IN AN OFFSEASON predicted to be a busy one, the 76ers started Thursday by taking small forward Maurice (Moe) Harkless at the No. 15 spot in the first round of the NBA draft.

After the team made that somewhat head-scratching pick, they dealt Thursday's No. 45 pick (LSU center Justin Hamilton) and a protected future first-rounder to the Miami Heat for Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie. The 6-11, 233-pounder is the athletic big man the team had coveted. He averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 54.9 percent from the floor.

With the 54th pick in the draft, the Sixers selected Tornike Shengelia, a 6-10 forward from the Republic of Georgia. However, they traded the rights to Shengelia to the Brooklyn Nets for cash considerations.

In Harkless, the Sixers got a player who seemingly has many of the same forward qualities as Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, etc. That is a player whose shooting is suspect but is athletic and can drive to the basket and defend the perimeter.

President Rod Thorn said the difference is that Harkless, who measured at just under 6-9 and weighed 207 pounds, can shoot the ball, despite making only 44.5 percent from the floor, including 17-for-79 (21.5 percent) from three-point range.

"He shot [79] three-pointers at St. John's and we watched him at St. John's and in Chicago [at the rookie combine] where he was terrific," Thorn said. "When we had him come in and work out, he made 37 out of 50 three-pointers."

That's all well and good, but the general assumption is that the defense in the Big East was probably a little bit better than the open air during shooting drills at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine where Harkless worked out on June 15.

Harkless averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Red Storm during his lone season there, when he was named the Big East rookie of the year. He also posted 1.6 steals and 1.4 assists. Scouts marvel at his athleticism, as he is quick to the basket, very fast at getting down the floor, a better-than-admirable defender and still somewhat in his basketball infancy at just 19. He scored in double figures in 26 of his 32 college games and also posted 11 double-doubles.

"We are very excited to add Maurice to our roster," said coach Doug Collins. "He was ranked very high on our board and we think he's a terrific athlete with tremendous upside. We think he can play multiple positions. We're adding him to a team that's young and exciting and we think he has a very bright future."

Like Young, Harkless creates mismatches in that he is quick off the dribble and is very good at attacking the rim. He is long, with a wingspan that measured close to 7-2. He can handle the ball a bit, but most of that is when he is going to the basket; handling to create for others is still suspect. Many scouts feel, as does Thorn, that better days, as far as his shooting, are coming. His mechanics seem sound, which is a good sign.

Harkless is a relentless rebounder and possesses a very quick jump and second jump. He has the ability to tip the ball in traffic to a spot where he can go and get it. While he mostly played the small forward at St. John's, the Sixers eventually see him as getting big enough to also slip down to the power forward spot during his career.

"We are very happy to have drafted Moe Harkless," said Thorn. "We think he's a great athlete who fits in with what we have. He's very young and we think he is going to get bigger and eventually play two positions. To us, his potential and athletic ability was too good to pass up."

When pressed about the similarities of Harkless and Young, Thorn said: "Harkless plays a different position initially. Thad is a four, Moe will play three and eventually a four. Elton Brand doesn't have a lot of time left in his career. When [team] scouts and coaches and I sat down and went over what we were looking for, there was too much potential to pass up. He was our number one choice, by the way."

Harkless has a fan in Villanova coach Jay Wright.

"He is a quality character kid," said Wright. "He was here working out before he went to his workout with the Sixers. The thing about him is that he just got better and better every day. He's long and athletic and is very explosive going to the basket. He is great at getting to the rim. He has range on his jumper. His numbers don't show him to be a great outside shooter, but I think because he is such a hard worker he'll improve that without a problem. He had success early on in his freshman year but still continued to get better each and every day."

Moultrie plays more like a small forward at times, but gives the Sixers the rebounding they were looking for. He has a good outside shot and can be an absolute beast on the boards. The knock against him is that he plays selfishly at times, sulking and showing bad body language when things don't go his way.

But he does possess so much of the athleticism the Sixers craved, combining speed, terrific jumping ability and a real hunger for the ball when rebounding most of the time - on both ends of the floor. He moves very well without the ball, reading defenses and getting to good scoring spots near the rim.

With Harkless now in the mix, does it mean the end of the Andre Iguodala era in Philadelphia? Does it mean Elton Brand is amnestied? Does the team make a strong push to sign unrestricted free agent Spencer Hawes? What about Lou Williams?

Still many questions to answer, but now with possibly two players they coveted.