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'Twas The Night Before Draft Day...

...When all through the house, not a creature was stirring EXCEPT every GM, fan, blogger, player, agent, newspaper columnist, novelist, homeowner, sheppard, and DKV Joventut.  

Only a few precious hours left and a lot can happen before Big Dave struts to the podium.  After the jump, we'll take a peek at some rumors and how they affect our boys, as well as target some players that could fall to the Sixers at 17.  JUMP!

Ball Don't Lie SBN Mock Draft  - Somehow Jonny Flynn fell to us.  If that happens tomorrow, I'll be ecstatic.

State of Sixers Cap - HoopsDaily takes a look.  Nothing new here, decent read.

Chase Budinger Interview - Says he'll be picked around 13-18, and Iguodala has helped him in the draft process.  A Dark horse for someone we may target (to my dismay)

Point - Counterpoint - Pat Forde vs. Marc Stein on eliminating the age limit or making it 2 years instead of one.  Forde looks at the Lance Stephenson situation, Stein calls on driving analogies among other things.  Both interesting articles.

76ers Approach Could Become Unguarded - Suggesting we may take BJ Mullens if he's not available. Praying the Pistons get generous and take him....

There's a few linkies to wet your pallet.  Now for some trade talk...

- Milwaukee Bucks trade Richard Jefferson to San Antonio Spurs for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto.   Milwaukee then trades Oberto to Detroit for Amir Johnson.  The Bucks will end up waving Bowen, who will undoubtedly return to the Spurs for a bag of chips, so essentially this trade is Jefferson for Kurt Thomas.  Milwaukee dumps the big RJ contract to save money perhaps to sign Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions.  The Spurs are just talented.  Detroit fed up with Amir's attitude, minor deal to shed some salary.

- Minnesota Timberwolves trade Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songalia, and the 5th overall pick.  Washington gets some more scorers but at the wrong positions.  They'll most likely hang around .500 next season and slide into the playoffs as the 7 seed because Javale McGee is their only big guy on the roster that can produce offensively (and that's being very generous).  Minnesota makes it four first round picks, including back to back five and six.  They have plenty of openings in their starting lineup so it looks like the rookies will be given a shot to play immediately.  I'd look for a combination of Stephen Curry, Demar Derozan, Tyreke Evans, or Jordan Hill here.  

- Phoenix Suns send Shaquille O'Neal to the Cavaliers for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, and the 46th overall pick.  After months of speculation, Shaq finally pairs with LeBron.  A lot of baggage comes with this deal, but I'll only touch on how this affects the draft.  I can only assume the Suns address the frontcourt in the draft because Wallace isn't a starter and Robin Lopez didn't show enough last year to be handed the job.  Mullens would be a surprise, but I'd look for them to take either James Johnson or Earl Clark at 14.  For the Cavs, they only have one pick now, and a big hole to fill for another wing player, especially one that can defend.  Should be an interesting night filled with many more trades.

I'd like to talk for a moment about the talent in this draft as a whole.  A lot of people are comparing this year to the '06 draft (Andrea Bargnani/LaMarcus Aldridge) or the '00 draft (Kenyon Martin/Stromile Swift).  I wholly disagree with the idea that this is a bad draft.  The past 2 years, we've been spoiled with a number of star players in the top 10 picks.  When you take a look at most average drafts, you'll see a couple players with out of this world potential, and then a bunch of complimentary role players that would have a shot to be successful when put in the right situation.

For me, this is closer to the 2005 Draft.  With the exception that Blake Griffin has potentially more star power than Andrew Bogut, I see a lot of similarities in the projections of players in the first round and down.  Marvin Williams was taken by the Hawks at the 2 spot to play anywhere between shooting guard and power forward.  His skill set is similar to Earl Clark and James Johnson, who are projected to go in the 9-18 range.  Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Raymond Felton were taken sequentially after that, bringing up comparisons of Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, and Jonny Flynn.  All three of those guys had their flaws (jump shot, defensive ability, height) coming into the draft, but they have made themselves into very good professionals (Felton...meh).  Martell Webster taken at 6 out of high school should look a lot like Demar DeRozan, Ike Diogu like Jordan Hill, Andrew Bynum like BJ Mullens, Sean May like Tyler Hansbrough, etc, etc.  There aren't many foreign guys projected to go round 1 this year with the exceptions of Rubio, Casspi, and possibly Victor Claver from Spain or Jerebko from Sweden.  In '05, 3 internationals were selected round 1, and none of them have succeeded at this level.  Round 2 produced players like Monta Ellis, Lou Williams (who?), Marcin Gortat, Ronny Turiaf, Von Wafer, and Ryan Gomes, among a few others who have shown flickers of potential in the NBA. 

The '05 draft is looked at typically as an average draft, only because Williams and Paul have become superstars.  I would not be surprised if a few players from this draft go on to play in a few all-star games or win a few championships.  On the surface, yes, it looks like a bunch of role players, but with the emergence of point guards as more than just distributors, some could go on to shock some people.  Griffin is a sure thing, Rubio could be a stud, Thabeet could realize an offensive game, DeRozan is unconsciously athletic, Evans has a ton of scoring ability, Steph Curry is the best shooting point guard to come out in a while and apparently he can pass, and Henderson and Holliday also have untapped ability.  What this long-winded rant is attempting to convey is that there are guys capable of becoming stars in this league, and even more that will surely become valuable role players.  Hope I didn't get too ra-ra with my '09 draft love for ya'll.

