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Sixers 2011 Draft Primer Part 2: Big Men

In part 2 of our draft primer I'm taking a look at post players: combo forwards and traditional big men, with the exception of the European big men, which will come tomorrow.

(Check out my post from yesterday for some thoughts on perimeter players who could be an option for the Sixers).

This isn't a full scouting report, just some brief synopses on these players, with a focus on how they'd fit with the Sixers.  For full scouting reports, head on over to DraftExpress (and check out my personal scouting reports).  Also, the "fit with Sixers" section is irrespective of talent, it's just a look at whether his skill sets (however strong they are) would fit in well with the Sixers team needs.

Justin Harper:
One of the more skilled big men in the country, with a very good catch and shoot game, strong upper body, and solid length and athleticism, Justin Harper sounds the part.

Harper is an extremely fluid and skilled big man with an effortless shot and a good pull-up game. The problem is once he gets inside the painted area. With the reputation of being soft, and lacking lower body strength, Harper will struggle establishing position (and holding, on the defensive end) in the NBA. His finesse game doesn't get him to the line all that much, and he's a mediocre (at best) defensive rebounder.

In all reality, Harper's not a consideration unless the Sixers get a second draft pick. If I were looking for a lanky stretch four, I'd go JaJuan Johnson over him almost without hesitation.

Fit with Sixers: Good (as a backup, and not with 16th pick).

Nikola Vucevic:
A dual threat in college, capable of playing down in the post or stepping out for the midrange jump shot. Vucevic has shown an extremely high learning curve, making substantial jumps in both his productivity and his skill level over the past two seasons.

In the post, Vucevic has good footwork and touch, showing the ability to go over both shoulders. His footwork is one of the more advanced and most diverse in the draft, and he shows a willingness to go down and play in the post, with an increasing ability to pass from this spot.

He's also improved drastically as a shooter, opening up the pick and pop game that has become almost a prerequisite for NBA big men. At this point his jump shot is mainly from midrange and in, but with his improving skill level it's not a stretch to think this will be extended out to NBA three point range. That's not to say his jump shot is perfect, as it's still riddled with inconsistency, but it's something that he has made huge strides on and that projects well in his future.

The worry (and some of the intrigue) stems from his physical profile. On the one hand, he has good height (6'11.5") and length (9'4.5"), both the best measurements of any player expected to be drafted at the NBA combine. He also has good size at 260 pounds, as he's put in good work to improve his strength. On the other hand, he's largely a below the rim player -- his 25" max vertical was by far the worst amongst expected draftees, creating an 11'5" max reach (with jump) well below not only most big men in the draft, but even guards over a half foot shorter, such as the 6'3" Josh Selby, Marshon Brooks, Alec Burks, and many others.

This lack of athleticism, combined with struggling at times to finish through contact, makes it uncertain how well his scoring around the basket and in the post will translate. That being said, any concerns about being soft don't necessarily translate to the defensive end or rebounding the ball, as he's willing to throw his body around defending the post and boxing out. His lower body is still not the strongest, and as such will struggle at times defending post scorers in the NBA. The bigger concern on the defensive end is defending the perimeter, as he has average (at best) foot speed.

Vucevic is a guy to keep your eye on, as I've heard from multiple sources that there's a very good chance he may be the Sixers pick if he's available at 16, barring somebody unexpected falling. His length and skill level make him a potential contributor at both ends of the court, but his overall lack of athletic ability creates a lot of uncertainty about his ultimate effectiveness. He is young for his class, as he'll just turn 21 years old when the season starts next year (operating under the huge, faulty assumption that the season starts on time). If you are looking for an example of someone with good size but poor athleticism succeeding in the NBA, Greg Monroe last year provided the blue print (although Monroe was slightly better vertically than Vucevic).

Fit with Sixers: Good

Kenneth Faried:
The polarizing Kenneth Faried. Near historic rebounding numbers combined with an impressive physical profile creates an intriguing role player. Many question marks prevent him from being a slam dunk.

