Inside the Sixers: Sixers like the outlook for 15th pick in draft

Posted: June 29, 2012

Usually in the moments just after his team has been eliminated from the playoffs, an NBA coach doesn't talk about what the team needs to do to get better. That time usually is reserved for complimenting the opponent and looking back on some of the things that went wrong.

But that isn't Doug Collins' way.

Within 10 minutes of taking the rostrum after the 76ers' Game 7 loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals earlier this month, Collins paid the Celtics all the obligatory compliments. In the heat of the moment, however, he added that his Sixers have to get bigger and more athletic, and that they have to become a better shooting team if they are to continue their upward trajectory.

On Thursday, if they keep the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft, the Sixers are comfortable that they will get a good player - one who immediately can step into their rotation and contribute.

The name most associated with the Sixers these days is that of 6-foot-11 Arnett Moultrie, a Mississippi State power forward who might give them the best combination of what they are looking for.

Moultrie was a double-digit rebounder (10.5) last season when he notched 18 double-doubles. But what scouts like about him is the work ethic he demonstrated after transferring from the University of Texas at El Paso. Moultrie sat out the 2010-11 season but made the most of his time, coming back as an improved shooter from the field and the line.

If they don't take Moultrie, another player who might still be on the draft board is Baylor's Perry Jones III. The 6-11 Jones appeared to be headed for superstardom after his freshman season. However, his performance in his sophomore season ranged from electric to almost disinterested. Perhaps more physically gifted than Moultrie, Jones is viewed as a player with a higher risk/reward factor who could get to the NBA and never improve much.

Kentucky forward Terrence Jones is seen differently. Playing for a Kentucky team that won the national championship, Jones exhibited maturity by sacrificing some of his offense for the benefit of the Wildcats. The 6-9 Jones saw his scoring average drop from 15.7 points as a freshman to 12.3 last season, but he actually became an improved player.

As with most drafts, some players are likely to slip down the board. The player who might make the three aforementioned frontcourters irrelevant to the Sixers if he were to slip to them at 15 is Washington's Terrence Ross.

No one who watched the Sixers this past season can forget their inability to score for long stretches. Now that we know that leading scorer Lou Williams might not return, the 6-7 Ross, who has demonstrated the ability to create and hit his shots, might be the type of player the Sixers can't pass up.

And it wasn't just coincidence that the Sixers brought in 7-1 Illinois center Meyers Leonard for their final workout of prospective draft picks.

Though he sometimes showed immaturity at Illinois, no player has risen more rapidly as the draft has drawn closer. Just as they could lose Williams to free agency, they also could lose center Spencer Hawes.

Leonard has a much softer touch than most players his size, and Collins likes big men who can step away from the basket and shoot a jumper. He is a decent shot-blocker - though for his size he could be better - and he made almost 60 percent of his shots in averaging 13.6 points as a sophomore after averaging a measly 2.1 as a freshman.

There are some dark horses as well, the biggest of whom could be St. John's 6-8 Moe Harkless. Though not much of a shooter from long range - Harkless made just 21.5 percent of his three-point attempts - he is a scorer (15.5) and rebounder (8.6) who is considered to be a very coachable player.

 


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

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