Sixers 2012 Draft Picks Have Plenty of Upside

Both Arnett Moultrie (left) and Maurice Harkless (right) hope to crack the Sixers rotation as rookies during the 2012-13 season. Photo by Chris Murray

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

I’m not going to say the Sixers 2012 NBA Draft was the greatest thing since drafting Allen Iverson, but it wasn’t as bad as you would think.

But No. 1 pick Maurice “Mo” Harkless and No. 2 pick (obtained in a trade with the Miami Heat) Arnett Moultrie are far from the bottom of the barrel and appear to have plenty of upside.

Okay, I know you’re somewhat weary of 6-foot-6 to 6-8 tweener, slasher guard/forwards who can go the to the basket and can’t shoot a jump shot on a consistent basis—which includes guys like Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner, etc.

When I spoke to Doug Collins a day after the draft, I asked him about Harkless and his shooting ability. He told me that he has no doubt about his ability to hit the outside shot on a consistent basis.

“When you watch him shoot, his shot is not broken. That’s what you look for. Is he a guy who’s going to be able to make shots? “ Collins said. “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.”

I’ll take Collins word for now only because I think he’s been around the game long enough to know his stuff and because Harkless did play at the power forward position at St. John’s where he was burdened with having to play at power forward potion against more physical players.

If Harkless is who Collins says he is, he could develop into that player. As a freshman, he did average 15 points per game and had a monster game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, a tough place to play. Harkless, who was the Big East Rookie of the Year, scored 30 points in that game.

Meanwhile, the Sixers were also in desperate need of a young big man, an enforcer in the middle to play behind and eventually start ahead of an aging Elton Brand.

At 6-10 and 230 pounds, Moultrie might give the Sixers something they haven’t had in quite some time. A big man who can score and rebound in the paint while giving some space to their shooters to shoot or drive to the basket. With talk of Brand getting the amnesty tag, you may end seeing Moultrie a lot sooner than later.

At the collegiate level, Moultrie averaged 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his last year at Mississippi State. Here’s a guy who doesn’t mind doing the hard work to get rebounds and mix it up in the paint on the offensive end. He can also run the floor as well..

Watching film on him, Moultrie looks like he has good range as a shooter. He shot 44 percent from three-point range (8-of-18), but didn’t take that many shots from out there. He also showed that he can maneuver in the low post, but will probably need to learn even more moves when goes up against even stronger forwards in the league.

Just like Lavoy Allen last season, Collins said both Harkless and Moultrie will have an opportunity to crack the rotation and get some minutes on the floor if they come in and work hard. In the Sixers playoff series against the Celtics, Allen was a thorn in the side of future-Hall of-Famer Kevin Garnett.

“We’ve got six bigs. Well, there’s 96 minutes,” Collins said. “The one thing that I promised them that I said to Lavoy and Nick (Vucevic) last year is that I have an organization here …that give me the freedom to play who I think needs to be out there to win a game and I told them that Lavoy was out there as the 50th pick to finish games for us.”

The Sixers, in my mind, did address some need with the draft, their next mission is free agency where I think they need a veteran shooter, but also a guy at the point guard spot that can show Jrue Holiday how that position is played.

“We’d like to add someone who can add some shooting to our team because we’re very young,” Collins said. “Could we add a veteran that is a good locker room guy that’s going to come in and be a mentor, not only can he play, can he mentor them and so those guys can be very invaluable.”

I know one off the top of my head that would be perfect for that role …Can you say Jameer Nelson? More on that later.

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