2011 NBA Draft: 5 Players That Could Help Turn the 76ers into Contenders
Despite their painful exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Miami Heat, Doug Collins' 76ers have fans in the City of Brotherly Love excited about basketball again. Collins' team-first mentality and the team's seemingly endless stable of athletic players brought the franchise out of the cellar and back into contention. The Sixers, despite suffering from a difficult matchup in the first round, displayed the sort of determination and grit that made every game a nail-biter.
Despite an offseason with questions surrounding the future of Andre Iguodala, the Sixers have several pieces in place to compete in the Eastern Conference. As strong as they are in certain departments, such as their slashing guards and versatile wing players, Collins' squad still has some glaring holes that need to be addressed.
With money tied up in the contracts of Elton Brand and Iguodala, their best bet to approach their needs is through the draft. Regardless of what happens to Iguodala, the team desperately needs PF/C who can rebound, play defense, and contribute on the offensive end. They could also use a more consistent scorer at the two guard, as Jodie Meeks' reliance on three-pointers and transition plays better suits his game to coming off the bench.
Here are five players that I see being a valuable addition to a squad that appears to be right on the cusp.
5. Kenneth Faried: F—Moorehead State
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Kenneth Faried is far from fitting the mold of an "ideal" power forward candidate. He doesn't have the formidable size or length of Lamar Odom, he doesn't possess the offensive skill set of Chris Bosh, and he played at a school that people did not hear anything from until the NCAA Tournament.
So why is Faried even in the discussion? Because his ability to rebound the basketball is as impressive, if not more, than any other skill another prospect possesses. The senior from Moorehead State uses his unique combination of NBA-caliber athleticism, uncanny basketball instincts, and will-power that usually surpasses that of his opponents to dominate on the offensive and defensive glass.
The Sixers, who like to get the ball out in transition, could really benefit from a guy who can secure defensive boards and make a quick outlet to one of the team's many ball-handlers. Faried will obviously have to work on his offensive game, and that could be a task that the aging PF Elton Brand undertakes.
Although his game is still a little while away as of now, Faried will bring a ferocity to the court and an attitude to the locker room that does not show up on the score sheet.
4. Jordan Hamilton: G—University of Texas
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Hamilton is the one player NOT slated to play in the front court that I think could benefit the Sixers. The sophomore from Texas made tremendous strides in his sophomore year that cemented him as a first-round pick.
Hamilton is a player that, simply put, knows how to score the ball in a variety of ways. His jump shot matches up with that of anyone else in the draft, he knows how to utilize his size against smaller guards, and he has the type of confidence in his game that could make him a clutch player down the road.
The Sixers were forced to start Jodie Meeks at the 2-spot for a major part of last season. Meeks's performance was admirable to say the least; however, Meeks' game, which is spent mostly on the perimeter, seems tailored slightly better for what is already a fantastic Philly bench. Hamilton would provide the sort of multi-dimensional scoring threat that, when eventually paired with some improvements on the defensive side, could give the Sixers some resemblance of a "go-to player" in the clutch.
3. Nikola Vucevic: C—University of Southern California
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Vucevic has the honorable distinction of being the lottery-worthy center that people actually know a pretty good deal about. In a draft with question marks surrounding the stable of European big men slated to be picked in the lottery, Vucevic knows the American-style of play and at this point is probably strides ahead of the Europeans.
Vucevic's stock has creeped up toward the lottery since he started displaying his expansive skills at individual and team workouts. Vucevic has displayed a commitment to improving his offensive game by adding a perimeter jumper and several post moves. At this point, I would say he is an immediate upgrade from Spencer Hawes, whose limited offensive and defensive game put the Sixers in a difficult predicament considering how small they are.
He will still need to put on some more weight and muscle if he wishes to compete to the likes of Dwight Howard, or even Andrew Bogut for that matter. Nonetheless, Vucevic has been the talk of the draft in the recent weeks, and if he's still there at No. 16, I see no reason why the Sixers shouldn't give him heavy consideration.
2. Tristan Thompson: PF—University of Texas
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Depending on how things shake out, Thompson could be gone in the top 5. There are a lot of people who seem hesitant to draft the underexposed European centers, and this lefty out of University of Texas has the combination of size, strength, and skill that makes scouts salivate.
That being said, in a draft with very little unproven talent, Thompson could trickle down a bit and fall right into the Sixers lap. Thompson burst onto the scene in the Big 12 last season, displaying a very polished offense-defense combination. He shows a quick step to the basket and has a knack for getting other teams in foul trouble.
His very natural feel for the game and nose for where the ball is makes up for a skill set that may not be as polished as that of some other players. He needs significant work in the post, and, at only 6'8", also needs to work on a jumpshot that could pull out taller defenders.
With all the recent news regarding Thompson, I would be shocked to see him fall to No. 16, but I've seen stranger things happen in the draft and fans would love to see this ultra-talented lefty donning the blue and red next year.
1. Bismack Biyombo
This is another guy that could be long gone by the time the Sixers are called. Biyombo has been the darling of this year's draft. His refreshing attitude regarding the game combined with a self-confidence that challenges the likes of Shaq has teams intrigued about the big man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Talking aside, Biyombo has several attributes that have people drooling over his potential. Other than maybe Derrick Williams, there is no player as explosive around the rim as Biyombo. He is a monster an athlete and knows how to get up and down the court, which is a very necessary skill if one wants to run with the Sixers. He also attacks the boards on the offensive and defensive side and has an uncanny ability for shot-blocking, something the Sixers did not have much of last year.
Despite not being the tallest prospect at his position (6'9"), Biyombo possesses a wingspan pushing 7'7", a trait that, if used correctly, could neutralize taller centers. Biyombo's offensive game is comparable to that of Kenneth Faried: limited. Biyombo gets most of his looks on the offensive glass or coming in transition.
His jumper has been picked apart and his knowledge of how half-court offenses work is way behind where it needs to be. Biyombo needs some serious attention and coaching if he is to be a valuable asset to this team moving forward. Fortunately, the Sixers have a coach with the patience and compassion to allow a player like this to grow in the system.
Biyombo is the type of player that, in his early years, can provide countless energy plays, become a favorite among the Philadelphia fans starving for success on the hardwood, and improve the attitude in the locker room to that of a team who expects to win.
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