Draft picks improve but don't reshape Sixers
A short night’s sleep after the NBA draft, the Sixers' brass returned to the headquarters at the Philadelphia College for Osteopathic Medicine on Friday afternoon feeling pretty good about the shape of the roster.
At the very least, coach Doug Collins and team president Rod Thorn got the two players the team targeted with the No. 15 pick. In fact, Collins says if Maurice Harkless, the 6-foot-8, 19-year-old small forward from St. John’s was off the board, they would have selected Arnett Moultrie instead.
As it turned out they got both of their guys.
“We had Maurice targeted as our No. 1 guy with the 15th pick and if he would not have been there, we would have taken Arnett,” Collins said. “They were our one and two guys and getting Maurice, we're thrilled about that. As the draft kept going along we were getting excited that [we were going to get Arnett].”
Thorn said when Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 power forward from Mississippi State, dropped past the No. 18 pick on Thursday night, he picked up the phone and began working on a deal. By the time the No. 25 pick was announced, Thorn and the Sixers had a deal with the Miami Heat to get Moultrie at No. 27.
“We went down the line and asked if any team wanted to make a trade,” Thorn said. “We were targeting Arnett.”
Just like that, Collins and Thorn believed they had addressed a couple of needs and turned their attention to the next phase of the off-season. The free agency period begins on July 1, when teams can negotiate with players and work out deals before formally announcing them on July 11. Certainly there will be a bevy of activity over the next couple of days as players and teams angle for the next contract or trade.
But as far as the Sixers go, the additions of Harkless and Moultrie should not reshape the summer plans. Thorn says the first order of business will be to negotiate with unrestricted free agents Spencer Hawes and Lou Williams as well as restricted free agents Jodie Meeks and Lavoy Allen.
“Free agency starts in a rush,” Thorn said. “We have to be ready and we’ll be out there talking to everybody we have an interest in.”
The speculation is that Hawes could be on the move as his experience and position could push his salary beyond what the Sixers are willing to offer. The same also could be true of Williams, who may be seeking a starting job.
Meanwhile, with Harkless expected to fill a role at small forward and Moultrie working in the low post as a rebounder and defender, speculation regarding the futures of veterans Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand run rampant. The talk is Brand could be a candidate for the Sixers’ amnesty clause, which would have to be exercised by July 17. Iguodala, of course, has been in the middle of trade rumors seemingly from the first day he tried on a Sixers uniform.
However, Collins was quick to point out that speculation on Iguodala was premature.
“There is speculation that since we drafted Maurice that ‘Dre is going to be traded. That’s nonsense,” Collins said. “The one doesn’t equal two there. It’s my job to put the pieces together so we can be better and last night we think we got better.”
If they keep Iguodala and Brand, the Sixers are much deeper in the front court, even if Hawes departs. However, the Sixers don’t see Harkless’ skill-set overlapping the likes of Iguodala or Thad Young. In fact, Collins hinted that he could use Harkless as a shooting threat off the bench to spell Evan Turner.
"When you make a playoff run like we did, everyone wants more. No one wants more quicker than I do. I think someone wrote that I don’t even like to wait for microwave popcorn," Collins said. "The beauty of it there is nothing better than competition and once we moved Evan Turner into the starting lineup, we didn’t have another wing. We views Maurice as a bigger wing and coming off the bench we think we have someone who can do that."
Still, Harkless is an unknown as a shooter. The scouts say Harkless’ stats as a shooter in college are misleading because he was asked to play out of position on a team with only six scholarship players. When he had to fire up outside shots, they say, it was because St. John’s was trailing and desperate.
Chances are he’ll get cleaner looks at the basket in the NBA.
“I see myself on the wing, but like I’ve said in other interviews, I’ll do whatever it takes,” Harkless said.
Still, it seems reasonable that the Sixers will look to add to the backcourt with a shooter or veteran guard. Big names like Jason Kidd and Steve Nash are the premier free agents, but St. Joe’s alum Jameer Nelson could become available, too.
For now, though, the Sixers have some pieces or “assets,” in the popular nomenclature. Whether more are on the way should be known soon.E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com