CHICAGO - Per NBA rules, teams were allowed to interview 18 of the players who participated in the NBA predraft combine. The 76ers did their due diligence, speaking with 18 of the players they could be interested in when they pick at No. 16 during the NBA draft on June 23.
Unless there is a move before the draft, such as Andre Iguodala being dealt and a good big man being acquired in exchange, a source close to the team said they will not be looking at anyone "under 6-8. We need a big."
That is the first priority for coach Doug Collins, president Rod Thorn and general manager Ed Stefanski. After that, other pieces will need to be upgraded and filled, most notably by someone who can score at a consistent level in the NBA.
But before that, a big seems to be tops on the agenda. Here's a look at who might be available and who might interest the Sixers at No. 16. The players are listed alphabetically with the height and weight according to the measurements at the combine.
* Keith Benson, C-F, Oakland, 6-11, 217, 22 years old.
He averaged 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks his senior season for the Golden Grizzlies and has signed with local agent Leon Rose. The rebounds and blocks are exactly what the Sixers are looking for, though he is very, very light at 217. His wingspan measured out impressively at "7-3 3/4" at the combine.
He totaled more than 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks in his 4 years, but it was done against Summit League competition.
"I kind of like him," said an NBA scout. "When his team stepped outside of their conference he played well, held his own. He's tall enough, but his frame is small. He has to be a face-up type. He's a little old to be able to put a lot of muscle on his frame."
* Kenneth Faried, C-F, Morehead State, 6-7 1/2, 225, 21.
Was the nation's leading rebounder last season at 14.5 a game. Was able to average 17.3 points despite limited offensive abilities. He is a guy who will get to every loose ball and excite with his constant passion for the game and for hustle plays.
The problem is him measuring out where he did. You can have all the passion in the world to get the ball, but at under 6-8 it is an awfully difficult task in the NBA. Don't let the fact that he played for Morehead State be a deterrent, though. When Morehead beat Louisville in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Faried had 17 rebounds. He then went for 13 more in the second round against surprising Richmond. Faried also had 20 points and 18 rebounds at Florida and 15 and 12 against Ohio State.
"He fits well for the Sixers," the scout said. "He plays bigger than he is. He could be anyone's leading rebounder. I think he's the fastest athlete in the draft. He is a tremendously quick jumper, can get to his second and third jump very fast. He's a ridiculous athlete. He has no offensive skills, but will score on tip-ins and rebounds. I don't think he gets out of the teens in the draft."
* Markieff Morris, F, Kansas, 6-9 1/4, 241, 21.
If he's still around at No. 16, this could be the Sixers' man. The Prep Charter and Kansas product has a high basketball IQ, a nose for the ball and a desire to rebound and block shots. He can step out and hit the outside shot and has very good footwork that enables him to outquick other power forwards.
What would attract him to the Sixers is his tenacity to go after the ball. He is more than adequate shooting the midrange jumper, but when he tries to do too much with the ball, turnovers become a major problem. Right now, he plays a very good "soft" big man's offensive game. He'll have to improve the banging aspect when trying to score.
"He has ascended for a couple of reasons, because of his play and because of the way the draft is thin at his position," said the scout. "He is a legitimate four man and he knows it, which is a good thing. He's skilled - can catch, shoot and pass. He's not a great athlete. He can also play center, which is something [Sixers coach Doug Collins] did with Elton Brand this season, when the team goes small. He can do that for 6 or 8 minutes a game. I don't see him getting to the 20th pick."
* Trey Thompkins, F, Georgia. 6-9 3/4, 239, 21.
One disturbing thing about him coming out of the combine was that he had a 15.5 percent body fat. He had a somewhat disappointing junior season after impressing and raising expectations the season before. He is not particularly strong around the basket, which moves him out to the perimeter. Problem is, he didn't shoot well from outside last season, either. Finished the year at 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the floor.
He has raised concerns by taking time off during games, possibly due to being a bit out of shape. He does have tremendous upside, however, especially if he can improve his inside offense.
* Tristan Thompson, F, Texas. 6-8 3/4, 227, 20.
Played for three high schools (including getting dismissed from St. Benedict's after an argument with coach Danny Hurley) and now is exiting Texas after just 1 year. At Texas, the Canadian-born Thompson averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. He is extremely athletic and obviously still has the ability to get bigger.
"I'm a big fan of his," said the scout. "He's a wonderful kid and has a great motor. He's not great offensively, but he knows who he is as a player. He isn't a good offensive rebounder, he's a great offensive rebounder. He will beat you in transition and get a lot of baskets that way, as well as scoring from his offensive rebounding. He's a little small, but has very good length [7-1 wingspan]. I really, really like him."
* Jordan Williams, F, Maryland, 6-9, 247, 20.
He has worked hard to get himself in better shape, originally arriving at Maryland weighing 281. After his sophomore season, in which he posted 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds, he headed to Las Vegas to get himself ready for the combine. He also cut down on his bad diet. "I love McDonald's, but instead of stopping there and eating that food, I now walk by," he said. "You have to make a choice. It's either a Big Mac or getting drafted higher."
Said the scout: "He got exposed a little bit athletically [in Chicago], but that's not a huge deterrent. He is going to have to be a consistent pick-and-pop guy, making the 12- to 15-foot jump shot. He is long, has great hands and is one of the youngest kids in the draft."
Sixers brass is in Minneapolis to watch some workouts of prospective draftees today and tomorrow. The team will work out players, but not until after Memorial Day.
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