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In a surprise, Sixers select Holiday

It's a point guard, although not the expected one.

NBA commissioner David Stern congratulates Jrue Holiday after the 76ers drafted the UCLA guard. (Seth Wenig/AP)
NBA commissioner David Stern congratulates Jrue Holiday after the 76ers drafted the UCLA guard. (Seth Wenig/AP)Read more

It's a point guard, although not the expected one.

Tonight, the 76ers selected UCLA guard Jrue Holiday with the 17th pick of the 2009 NBA draft.

Holiday, a 6-foot-4 freshman who turned 19 earlier this month, played only one season for the Bruins, averaging 8.5 points a game.

"We tried to move up a little bit, we couldn't move up, we feel very fortunate because most people had him going top-10," said Sixers assistant general manager Tony DiLeo. "For him to drop to us, we're ecstatic. He's exactly what we wanted."

The Sixers had said for months they would likely draft a perimeter player, although leading up to tonight's draft, most expected that Holiday would be already gone by the time the Sixers picked. His slated salary as the 17th draft pick will be just over 1.5 million.

Most mock drafts had Holiday being selected in the Top 10 and most player rankings had Holiday as the best player on the board when the Sixers selected.

As the draft progressed, it seemed the Sixers would have their choice from among the players they brought in for workouts: Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Jeff Teague, Wayne Ellington, even Ohio State center B.J. Mullens.

But the wild card - looking at the players left on the board as the Sixers pick approached - was Holiday.

Clearly he was the highest-rated player left.

"We're excited to add Jrue to our roster and we think he will fit in well with our team's style of play," said Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski. "He has great upside, displays aggressiveness on both ends of the court, has a great nose for the ball as well as the size and strength to play both guard positions."

DiLeo said that, among players that made sense for the Sixers, Holiday was at the top of their list even though he never came in for a pre-draft workout.

DiLeo said they interviewed Holiday at the Draft Combine in Chicago, but that Holiday wouldn't come to Philly for a workout because "his people" thought we was going Top 10.

"Our scouting staff was unanimous," DiLeo said. "Looking at the players in our area, players we thought might drop down to us, he was a wish player to us. We didn't think he would drop down. But we were unanimous as a staff that if he dropped down, we were going to take him."

DiLeo said a couple of moves opened up this possibility for the Sixers: With the 10th pick, the Milwaukee Bucks selected point guard Brandon Jennings. Some mock drafts had the Bucks selecting Holiday. At the 13th spot, the Indiana Pacers went big, selecting UNC's Tyler Hansbrough, when most folks thought they would pick a guard.

Both those moves kept Holiday on the board.

DiLeo said Holiday was not a guy the team would immediately rely on.

"He's young and you never want to put a lot of pressure on," DiLeo said. "It's the same as the last couple of years with Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights. I'm sure he'll get an opportunity. As with Thaddeus and Marreese, we'll see how he develops, see how he plays. We weren't looking at him to really come in and make an impact for next season. We're looking for the future with him. We think we got a real good one."

Coming out of high school in Mission Hills, Calif., Holiday was the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

At UCLA, Holiday had a less-than-stellar freshman season, starting at shooting guard in a backcourt that included point guard Darren Collison, whom the New Orleans Hornets selected with the 21st pick.

Holiday played 27.1 minutes a game and shot 45.0 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent from the three-point line.

Although Holiday spent his only college season playing shooting guard, the Sixers drafted him as a point guard and believe he is a natural point guard, saying Holiday only played shooting guard because UCLA already had Collison at the point.

"He is a point guard, he grew up as a point guard, and he likes to make people around him better," DiLeo said.