Another 6-8 Tweener? Sixers Say First Round Pick Harkless Will be a Good Shooter

Sixers present their 2012 draft picks. From left to right: Sixers President Rod Thorn, second-round pick Arnett Moultrie, first-round pick Maurice Harkless, and head coach Doug Collins. Photo by Chris Murray

The Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Philadelphia 76ers have drafted as the 15th pick in the NBA another 6-foot-8 tweener forward who can slash and go to the basket, but doesn’t have a much of an outside shot. That has a familiar ring to if you’re a Sixers fan.

St. John’s Maurice “Mo” Harkless (6-8, 208 pounds) has the ability, according to Sixers vice president Rod Thorn, to play both power forward and small forward. In his only season at St. John’s, Harkless averaged 15.3 point per game and 8.6 rebounds per game.

But, of course, the big knock on this young man is the ability to hit the outside shot on a consistent basis. In a spirit of sheer sarcasm, Harkless would seem to fit in quite well with the current version of the 76ers including guys like Andre Iguodala, who is 6-6 and seriously lacking a jump shot. Harkless should feel right at home.

While he shot 45 percent from floor, Harkless was 17-for-79 from three-point range and he shot just 67 percent from the free-throw line. Because he was the tallest and most athletic player on his team, Harkless played at the power forward position at St. John’s against a lot of bigger, stronger players.

“It takes a toll on you having bang down there all the time with guys a lot heavier than you. I think I handled it well,” Harkless said.

The 19-year-old Harkless said he will be working on his free-throw shooting and jump shot during the NBA summer leagues in Orlando.

“I think it’s just about getting a lot of reps up. Like coach Collins said my form is nice. It’s really about getting more reps and being more confident in my shot,” Harkless said. “I really changed my whole technique since the season was over. Now I’m more relaxed and more comfortable. I think it was about being more relaxed and comfortable. I was more tense a lot during the season at the free-throw line during the season.”

Sixers president Rod Thorn said Harkless has a tremendous upside and believe that physically they have player who is still growing in size and has the ability to play both small and power forward.

“We think he’s a great athlete that’s fits in with what we have,” Thorn said. “He’s very young, the growth plates are still open, we think he’s going to get bigger. Eventually, he’ll be able to play two positions and our feeling was, with his potential, with his athletic ability, that he was too good a player to pass up.”

Last season and during the playoffs, the Sixers lacked a consistent outside shooter, especially in the fourth quarter. Some of this will no doubt lead fans to ask the question how is Harkless different from what they have now?

Thorn said the Sixers believe that Harkless will eventually develop into a good jump shooter and seemed to be encouraged by what he did during shooting drills while working out with the Sixers last month.

“When he worked out for us, he made 37 out of 50 3-pointers,” Thorn said. “He’s obviously working on his shot. His shot, as you will see when you watch him play, his shot is fine. He just needs repetition and we think he’s going to be a very good shooter.”

I really don’t know how good Harkless is going to be just yet, but I get the feeling that Sixers fans are growing a bit weary of 6-8 slasher, tweener forwards who can’t hit the broad side of barn with his jump shot, but have lots of potential to get better at it.

“We feel the player in the long range scheme of things, we’ll feel this kid has a chance to be an outstanding player, not just another player,” Thorn said. “From our perspective this was the best player for us.”

I think this pick at the very least is one of those times when people will say to the team, really

that guy? That’s because this team, even under new ownership, seems to always pick up these 6-8 tweener forwards/ who have a ton of athletic ability that can jump out of the gym, but can’t shoot the ball.

Let’s face it that’s the Sixers with Iguodala or Thad Young can take it to the bucket, but they’re not consistent shooters. That’s who they are now.

But Collins said Harkless is not carbon-copy of Young and will be an outstanding wing player with the ability to put the ball in the bucket on a consistent basis.

“Sometimes it gets lost because plays a power forward, but he’s not a power forward,” Collins said. “He’s not like Thad (Young). I think there’s this thing that he’s a duplicate. He’s not like that at all. He’s a wing player, who can handle the ball and can run on the break.

“When you watch him shoot, his sbot is not broken. That’s what you look for. Is he a guy who’s going to be able to make shots? At the end of the day, we think he’s going to be able to make shots. He didn’t shoot a lot of perimeter jump shots at the position he had to play.”

Only time will tell if Collins is right, but he has to understand the cyncism of the fans when it comes to the pick because we’ve all been here before.

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