Jared Sullinger's bad back may not be enough to scare every NBA team away. According to Tom Moore of Calkins Newspapers, the Philadelphia 76ers are considering taking a chance on the Ohio State product with the No. 15 overall selection.
#Sixers Rod Thorn on Jared Sullinger: 'We are considering him (at No. 15). He is a talented player.'— Tom Moore (@tmoorepburbs) June 27, 2012
Sullinger's stocky frame and deft scoring touch certainly make him an intriguing option, but his back is a real concern. Selecting a player with questionable long-term health is a major risk. Further, this draft holds particular significance for Philadelphia, as the Sixers are one key scorer away from making some "real" noise in the Eastern Conference.
Chad Ford's ESPN report supplied some feedback from Sullinger's father Satch Sullinger. He was quoted from a phone-call interview with Ford's ESPN colleague Andy Katz.
"He had a bulging area that was due to his hamstring and quads being so tight," Satch Sullinger told ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz in a phone call Monday afternoon. "It pulled on his hip flexor and he's been taking care of it to loosen it. You can call it a red flag if you want. But it's tight hamstring and tight quads. He's been to doctors, he's doing yoga and deep tissue massage. The flexibility is helping take the pressure off the area.
"We've got nothing to hide. At this stage it's all about what they can't do. Jared is a skilled player. A two-time All-American. He can play."
There's no doubting the last part. Sullinger is extremely talented, but his limited flexibility should concern team president Rod Thorn. Sullinger would probably sit behind Elton Brand for one season but, at some point, he would ideally command starters' minutes. His endurance has to be questioned at this point, and if he can't start he isn't worthy of the 15th selection.
On a good day, Sullinger brings a consistent presence to the low post. His 6'9'', 268-pound frame is complemented by his 7'1'' wingspan. He uses his stocky stature to batter opponents on the low block and he can step away from the basket if need be.
Sullinger's work ethic and character would be a welcome addition to Doug Collins' tightly-run ship. The Sixers could use a legitimate back-to-the-basket presence, especially with Spencer Hawes' health issues and Elton Brand's grossly overpaid status.
Still, I wouldn't advise taking the former Buckeye. Philadelphia would be smart to go in the direction of Terrence Jones or Arnett Moultrie. Jones isn't a traditional interior presence, but the Kentucky product can score from multiple areas. Mississippi State's Moultrie, meanwhile, is an underrated forward with a questionable motor and a versatile skill set.
Both players would provide production similar to Sullinger but without the same health concerns.
Philadelphia could also go in another direction. Lou Williams opted out of his deal and will test free agency. This leaves Jodie Meeks as Philadelphia's best spot-up shooter. Because of that, Washington's Terrence Ross should garner Thorn's consideration as well. Ross is lanky (6'6''), ultra-athletic and a dead-eye shooter. He would be a solid addition to the 76ers' current attack.
No matter which direction they go, there are less risky selections than Sullinger at this point.
If he stays healthy, Sullinger could be the most pure interior scorer in this draft. He is on the shorter side, but he is a polished scorer with a wide array of post moves. The 76ers would enjoy his presence in their rotation, but again, there are safer options midway through the first round.
Sullinger's value will be right for his situation at some point, but No. 15 is too early. Philadelphia should pass on his services and take a chance on a healthier player.