Sixers on hunt for bigger, physical presence on wings

Posted: June 10, 2012

CHICAGO - While the consensus is that there are few legitimate centers available in the NBA draft, the fact remains that the 76ers could be in need of one if they lose unrestricted free agent Spencer Hawes next month.

That's why the Sixers, who have the 15th, 45th, and 54th picks in the June 28 draft, might consider spending one of their three picks on a center.

When the season ended, Sixers coach Doug Collins made it a point to say that the Sixers have to become bigger and more athletic on the wings. As a result, the prospects who have had their names connected to the Sixers include forwards Perry Jones of Baylor, John Henson of North Carolina, and Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State. But it is possible that they could use the pick on Illinois center Meyers Leonard, Syracuse's Fab Melo, or North Carolina's Tyler Zeller.

Measured at 6-feet-111/4 in his bare feet, Leonard, a decent shot blocker, has been viewed by many as a project. However, after leaving Illinois with two years of eligibility remaining, it appears as though Leonard, once seen as likely to be drafted later in the first round, is climbing the charts.

"I have to continue to prove myself in every aspect of this," said Leonard, who averaged almost 14 points per game, shot better than 58 percent from the field, and grabbed 8.2 rebounds and blocked 1.9 shots per game last season. "I want to show that I'm not only a good big but as good as some of those other guys."

Sixers general manager Rod Thorn did not tip his hand as to what direction the Sixers were leaning. He did, however, say that there are "five players" who could help the team he hopes will be available when the Sixers make their first pick.

"I do think there will be a good player at 15," Thorn said via telephone.

Thorn agreed that the Sixers needed to become more athletic on the wings. He also hinted that the Sixers would like to add a shooter in the draft.

"I'm not allowed to say much more but, again, there were five or six kids here that really caught our eye," Thorn said.

It has been a busy stretch for the Sixers contingent of Thorn, Collins, senior vice president of basketball operations Tony DiLeo, and director of player personnel Courtney Witte. Along with viewing the workouts the draft prospects ran in morning and afternoons sessions Thursday and Friday at the University of Illinois at Chicago, they interviewed as many as 18 prospects in individual settings before wrapping it all up Friday afternoon.

Early next week, DiLeo and Witte are off to Treviso, Italy, to take a look at the top international players at the 2012 Adidas EuroCamp.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are also preparing for free agency, which begins at 12:01 a.m. July 12.

"There is a lot that is coming up quickly," Thorn said. "We are just doing what we have to do to prepare the best way we can."

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


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