Bob Cooney: My guess is good as yours

Arnett Moultrie, the Mississippi State forward who could be the Sixers' choice with the 15th overall pick.
Arnett Moultrie, the Mississippi State forward who could be the Sixers' choice with the 15th overall pick. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: June 29, 2012

STATING definitively whom the 76ers will select with the 15th pick in the first round of Thursday's draft is an exercise in fallacy. There are just so many factors that could come into play when it is time for the selection that predicting who it will be is pure speculation.

Does the potential loss of Lou Williams to free agency increase the need for a scorer at the guard position (Austin Rivers)? Is another athletic wingman an area the team will explore yet again? Or will the Sixers stay the course that they seem to have paved for this draft and go with a big, athletic inside player who preferably can rebound, block shots and score?

In Rivers, they would get a player who can break down defenses off the dribble, create his own shot and get to the basket and create contact - basically a bigger, younger Williams. Plus, there is that Duke connection between Rivers and Sixers coach Doug Collins, whose son, Chris, is the Blue Devils' associate head coach under Mike Krzyzewski. Chris Collins recruited Rivers to Duke, and the Rivers family (father Doc, coach of the Boston Celtics) and the Collins family are very tight.

Replacing Williams, who was the leading scorer on a team that had many anemic scoring nights, will certainly be a priority if he is to sign elsewhere. But this draft doesn't seem the place to do it and Rivers could be gone by the time No. 15 comes around.

Another outside scorer who would certainly pique the Sixers' interest would be 6-7 shooter Terrence Ross, from the University of Washington. But it appears Ross' stock is rising and he could be a top-10 pick, so that scenario probably won't even come into play.

After many mock-draft run-throughs and lots of video and scouting reports, two names keep coming to the forefront to me: Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie and St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson.

In Moultrie, the Sixers would be getting a player many consider the most athletic big man in the country. At 6-11 and 233 pounds, Moultrie owns a 7-2 wingspan and is a very good leaper. He was the leading rebounder in the Southeastern Conference last season not just because of those two attributes, but because he mostly doesn't rely on them. Moultrie is very good at finding his man and keeping him away from the ball on rebounds before going to get it himself.

Offensively, he has developed the ability to step out to about 20 feet and comfortably shoot and hit his jumper. But most of his scoring comes in the paint, where he can finish with both his left and right hands.

Moultrie spent two seasons at UTEP before transferring to Mississippi State. During the year he had to sit, Moultrie turned from a small forward to a power one. Last season he averaged 10.5 rebounds and shot 54.9 percent as he moved closer to the basket.

"I spent a lot of time in the weight room and in the gym improving on my game," Moultrie said after his workout for the Sixers last Saturday. "I grew up a lot physically and I tried to take that out on the basketball court."

Despite measuring just under 6-10, Nicholson possesses a 7-4 wingspan and carries a solid 234 pounds. With 4 years of college under his belt, he is seasoned and should be able to step in right away for the Sixers without having too much adjustment.

He is a very crafty player with the smarts to keep defenses guessing as to where he'll go. He also showed a great shot-blocking ability, averaging two a game, though that might change dramatically in the NBA. Nicholson won't be intimidated by the competition, however.

"Basketball is based on just players, so I don't see it like that," he said of the disadvantage of playing in the Atlantic 10.

Nicholson and Moultrie would seemingly fit right in with the Sixers' frontcourt, no matter what changes could happen to their roster. Second-year center Nikola Vucevic will be back, as should second-year power forward Lavoy Allen, and Thaddeus Young is signed for four more seasons.

Moultrie or Nicholson a guarantee at No. 15? Not at all, but that's what we're going with.


Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com

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