The Sixers have a bad frontcourt. They're bad on the glass, they're bad in half-court offense, they're bad at shooting from the outside, and with the exception of Elton Brand, they're pretty bad on defense. Their first round opponent, however, is the opposite. Between Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik, the Bulls are completely stocked up front. Which is why nobody was surprised when they bested the Sixers in Game One.
The triumvirate of Spencer Hawes, Nikola Vucevic, and Lavoy Allen has gotten a lot of play this season under coach Doug Collins, each getting at least 15 starts at center over the 66-game season. And while Hawes was terrific in an early run before his Achilles went broke and Vuce had his moments before hitting the Rookie Wall at full speed over and over again, the Pennsbury High School and Temple University grad has been extremely consistent.
For a guy picked late in the 2nd round of the already weak 2011 draft, consistent and reliable are the graviest of gravies. And especially when you consider he's ESPN's pick for worst player in the NBA. And he's already played major minutes in two playoff games against one of the league's best frontcourts. Somebody wipe all of this gravy off me!
The truth of it is, Lavoy was a four-year player at Temple where he blended in. He rebounded well enough, he shot okay, and he performed to the level of his competition. Never demanding the ball, never being assertive, and never raising his team to places his talent level indicated was capable. He went to a rival high school of mine and I actually got to do play-by-play for a few of his games during one tournament. Same player. Deferred to Dalton Pepper (formerly of West Virginia before transferring to Temple and redshirting last year) despite being absurdly more talented than my classmates and took a back seat on offense.
We hated the pick after the draft, because those of us who had seen him play for four or five years didn't think he could continue that type of play in the pros. We were wrong. He's far from a brilliant basketball player, but he's a non-soft 6'9 rookie forward being asked to defend some of the best rebounders in the game and holding his own. More, in fact -- he paced everyone in Game Two in total rebounding rate (23.7).
The Sixers only signed him to a one year deal after the draft (I can hardly blame them for that) so there's question as to whether he'll be here next year. If the Sixers can lock him up for three very cost-controlled years, they would be smart to do so.
He'll never be an ideal starting big on a contender, but he'll be playing 15-20 minutes a night off the bench for the rest of his career. And with an effective game from the inside and out, he's not a liability anywhere. That's more than you can ask for a 20th pick in the 2nd round, especially while I keep waiting for that Herbert Hill pick to pay dividends. Until that happens, give Lavoy a hand. He's been a treat.