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NBA Draft 2012: Who Can Aid Philadelphia 76ers' Frontcourt

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: Who Can Aid Philadelphia 76ers' Frontcourt

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    Across the NBA the Philadelphia 76ers are considered to be one of the deepest teams from top to bottom. They boast one of the league's highest scoring benches thanks to contributors like Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, but it's clear that something is missing.

    As the Sixers stumble towards the finish line of the 2011-2012 season it has become clear that while the Sixers possess a wealth of talent on the wing, they're in desperate need of additions to a frontcourt that lacks serious punch.

    Spencer Hawes was an early season revelation, but ever since his return from an Achilles injury that had him sidelined the bulk of the season he has failed to be the facilitator he was in December and January.

    Rookie center Nikola Vucevic has been wildly inconsistent in his time on the floor, but he has garnered starters minutes lately as Doug Collins has relegated Hawes to a new role off of the bench.

    Alongside Hawes and Vucevic, veteran power forward Elton Brand has tried his best to keep pace with the condensed season, but the wear and tear on his aging body is evident.

    While Vucevic is locked down for the next several years on his rookie deal, Hawes and Brand may both find themselves on the way out this summer.

    Hawes signed a one-year deal this past offseason and will be a restricted free agent in 2012-2013.

    Brand, on the other hand, has an early termination option and could opt to become a free agent this summer. The logic behind opting for free agency would be simple for Brand. An opportunity to capture an NBA title would be a great way to cap off an illustrious career.

    On the other hand, if Brand decides that he prefers to remain in Philadelphia, the Sixers will be committed to paying him over $18 million next season, a cap number that would certainly inhibit the Sixers ability to sign prized free agents.

    With the future of the Sixers' frontcourt looking fuzzy it's time to scout some players who would come in next season and pack a punch for a frontcourt in desperate need of a face lift.

    Here are five prospects who could bolster the Sixers' front line in 2012-2013.

John Henson

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    A member of that vaunted North Carolina frontcourt with Tyler Zeller, Henson is the real deal at 6'10''. Henson has a monstrous wingspan (it's reported to be at least 7-foot-4) and he moves incredibly well off of the ball.

    While the Sixers did draft Nikola Vucevic out of USC in 2011, Vucevic boasts a more European style to his game. Vucevic predicates his game around mid-range shooting and finesse moves rather than aggression and shot blocking, like Henson does.

    Drafting Henson would be more for defensive purposes than anything else, but that's a luxury that the Sixers can currently afford.

    With their great depth at the shooting guard and small forward positions, an influx of defensive prowess on the inside is vital for a team that's constantly handled by opposing big men (e.g. Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler).

Fab Melo

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    If the Sixers are looking to take a risk, Melo may be the guy to reach for. Melo's sophomore season at Syracuse was riddled with controversy, and although he may wreak of immaturity, there's room to grow at the professional level.

    Where we currently stand, Melo appears to be a less athletic version of DeMarcus Cousins. Melo is not nearly as gifted as the former Wildcat, but he is certainly the prototypical center that many teams strive to obtain at 7'0'' and 244 pounds.

    There's no question that Melo, who averaged around eight points and six rebounds per game this past season, would be a project at the NBA level, but he could end up being the long-term answer for the Sixers at center.

Jared Sullinger

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    If the Sixers are looking for a player to succeed Elton Brand, look no further than Jared Sullinger.

    Sullinger is a proven gamer — he averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds a game in his sophomore season — and he possesses a great mid-range game that's crucial at the NBA level.

    Sullinger showed throughout this year's NCAA Tournament that he's willing to bang down low with opposing big men, but his post moves appeared questionable at times. His repertoire of moves doesn't involve a lot of fakes, it's really more about wearing down opposing big men with brute force.

    While many fingered Sullinger as a lottery pick after his freshman season, he now projects as a mid-first-round selection.

Meyers Leonard

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    A quick fix to losing Spencer Hawes would be the addition of Illinois center Meyers Leonard. Leonard was a revelation for the Illini in 2011-2012 as he averaged 13.6 points per game while shooting nearly 59 percent from the field.

    Leonard resembles Hawes in that he can knock down the mid-range jump shot, but the added bonus is that Leonard is a more competent defender. Leonard is a fundamental player with a high basketball IQ, and he's a solid all-around basketball player. 

    Leonard isn't afraid to attack the glass either. Averaging just over eight rebounds per game last season, Leonard incorporates both finesse and aggression into his game, making him one of the most complete centers in this year's NBA Draft.

Henry Sims

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    A virtual unknown before his senior season, Sims burst onto the scene for the Georgetown Hoyas in 2011-2012.

    Sims made a name for himself last season with a variety of flashy performances in the Big East Tournament, namely against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

    Although Sims is projected as a second round draft pick, he could be a luxury for the Sixers if they choose to go with a more aggressive, defensive minded big man in round one. Sims would figure to contribute off of the bench for a Sixers squad that lacks any semblance of depth at the power forward or center positions.

    Typically the Sixers' frontcourt rotation involves just three players: Hawes, Vucevic and Thaddeus Young, who is forced to play as an undersized power forward.

    A player like Sims would give the Sixers the luxury of forming a more complete rotation, with Sims rotating in at the four, Young at the three and Evan Turner at the two.

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