First, his offensive skill level is very low. Don't let the 17.3 points per game fool you, as the competition he was playing against in the Ohio Valley Conference was not very high, to say the least. The 23 points he scored on 26 shots in the tournament should serve as a testament to how far away he is from being a contributor on the offensive end, and he won't have near the same role in the NBA that he had at Morehead State. He has a non-existent jump shot and no diversity in his post game, with nothing in the way of counter moves or anything over his right shoulder.

His offensive game in the NBA will likely be based almost solely on his ability to move without the ball, get offensive rebounds, and finish around the rim. He doesn't have terrific touch around the rim (but not horrible, either), but he has good length and is extremely quick off his feet, allowing him to get shots up before the defense is set.

On the defensive side of the ball, Faried's length and quickness off his feet make him a shotblocking threat, although he likely doesn't project as an elite shot blocker in the pro's. There's a lot of uncertainty on this end as well, as Morehead state ran almost exclusively a 2-3 zone with Faried in the middle, providing us with precious little data to show his ability to defend 1-1, much less do so against NBA level competition. Also, despite his very developed upper body, his strength is a little deceiving as his lower body is not as developed as you might assume.

What is certain is his rebounding ability and hustle. To say he has a nose for the ball would be an understatement, and he has a constant motor, two things that will make him a constant pest for opposing players.

Faried's another player who, depending on what time of the year you looked at my posts about him I either could have been his biggest fan or his biggest hater. Back when he was looked at as a second round pick, I absolutely loved him, and was pushing for the Sixers to get an early second rounder or even a late first to secure his services. I'm very confident in his ability to fill a role in the NBA, and place a great deal of value in what he can bring to the table. On the other hand, as he began moving up draft boards and began to necessitate the Sixers using their 16th pick on him, and even that may not be enough, I became lukewarm. I don't see Faried ever becoming a diverse enough player to warrant a starting position, or even 25 minutes per game on a good team, and have a hard time investing the 16th pick on an almost certain role playing bench player. He very well may be the type of player that provides diminishing returns the longer he's out on the court. A dependable jump shot would go a long way towards giving Faried the ability to play extended minutes, but I'm dubious he ever makes that a consistent weapon.

Faried's the type of prospect that I won't be upset if we draft, as he's the type of player who I love to watch, that I typically overvalue, and brings a skill set the Sixers sorely need. I'm not going to be leading the campaign either, though.

Fit with Sixers: Good (in a limited role)

Tobias Harris:
Harris is one of the tougher forwards to gauge in this draft. He doesn't stand out in any one area, not being either a great shooter or isolation player who is going to create a large portion of his offense, at least initially. He also doesn't have the size or length to be a great post or help defender and isn't very quick laterally, although he rotates well and has a solid basketball IQ on this end of the court. That being said, he shows signs of developing an all-around game that could make him valuable down the line.

He isn't a monster physically, in terms of size, length, or athleticism. But he has a very good feel for the game and isn't inept at anything. He shows the signs of a solid post game, which could be enhanced even more if he's being defended by undersized three's in a combo forward role. He moves very well without the ball, and if he can refine his jump shot into a consistent weapon, should be a good role player down the line.

Fit with Sixers: Solid

Markieff Morris:
Markieff is likely a better fit for the Sixers needs than his brother, albeit less talented offensively. Markieff is a better catch and shoot player with a more consistent three point shot. Perhaps more importantly for the Sixers, Markieff is a more capable defensive rebounder and post defender.

Markieff's not the type of prospect that will wow you in any one category. He'll be a solid post defender, weak side help defender, and defensive rebounder, but he won't be elite at any of them, perhaps not even above average. He'll provide floor spacing from the perimeter, but he's not Derrick Williams in that regard. He can score out of the post, but you're not going to run your offense through him.

In a perfect world, he's probably a bench player, albeit a first big off the bench type. And, at least immediately on the Sixers, that's likely the role he would fill, backing up Elton Brand while playing spot minutes at center. With an average standing reach (8'10.5"), Markieff isn't ideal to play extended minutes at the 5.

He's another low risk, medium reward pick that wouldn't upset me if his name were called on draft night, but don't expect a franchise altering big man. At best he'll be diverse enough to warrant consistent minutes in the rotation and make himself a contributor.