MOVING ALONG....Here's my top 5 guys I'd love to see the Sixers take at 17 (being semi-realistic):

1. Jonny Flynn - I just wrote this (edited by JSams), so I'll link you again to the Ball Don't Lie mock draft

2. Ty Lawson - The most mocked about player for the Sixers and the guy who should have won MOP in the NCAA Tournament.  Let's look at his positives:  He's the fastest player in the draft.  He runs the fast break better than anyone that's come out in a while.  He has a developing jump shot.  He's a good passer, having played in the UNC pass-first offense for three years.  He has a rock solid body and uses it well.  He is a solid rebounder for his position.  He's a good character guy that has played against the best competition and won a national title.  Onto the negatives: He's undersized even for a point guard.  He never had to shoulder a lot of the pressure, having been on a team with five future pros.  His foot injury could linger.  Right now he doesn't have consistent range from the NBA three.  He isn't great in the half court.  His stamina gets questioned at times because he rarely played more than 30 minutes at school. His on-ball defense is suspect, mostly due to his size.  

I had Maynor above him until about 5 minutes ago, but I would honestly be okay with either one.  When I think about Ty Lawson, and maybe its because he won so many games with great teams at UNC, I just don't see him being a loser. He's so quick and strong that he makes up for his obvious flaws with he's speed and decision making.  He barely turned the ball over at school, and always seemed to make the right play.  He shot over 50% each of his three years at school, and a startlingly good 47% from beyond.  Although he missed a few clutch free throws in some games, he shoots around 80% from the line, which is very solid.  I think he's polished enough to the point where he could start opening night for us, since I am in the "Andre Miller won't return" camp.  We're not asking him to be Chris Paul right now, he just has to be the Ty Lawson that ran the offense at UNC -- it'll be less point guard duties in the Princeton offense anway.  I'd love Lawson at 17.  

3. Eric Maynor - Same as Flynn, but at RU 

4. Brandon Jennings - This would have been a pipe dream a couple weeks ago.  But with Flynn and Holiday rising, and the asterisk scouting reports, Jennings has fallen all the way down past 17 in a few mocks.  I still think he'll go at worst 8 to the Knicks, but I'd put him behind Flynn, Lawson, and Maynor anyway.  The deal with BJ is that no one really knows what he has to offer.  If he went to school, we could see his strengths and weaknesses and get a general feel for what kind of player he is.  But because of the minor minutes he played in Italy, he's a very unknown commodity.  It's got the same feel of a high school player before the age limit was imposed.  We can trust the experts who tell us what he's good at, or look at his youtube videos and stats in a very small sample size, but I can't get an idea for how he'll play out for an NBA team (specifically, us) because I've never seen him play.  

I'll tell you what I've read about him.  Strength-wise, he's an athletic slasher that can beat his man at will.  His transition game is another one of his strengths because of his propensity to make plays for both himself and his mates.  Other times, he tries too hard to make the flashy play and ends up turning the ball over.  Like Lawson, he's crazy fast, but doesn't change speeds as well as Lawson does (even though both could use work), which makes him easier to defend.  He didn't play enough minutes in Europe to develop like he'd hoped.  His jump shot is very inconsistent, but can get hot quickly.  He's a tough kid but often takes plays off defensively during the middle parts of the game.  He's ballsy and confident, possibly to the point where he could clash with a coach or some teammates.  I wouldn't hate taking him at 17, but I'd rather trade him after the fact.  He probably has the highest ceiling of everybody but Rubio though.  Shaun Livingston-esque floor.  Yikes.

5. Trade down to take Patty Mills and Dionte Christmas in late first/early second - I think the dropoff from pick 15 to 35 is relatively minor.  So if we can move down a few picks and snag an early second, I'd be pretty content.  Mills is an Australian Olympian who played his college ball at St. Mary's (CA) and competed against the best in the world in Beijing.  He's up there with Jennings and Lawson in terms of speed, and also shares the same weak jump shot.  His midrange game is one of the best though, and excels at the line (86%).  He has great court vision and is a terrific ball-handler.  Mills wasn't fortunate enough to have the supporting cast of the other guards on the list (except maybe Maynor, but he's playing with a future pro in Larry Sanders), so he shouldered more of the load, even after his return from his broken shooting hand.  He'd be a lottery pick had he not tailed off after his injury, but his stock fell hard once he got hurt.  If he puts it all together and picks his spots better (specifically shot selection), he may end up being the best point guard in this draft.  High risk/high reward pick that gets easier to swallow the lower he goes in the draft.  Would be a steal at the end of the first.  

As for Christmas, I'd be just as happy with Marcus Thornton or even Jermaine Taylor if we had a lower 2nd.  But we need a shooting guard that can, um, shoot.  Thornton could go as early as 22 to Portland, but I think he's an early 2nd more likely.  Christmas is a local kid with a quick release and has better all-around ability than the other two.  He can play some D, has good height for the SG spot, and can rebound a bit.  Taylor played at UCF and led the C-USA in scoring.  He seems like a good kid that would thrive in the 15 minutes a game role, coming off screens to hit some open shots.  I'd prefer Thornton because of his passing and ball-handling abilities.  There will be a bunch of undrafted free agent wings that can shoot, so it may be a better option to just keep the pick and go with the best point guard available.  

Clearly, point guard is the most pressing need.  There's a lot that can change before pick 17, but I like where we sit right now.  Whether or not Lou Williams, Samuel Dalembert, or Willie Green are still Sixers by the end of the night remains to be seen.  I don't want to trade our core just to move up a couple spaces, because the value at 17 is good for this draft.  I honestly couldn't be any more excited.  I'll put up my updated mock draft tomorrow morning, but at this point it is still a whole lot of guesswork.  Until we're on the clock, have faith in The Greatest GM on the Planet, and pray that Sharone Wright's son isn't eligible this year.  

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