Sixers looking to go big in NBA draft

Posted: June 26, 2012

WHILE THERE had been a peek before Saturday into what area the 76ers might address in Thursday's NBA draft (Washington shooting guard Terrence Ross' visit on June 14), the players who visited the team's practice facility this weekend may have opened the door into what the organization is thinking.

North Carolina teammates Tyler Zeller and John Henson, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie, Baylor's Perry Jones III, St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson and Kentucky's Terrence Jones were all on hand at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Saturday, showcasing their big-man skills for coach Doug Collins and other front-office members.

Both Collins and president Rod Thorn have expressed their interest in drafting a strong, athletic big man with the 15th pick, the first of three selections the team will make (the others are Nos. 45 and 54). That's why Saturday was so intriguing as each of the six players — all 6-9 or taller — have skills that would interest the team.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the six is Moultrie. At 6-11, 230 pounds, he is the rebounder the Sixers are looking for in the middle, having averaged 10.5 this past season at Mississippi State. He also averaged 16.4 points and shot 54.9 percent from the floor. He has what experts call an "endless motor" with extreme quickness and superb jumping ability. The problem with him is that he just transitioned into the power forward spot from small forward, and some question his physicality, something the Sixers are already lacking. Still, his potential has many general managers and coaches tempted to call his name on Thursday.

"I think the workout went pretty good,"said Moultrie, who transferred to Mississippi State after 2 years at Texas-El Paso. "We had a good group, talent-wise, and we all came to compete. I've been mostly working on my low-post game and my shooting ability. [I hear] I'm going to go somewhere in the top 17, somewhere between nine and 17. The Sixers are a real good team, they took Boston to Game 7 this year. I think they need help rebounding and big-man play by the rim and I think I bring that to the table."

While many may think a player being taken from St. Bonaventure with the 15th pick would be a risk, Nicholson (6-10, 234) is projected to go right around that area and his ability to step outside and hit jump shots certainly intrigues the Sixers. In his final 10 games with the Bonnies, Nicholson made 19 of his 30 three-point attempts. He is a smart player who can score quickly with the ball, meaning he doesn't need it in his hands for a long time to be able to create something for himself. He is considered an extremely smart player. He is still a little on the weak side and that could hurt him trying to defend in the post, but he is smart enough to get in better position at the defensive end to counter his lack of bulk.

"They look at running their system through a big-guys perspective, running pick-and-rolls," said Nicholson of his Sixers workout. He also showed a bit of a sense of humor when asked what has been the toughest part of working out for so many teams. "The travel, that's about it, fitting on small planes, but everyone has to do it."

As for competing against bigger players, Nicholson is fine with the way he matches up.

"We're all relatively around the same height," he said. "I don't feel physically mismatched going against bigger guys. I've done it before."

The biggest of the visitors at PCOM was Zeller, who at 7 feet and 247 pounds was the only true center among the players. Zeller is excellent at running the floor and, like Nicholson, has very good knowledge of the game. Also like Nicholson, strength is a concern. The same can be said for his Tar Heel teammate Henson, who carries just 216 pounds on his 6-10 frame.

For the most part, both of the Joneses are slated to be picked later than when the Sixers select at 15. Perry Jones (6-11, 234) is an incredible athlete whose better basketball days are certainly ahead of him. That dreaded "potential" word seems to follow him around wherever he goes. But he can jump, and the way he runs the floor and handles the ball in the open floor for a 6-11 player is impressive. He also carries another bad word with him in most scouting reports, and that's "soft."

Terrence Jones (6-9, 252) is basically a Thaddeus Young-type, except that he is 30 pounds heavier. He has tremendous quickness, can beat his man off the dribble and creates matchup nightmares at times. Like Young, he is lefthanded. Also like Young, he is not a very good outside shooter.

The bigs came and showed what they had on Saturday. One of them could very well be a Sixer come Thursday. Or maybe they'll lean toward the smooth-shooting Ross.

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