John Smallwood: Harkless doesn't meet Sixers' needs, but Moultrie might be the answer

Posted: June 29, 2012

IF NOTHING else, the Sixers were aggressive in Thursday night's NBA draft.

How many consecutive drafts have we watched this mediocre franchise accept its mediocrity by never doing anything creative to acquire multiple assets?

We've become used to a Sixers team president - whether it was Billy King or Ed Stefanski - talk about how they were thisclose to moving up or getting another pick, only to have this not come together at the end.

And then team president/general manager Rod Thorn made his initial appearance in front of the media after the Sixers selected St. John's freshman forward Moe Harkless with 15th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

Although he is said to have tremendous upside, the 19-year-old Harkless (6-9, 208 pounds) appears to look a lot like Thaddeus Young, to whom the Sixers just gave a $40 million extension.

For a while, it seemed that adding another combo/forward, something the Sixers did not need, was the only significant draft night move they would make.

"We had an opportunity to do several things," Thorn said of possibly moving up in the draft, "but we didn't feel strongly enough about anybody that went in the top 10 other than [Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, who went first overall to the New Orleans Hornets] to trade what we would have had to trade to get up."

Late in the first round, however, was a different issue.

About an hour after the Sixers selected Harkless, reports surfaced that the Miami Heat had traded the rights to Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie, whom they had picked 27th overall.

We don't know what it would have cost for the Sixers to have moved into the top 10, but the rights to Moultrie, a 6-9, 240-pounder who averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds, cost the 45th pick Thursday, which became Louisiana State center Justin Hamilton, and a future first-round pick.

"I've lost my voice over the last few days, because I've been on the phone so much," Thorn said, when he came down the second time with owner Josh Harris. "Nothing really materialized.

"The deal with Miami developed over the course of the draft."

I admit, I was confused by the Harkless pick. The scouting skinny on Harkless is that he is great athlete, attacks the rim and is great in the open court. His weaknesses include an inconsistent perimeter shot and some issues with ballhandling.

I was seeing not only Young, but also Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner.

The drafting of another unpolished teenager with a high ceiling left me wondering whether the Sixers view themselves more as a rebuilding team or the one that reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No, they are not ready to beat Miami or a Chicago team with a healthy Derrick Rose, but I don't think it was unreasonable to expect that they would make draft picks that would move them forward.

Even with Thorn talking about Harkless' "growth plate" and saying that he might eventually be able to play power forward, his selection alone raised more questions than answers.

Legitimate big men were still on the board when the Sixers picked, including North Carolina power forward Tyler Zeller (7 feet, 250), St. Bonaventure power forward Andrew Nicholson (6-9, 240), Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger (6-9, 280), and Syracuse center Fab Melo (7 feet, 274). All seemed better suited to fill an immediate need for the Sixers.

"It's not a matter of trying to sell a pick," Thorn said. "It was our basketball people together feeling that this was the guy we should take for our franchise going forward.

"If you feel strongly about a player, then you take him. We feel, in the long-term scheme of things, [Harkless] has the chance to be an outstanding player, not just another player."

Going into a draft, the debate is always about taking the best player available or filling a need.

By drafting the youthful Harkless and then trading for the NBA-ready Moultrie, the Sixers did both.

"We felt [Harkless] one of the top 10 players in this draft," Thorn said. "Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. [Moultrie] a big who is athletic. He's a good rebounder and defender, and has a good jump shot.

"He's a player who should be very good for us. We're happy. We needed to get a big, and we think we got an outstanding big player."

"We're happy the way this evening went. You never know until the course of time, but we feel very confident that these players will help us."

It was an aggressive draft night for the Sixers, something we haven't seen from them in quite a while.


Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/JohnSmallwood.

 

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