Fit with Sixers: Very good.

Tristan Thompson:
One player that appears to be falling and is worth keeping your eye on is Tristan Thompson. Thompson's stock appeared to take a jump at the combine, where he measured taller than expected (just under 6'9" with shoes on) with great length (9'5" standing reach), a 35" max vertical, and came out quick in the agility and sprinting drills.

It's his physical profile that is the basis of Tristan Thompson's stock, as he has the physical tools and frame (one that looks like it can add a decent amount of additional bulk to his already powerful upper body and core) to be a very good defender and rebounder at the next level.

He's already fairly effective at the defensive end, using his length to disrupt people in the post, offering weak side shot blocking (second amongst prospects expected to be drafted at 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes, adjusted for pace), and doing a good job moving his feet to defend the pick and roll. He still needs to add some bulk, and will struggle against some of the better post scorers in the NBA, but I believe this is a matter of time for the 20 year old.

That being said, the start of his NBA career might be a struggle for the youngster, as he may struggle to be enough of an offensive threat to get regular minutes from the get-go. He has virtually no jump shot, as shown by his 48.7% free throw shooting, as well as connecting on just 30.8% of the extremely small sample size of jumpers he shot in college. His offensive game is built primarily on offensive rebounds and moving without the ball, with a very small sampling of the beginnings of a post game, thanks in most part to his strong midsection and core.

Thompson's the type of physical specimen that, if he has a decent work ethic (and all reports are that he does), with a solid basketball IQ (which it appears he does), should be at the least a good defender in the NBA. He has physical tools and already a good frame to be effective in the NBA, which puts him a step above most as a defender and rebounder. His offensive game is far from polished, and any team that drafts him needs to be patient with him.

Fit with Sixers: Solid (Very good defensively, bad offensively)

Marcus Morris:
The more heralded of the Morris twins, Marcus projects to be more of a perimeter player in the NBA, and in fact sees himself more as a big three. His midrange, isolation, and post-up games are more advanced than his brother, and he projects to be an overall better offensive player.

I'm not going to go very in-depth on Marcus, as it's unlikely he'll be around when the Sixers pick, and if they trade up I don't believe it will be to target him. He's intriguing from an offensive standpoint, but I think there will be big men options in the top 10 of the draft that fit the Sixers needs better.

Fit with Sixers: Poor

Derrick Williams:
Williams developed into one of the best scorers in the country this season, and as such worked his way into a virtual guarantee of being a top 2 pick. He added a deadly jump shot to his quick isolation game, having a rare combination of inside-outside game, the type of big man that can get to the line at an extremely high rate as well as step out and hit the three with proficiency, making him a potentially extremely efficient NBA player.

Williams sees himself as more of a three, but I'm dubious about that being his role in the NBA. With a 9' standing reach, measuring in at nearly 6'9" in shoes and 248 pounds at the combine he'd be one of the heaviest 3's in the NBA. Defending the perimeter players in the NBA would be tricky for the forward, and he would be easier to mask defensively at the 4, not to mention his ability to draw defenders out of the paint then blow by him with his incredible first step for the power forward position would be a much better weapon than it would be at the 3.

That being said, Williams at the 4 isn't without concern. He's not a great defensive rebounder, and his defense (both in the post and on the perimeter) is below average at this point, without the elite shot blocking to make up for it. His physical tools likely make him a below average defender and rebounder at the next level.

Furthermore, I'm not sure I see his post game or isolation game fully translating. He's not a tremendous leaper off of 1 foot, and combined with a low release point he might have trouble finishing around the rim when contested by NBA length. Not that he won't be good, he just may not be as good at the next level.

Williams has worked his way into the top 5 on merit, as he's clearly one of the 2-3 best prospects in this draft, and he'd be a great fit with Holiday and Turner offensively. That being said, I don't consider him to be a cornerstone of a franchise, and I think he's going to have to be on the right team to ultimately reach his maximum effectiveness. If the Sixers were able to trade up, he's a guy you have to look at because of his potential offensive fit and overall offensive ability, but I don't have him rated as highly as some.

Fit with Sixers: Very good (Incredible offensively, mediocre defensively)

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