Bob Ford: 76ers' top pick doesn't seem to make much sense

Posted: June 29, 2012

If there were any doubt the 76ers have enjoyed the company of Andre Iguodala long enough, it was dispelled in the first round of the NBA draft Thursday night when they drafted him again.

Maurice Harkless, who played just one season at St. John's, is a little taller than Iguodala, but otherwise he is an athletic small forward who can get to the rim, play some defense and does not possess a reliable jump shot.

Harkless is only 19 years old and the Sixers sold the pick as a developmental choice, with lame duck team president Rod Thorn emphasizing that his "growth plates are open" and the team expects Harkless to grow into a power forward someday.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, they need presence in the lane right now. Also unfortunately for the Sixers, they desperately need outside shooting. As everyone in the organization has emphasized over and over since their postseason run ended in the second round, the team has to get better in those two areas. Selecting Harkless helps neither. So, it's kind of a head-scratcher.

There are several explanations, but the most logical is that Iguodala is gone.

It became apparent during the season and the playoff run that Iguodala and guard Evan Turner aren't compatible on the court. Their strengths are too similar and the lanes get clogged when both are in the game. The organization is currently sold on Turner - although that could change again - and Iguodala becomes the odd man out.

Coming off a decent postseason, which included series-clinching free throws against the Bulls, and enjoying whatever visibility bump comes from being in the running for the U.S. Olympic team, Iguodala is finally a tradable commodity. He has just two more years on his contract and would be attractive to any team trying to improve its defense and add some veteran depth.

That the Sixers have tired of Iguodala is no shock. He's played eight seasons here and a certain amount of organizational fatigue sets in, particularly with a player whose default body language is usually enough to drain the enthusiasm from the building. Iguodala skipped the team's exit meetings a year ago and then quietly asked for a trade. He didn't get it that time, and returned to give the Sixers another season of much the same thing. This time, he'll get his wish.

The question is whether the Sixers will be better off. They passed up several big men who would have made more sense for the current team. They left Tyler Zeller of North Carolina on the board. He would have been a sensible pick, but Thorn said the organization felt his game was too much like that of Nic Vucevic. One could reasonably ask how the Sixers would know what Vucevic's game is like, but that would be chewing on the bones of another draft pick that hasn't done much yet.

They did trade away one second-round pick and a future first-round pick for Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State, a rebounding power forward who slid to the 27th selection. He's another player who drifted around the middle of a very underwhelming draft class and will have to develop before he can make a real impact. Trading away future first-round draft choices is also a dicey proposition for a team trying to build.

"We didn't feel strongly [about] anybody who went in the top 10 other than Anthony Davis," Thorn said, when asked if the Sixers thought about trading up in the draft. They seem to have been similarly unexcited by what came after.

Although the imminent departure of Iguodala seems likely, let's play the game of what-if and keep him on the team. How does Harkless fit into the team in that case? Well, he sits on the bench while the Sixers wait for his growth plates to close. If Turner stays in favor, Iguodala would have to get the large majority of his 35 minutes at the small forward position. What would that leave for Harkless? Not much.

Then there is the matter of Thaddeus Young, another player whose skill set isn't that different from that of Harkless. Young, who plays at power forward, is the same height (6-foot-8), plays well enough around and rim and is also a spotty outside shooter. The Sixers may feel they have added something they don't have, but it's hard to see what it is. From the outside, they not only added what they already have, but what they already have several times.

The feeling here is that one of those duplications will be calling a real estate agent soon and his name is Andre Iguodala. Otherwise, the selection of Harkless doesn't make much sense.

Maybe that's the wrong way to look at it, but find a better explanation.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, recent columns at www.philly.com/bobford, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

 

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