Evan Turner, Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen On ESPN's Rookie/Sophomore Rankings

One and a half years later the Philadelphia 76ers have appeared to do very well in the past two NBA drafts, which is surprising, given the mass criticism both classes received at one time or another.

In 2010 the Sixers drafted Evan Turner second overall and beginning with the Summer League, he looked like a BUST. Sixers fans were worried and national media bashed the pick. Now, not so much, as Turner plays a significant role on the first place Sixers' bench.

Last June the Sixers held the 17th and 50th picks in an already weak draft. They ended up selecting Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen. Following the draft the pitchforks were out and just about every Sixers fan despised the selections, especially Lavoy Allen. (Go back to last June's archives on this blog; it's not pretty). NBA Drafniks everywhere gave the Sixers mediocre grades on their class, which they appeared to deserve.

Now, with the Sixers 17-7 and Evan Turner, Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen all contributing, to different degrees, people are re-thinking their criticism of the Sixers past two drafts. ESPN's David Thorpe comes out with rookie and sophomore rankings every year and keeps the rookie rankings updated throughout the season. Make the jump to see where Turner, Vooch and Lavoy rank.

Sophomore Rankings

Listed under 'Players with starting, if not starring, potential'

6. Evan Turner, 76ers
If the NBA handed out its Most Improved Player award now, Turner would be a finalist. He has been much closer this season to what Philly expected of him in his rookie campaign; he is doing lots of little things to help his team win.

Can he score 20-plus points in a game? Yes. Can he grab 10-plus rebounds in a game? Yes. Can he control the ball for long stretches and help run the team as an off guard? Yes.

He has also shown much better shot selection this season and is now one of the two biggest bench producers for perhaps the league's best second unit. His herky-jerky style of a dribble attack is roasting defenders, and he's making more rim shots this season than he attempted last season.

The five guys ranked ahead of Turner, in order, are: Blake Griffin, Greg Monroe, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Tiago Splitter.

Rookie Rankings

10. Nikola Vucevic

Jan. 13: Vucevic has been a pleasant surprise for the hot-starting Sixers, finding a way to produce in basically every game he gets to play in. He has appeared in eight of Philly's 10 games, never playing more than 20 minutes, yet he's scored six or more points four times and grabbed five or more rebounds five times. For what it's worth, he currently leads all rookies in PER (21.88) while playing 13.4 minutes a game.

17. Lavoy Allen

Feb. 2: Since Philly has been fattening up on bad teams and Spencer Hawes has been out a while, coach Doug Collins has wisely given valuable playing time early in games to Allen, who is making the most of that time.

The Sixers' second-round pick has looked to be mostly a catch-and-shoot guy off pick-and-pops, similar to how Hawes began his career. Allen is hitting 10-15 footers, but he's also taken just five free throws this season -- another eerie similarity to Hawes, and not a good one. On one particular play versus Detroit with 13 seconds on the shot clock, he received a pass on the short left wing while being completely unguarded. The lane to the rim was wide open, but Allen decided to launch a jumper that missed. I would have liked him to attack the rim, where either a dunk or free throws would have been the result. He's playing like the older version of Antonio McDyess at just 22 years of age.

Just like the BUST talk was pre-mature with Turner, the hype surrounding Nik and Lavoy is a little pre-mature. Both appear to be gems from the 2011 class, but I still think neither has the potential to be anything more than very good role players – which isn't bad considering they were drafted late in a weak draft. But we shall see! I was wrong about both of them to begin with.

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