Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sixers Draft Possibilities

As though it is not difficult enough to be a Sixers fan lately, there is an extremely frustrating area that goes largely unnoticed; the draft. The Sixers perennial mediocrity and yearly first-round playoff exits leave them with a disappointing end of season, and even worse, no high draft picks. The Sixers always seem to be making their first selection in the mid-teens, a few picks after all the potential lottery players have been snatched up, leaving the fans with little to get excited about pre, or post draft. Sure, they’ve had some decent selections, and much of their current team was built through the draft, but as a fan it is very difficult to get excited about a late first rounder who seems destined to be a perennial role player. The Sixers clearly need to make some changes this offseason, and the draft is usually a great place to start. However, the Sixers once again see themselves sitting at no. 17, where the majority of hyped players will be long gone, leaving a long list of players labeled as “questionable,” or “having potential.” Since a draft day trade seems unlikely for the Sixers at this point, I have considered the best possible options that may be available to them at the time of their pick that could help the team and have an immediate (and necessary) impact on the team this season.

Although predicting exactly who may be available at the time of the Sixers’ mid-round pick is nearly impossible, there is potential for all of these players to be available, and each could add to the Sixers rotation this season. The Sixers frontcourt appears as though it will be packed with the return of Elton Brand and Jason Smith, coupled with Ratliff, Speights, and Dalembert. So, it is safe to say the Sixers should concentrate on addressing backcourt issues, and these selections reflect that.

Potential Selections:

1. Brandon Jennings, PG. – With the probable departure of Andre Miller, the Sixers will be in desperate need of a point guard, as Royal Ivey is the only remaining true PG on the depth chart after Miller. Willie Green and Lou Williams both have point guard abilities, but are naturally off-ball players. Jennings could go anywhere from inside the top 10 to late teens, and if available it would be foolish of the Sixers to pass on a young potential point guard of the future to compliment the young nucleus they are developing.

2. Ty Lawson, PG. – The same logic goes into this pick, and Lawson would be a good point guard selection if Jennings were unavailable. He seems to have recovered fully from the injury that sidelined him for the majority of his last season in Carolina blue, as he was able to return for the tournament and help lead the Heels to the title. Some skills might need polishing, but the skill set is there and he would be able to make an immediate impact for the Sixers.

3. Gerald Henderson, SG. – Although this selection would not address the team’s point guard need, it would follow the “select the best available” blueprint. There is a great chance that Henderson will not be available at this point, due to his ability to play and defend several positions on the floor. He is a talented utility man that would be very useful on the Sixers, both in providing relief for Iggy and Thad, and for providing another option.

4. Sam Young, SF. – I attended Pittsburgh during the same span in which Sam did and therefore saw him grow and develop into a complete package over his four seasons there. He developed from an athletic high-flyer into an overall dangerous basketball player. He possesses decent range on his jump shot, a deadly pump-fake, and he still retains the athletic ability that he relied on his first two years at Pittsburgh. He is an improved defender, and can play at three different positions depending on the situation. This versatility would work to the Sixers’ favor, as they would be able to plug him in as they found necessary.

5. Jeff Teague, PG. – The biggest risk of all these possible selections. Had a great season at Wake, but showed flashes on inconsistency, which caused to surface questions regarding how he would fair in the NBA. He has decent size for a point guard, and has good scoring ability. However, his decision-making and ability to lead a club can be questioned. Immediate success is not guaranteed, however he has an enormous upside and could potentially develop into the Sixers PG of the future; he may be worth the look.

.....23, 24

There are few players in today’s NBA that I would confidently label as “winners.” The type of player that thrives off success, and has a level of focus above and beyond. The type of drive that Mike had, and the focus that fuels Tiger on the fairway. Such players are few and far between. In a league dominated by money and a win-now-or-never attitude, such a player is able to rise above the distractions and concentrate solely on winning. These players have an insatiable drive to succeed, and such a drive has not been seen since number 23 hung up his Bulls jersey for good (Let’s not talk about those seasons in Washington). Well, a player who exemplifies all of the qualities that Mike embodied has finally emerged, after being on the brink of legendary status for the better part of the past decade. Consider this article my apology to Kobe Bryant, and my reluctant acceptance of him as the closest thing we may ever see to Mike, and as one of the all-time greats.

Sure, I knew Kobe was good, and I accepted the fact that he was a future hall-of-famer, but I never agreed with the crowd who seemed so ready and willing to anoint him as the next great basketball God. I quickly pointed to his lack of trophies without Shaq, or his paltry collection of MVP awards, or even the fact that he molded so much of his game after Jordan, but would always just be a shadow on the ground cast by the great one. As soon as he leads a team to a title, I said, then I would be willing to discuss 24’s place behind his predecessor, both in number and legacy. I felt that Kobe’s window had passed, and that the League now belonged to a new number 23, one oft-referred to as “The King.” I believed that Kobe would take his three rings and begin to fade into the basketball history books like the rest of his contemporaries from the 90’s. However, just as I began to embrace this year’s postseason as LeBron’s coming out party and a golden-paved road to his first championship, something strange happened; Kobe wasn’t ready to give up. He wasn’t ready to hand the keys to the League over to his Nike commercial puppet pal just yet. Simply, he would not accept his legacy as reading, “an all-time great.” He wanted to make sure directly under his name it would say, “the all-time great,” and by showing a focus and determination not seen by basketball fans since MJ hit that jumper over Byron Russell, he did exactly that by leading the Lakers to another NBA Championship. He put on an unparalleled performance throughout the playoffs, not showing the slightest bit of satisfaction until the trophy, his trophy, was placed in his hands. Although other players might rejoice after gaining a 3-1 edge in the Finals, Kobe saw no reason to celebrate as he worked tirelessly to achieve his goal. He became an island; no phone calls, no socializing, nothing. Not until his job was done. And only once he had completed his goal, once he put the Lakers 2009 Champions hat on after game 5, did he allow a smile to creep onto his face, a face that had been largely occupied by a piercing-eyed scowl since mid-April.

The joy of winning was never clearer to me than it was as I watched Kobe jump up and down, carelessly grabbing teammates and screaming at the top of his lungs at the end of game 5. He looked as though the weight of the world had just been lifted off of his shoulders, and in a way, as he addressed in a later interview; it was. “It feels like I got a big old monkey off my back,” Kobe chuckled in response to a question asking how it felt to finally win a title without his old seven-foot running-mate. Winning four titles puts you in rare-air in the basketball world, and it is safe to say no one worked harder to achieve a title, and there is no more deserving player in the NBA to hoist this year’s Championship trophy, just as there is no player more deserving to have his name mentioned in the same sentence as Michael, Magic, and Larry. But, if this year’s playoffs were any indication, Kobe is far from done writing his legacy, and we can be sure that he won’t spend too much time celebrating this victory, before he begins preparation to do it all again next season.