76ers take Moe Harkless, trade for Arnett Moultrie

Posted: June 29, 2012

Maligned at times for having too many guys who play the same way and get in each other's way, the 76ers on Thursday added a player who initially looks as if he will add to the logjam that is Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, and Thaddeus Young.

However, according to team president Rod Thorn, St. John's Maurice "Moe" Harkless, selected with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft, will be a unique player who will eventually be a problem for Sixers opponents and not a copy of players they already have.

In a surprise, the Sixers later added Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 power forward, in a deal with the Miami Heat. The Sixers traded away their 45th pick in the draft and a future first-round pick to be named. The Heat had drafted Moultrie with the 27th pick.

Moultrie averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game as a junior.

As for Harkless, "We think he's a great athlete that fits in with what we have," Thorn said of the 6-8, 19-year-old forward. "We think he's a player, very young who's growth plates are still open, and we think he's going to get bigger. Eventually, we think he's going to be able to play two positions. With that and his athletic ability, we think this kid has too much potential to pass up."

With the 54th pick, the Sixers added forward Tornike Shengelia, a 6-9 1/2, 220-pound forward from the Republic of Georgia who played on the national team. Just 20, Shengelia is viewed as a developmental player.

The Sixers did a good job of hiding their draft intentions. For instance, many reports before the draft had the Sixers preferring forwards Perry Jones III of Baylor and Terrence Jones of Kentucky over Harkless.

Both Joneses were selected later, and Thorn said that the entire coaching staff and team scouts believed that Harkless was a better player than either Jones. They also said he was a better fit for the Sixers.

"For what we were trying to do and how we evaluated it, yes, we did think he was the better player," Thorn said. "He was our No. 1 one choice, by the way."

Coach Doug Collins said he also was satisfied with the pick.

"We think [Harkless] can play multiple positions," Collins said. "We're adding him to a team that's young and exciting, and we think he has a very bright future."

In a 32-game college career, Harkless averaged 15.5 points on 45.2 percent shooting.

He struggled with his outside shot, however, making just 21.5 percent of his three-point attempts (17 for 79), and shot just 67.6 percent from the foul line. Harkless is a good ball handler for his size who likes to attack the basket. The 208-pound Harkless, last season's Big East rookie of the year, averaged 8.6 rebounds per game.

Harkless, who worked out with the Sixers about a week ago, said the Sixers indicated to him at the time that there was a good chance they might draft him.

"Talking to the organization, they told me they really liked me and that there was a really high chance that they would pick me," he said. "So it was definitely a great feeling and, yes, I kind of had a gut feeling that they were going to pick me."

Harkless' selection and the trade for Moultrie mark the beginning of what will be a rapid-fire stretch for the organization and one that could go a long way in determining whether the Sixers, who reached the second round of the playoffs, will continue to improve, stay the same or regress.

Lou Williams, last season's leading scorer (14.9 points), has opted out of his contract and might wind up elsewhere if the Sixers, who can sign him to a longer deal than any other team, don't re-sign him.

Center Spencer Hawes is also an unrestricted free agent.

The Sixers have just six players signed to contracts and approximately $49 million committed to salaries. The salary cap has not yet been set, but it's believed that it will be about $58 million.

Teams can begin negotiating with free agents Sunday. Free-agent contracts can be signed beginning July 11.

There is also the issue of what they are going to do - or not do - with Elton Brand.

Brand, the team's starting power forward, is scheduled to collect almost $18.2 million from the Sixers in the final year of his contract. The Sixers have not tipped their hand as to whether they will use the amnesty clause, which would permit Brand's salary to come off the books and allow him to play for another team.

Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com .

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