Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The top twelve players in the Sixers' rotation figure to play an important role in the team's success this season. And then there's Arnett Moultrie.
Who is Arnett Moultrie?
At face value, the 6'10" rookie out of Mississippi State appears to be the last big man on the Sixers' bench. During an interview at training camp last week, head coach Doug Collins rattled off the names of the top nine players in his rotation. Prior to that, he mentioned a few others - Maalik Wayns, Royal Ivey and Kwame Brown - that he plans to use as "specialists" this season based on the opponent and the situation.
Arnett Moultrie's name was never mentioned.
The omission may have been purely accidental, but it's clear that - barring something completely unexpected - Moultrie doesn't figure to play a huge role in the Sixers' plans this season.
That ranking may seem a bit low for someone whom the Sixers claim was among the top 10 prospects on their draft board last June. Moultrie was predicted by many to be selected in the back end of the lottery, so the Sixers were fortunate to swing a draft night deal with Miami that allowed them to select Moultrie with the No. 27 overall pick.
It's not often that a first-round pick can arrive in a city without much fanfare. Yet in the days following the draft, many Sixers' fans were too busy lamenting the team's overabundance of wing players (while at the same time printing "How Could You Be Moe Harkless?" T-shirts) to pay much attention to Moultrie.
The 21-year-old forward is only months removed from a stellar junior season in which he averaged 16.4 PPG and 10.5 RPG while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field. There's no question that Moultrie has the length and athleticism to compete at the NBA level, and his face-up game is fairly refined for a player of his size.
After the Sixers amnestied Elton Brand in July, Moultrie appeared destined to log meaningful minutes at the two frontcourt spots this year. But exactly one week later, the team signed Kwame Brown. And less than a month after that, Andrew Bynum arrived in Philadelphia.
Playing time that had once seemed plentiful will now be hard (if not impossible) to come by for Moultrie. As it stands, the Sixers even have the luxury of sending him to D-League for a stint or two, though he might be better served squaring off against Bynum and Brown in practice instead of toiling for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
It was probably best for all parties involved that Moultrie didn't get thrown into the fire immediately. His low-post game still needs quite a bit of work, a few extra pounds would help him deal with the rigors of the NBA, and despite an 8'11" reach, a 7'2" wingspan, and explosive leaping ability, he hasn't shown a propensity to block all that many shots (Moultrie averaged less than a block per game last season for the Bulldogs).
It appears that he'll have plenty of time to work on those weaknesses: With most of the Sixers' bigs signed to multi-year deals (with the notable exception of Bynum, who figures to re-up next summer), it's anyone's guess as to when Moultrie will be able to contribute on a regular basis.
Moultrie has been impressive during the first week of camp, despite the fact that he continues to deal with a high ankle sprain that kept him out of summer league action in July. The next month is crucial for Moultrie: Anything positive that he shows now will give the coaching staff that much more confidence to use him during the regular season.
"He's still not 100 percent, but he's big, he's strong, he can rebound the ball, he's got a great feel for the game," said Collins last week. "He has played very, very well."
Statistical projections for Moultrie this year are almost entirely dependent on the well-being of those ahead of him in the Sixers' rotation. If Bynum, Hawes, Brown and Allen are relatively healthy this season, much of Moultrie's freshman campaign in the NBA will be spent cleaning popcorn out of his car and/or wearing "Hello Kitty" backpacks on road trips.
As long as the Sixers' veterans don't force Moultrie to go the "Call Me Maybe" route, the former Bulldog will likely be able to consider his rookie season a success. The only calls Moultrie wants to hear this year are the ones from Collins telling him to check into the game.
Unfortunately for Moultrie, those calls figure to be few and far between.