who once looked like the second coming eventually begins to lose his luster, rightly or wrongly, under the scrutiny.

As NBA brass from across the league descended upon Chicago on Thursday for the NBA predraft combine, that player, at least this week, looks to be Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.

One minute Sullinger is a lock to go high in the lottery. Then the questions about his conditioning, his lack of size, and overall athleticism come up, and the speculation arises that Sullinger could be the player who slips down the draft board and falls to a team that was thought to have no shot at him.

If this were to happen, the 76ers, in the market for help along the front line, would consider themselves lucky. The Sixers have the 15th, 45th, and 54th picks in the June 28 draft.

"Getting help down there is something that will be a consideration," Sixers general manager Rod Thorn said last week. "This is a going to be a draft that is heavy with fours and fives."

Thorn, along with Sixers coach Doug Collins, senior vice president of basketball operations Tony DiLeo, and director of player personnel Courtney Witte, spent Thursday and will again be at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Friday looking at and meeting with potential picks in the draft.

Next week, Witte and DiLeo will travel to Treviso, Italy, for the Adidas EuroCamp to scout the top international players.

Sullinger followed up a spectacular freshman season at Ohio State - in which he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds - with 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds last season. He played about 20 pounds lighter, at 260, as a sophomore and by all appearances hasn't missed too many days in the weight room since declaring for the draft after Kansas eliminated the Buckeyes in the national semifinals.

Had Sullinger turned pro following his freshman season, he probably would have been a lock to be drafted among the top five picks. However, on Thursday he made it a point to underline how staying in school has helped him.

Interestingly enough, when asked to name the player who people most compare him to, Sullinger said it was the Sixers' Elton Brand.

"People say he was an average athlete," Sullinger said. "I have been getting that all my life. But he turned into a player with a nice jumper who went on to average 20 [points] and 10 boards. I could see myself doing that."

Some of the other big men the Sixers are believed to have an interest in include Kyle O'Quinn of Norfolk State, Tyler Zeller and John Henson of North Carolina, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie, and Syracuse's Fab Melo.

The Sixers will probably go big with the 15th pick. The likelihood is that the team will go for a guard who shows the ability to score with one of the two picks in the second round.

The coming weeks for the Sixers should be volatile. They could - although it is not a lock - use the amnesty clause on Brand. That would allow the more than $18 million he is owed next year to come off the books, money that could help them sign a significant free agent. The Sixers, however, would still be responsible for paying Brand.

When free agency begins July 11, the Sixers could lose center Spencer Hawes, an unrestricted free agent, and Lou Williams, who, according to sources, will opt out of the final year of his contract.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick, said it was "not set in stone" that the New Orleans Hornets will select him first even though it seems that way. Davis said the Hornets, who have the top pick, were the only team to contact his father and that he will visit them at some point.

Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at Follow him on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.


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