Big Surprise: Sixers Rookies Continue to Fill Voids

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23:  Nikola Vucevic from USC greets NBA Commissioner David Stern after he was selected #16 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

When the 76ers selected center Nikola Vucevic with the 16th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Philadelphia fans let out a collective groan.

Vucevic, the international center from Montenegro, was a relative unknown to even the most knowledgeable basketball fans in the City of Brotherly Love. Although he played three solid years at USC, anchoring their frontcourt with averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds a game, Vucevic did not receive much hype leading up to the draft.

In Philadelphia, hype can go a long way if the play justifies it.

However, the lack of hype Vucevic received may have helped his case. Coming in with relatively low expectations, Vucevic has played the role of backup center quite nicely, filling in for the banged up Spencer Hawes on several occasions.

Although his stats show that he is only averaging six points and five rebounds per contest, Vucevic has been steady on defense, working his way into Coach Doug Collins' system with ease.

While most NBA players spent the offseason playing in charity tournaments or attending league meetings in New York, Vucevic played some meaningful summer basketball in his home country of Montenegro.

The experience has certainly payed off.

Vucevic has shown an uncanny ability to play within his role, making quick defensive switches and rotating whenever necessary. He has also shown decent shot blocking ability, and that, coupled with his surprisingly versatile shooting range, has made him a valuable piece of this Sixer team.

As for the Sixers second round pick, Lavoy Allen has been the team's most pleasant surprise. Many ridiculed the Temple product for being ranked as the NBA's worst player by ESPN, but Allen has stood out as one of the few second round draft picks to have an impact this season.

Providing relief for the aging Elton Brand, Allen has been a nice compliment to Vucevic, not afraid to bang bodies with those bigger or more skilled than himself.

Showing no hesitation, Allen is currently averaging around six points per game in 16 minutes of work per night.

Depth is certainly one of the factors that has contributed to the 76ers success and Vucevic and Allen have proven that they are necessary pieces to a complex puzzle.