2011 NBA Draft: Sixers’ Options in the First Round


For the third time in the past four off-seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers were spared a trip up to Exit 16E of the NJ Turnpike to Secaucus, NJ to participate in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Sixers’ 41-41 record this year garnered them the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, which will be held on June 23. While not top-heavy, this year’s draft class is loaded with players who could immediately become contributors in the 76ers’ rotation, provided that they comply with Doug Collins’ unspoken mantras regarding defense and effort.

With the roster currently loaded with wing players, the Sixers will probably look to select a power forward or a center with their first-round selection. With that in mind, here’s a look at four prospects that could be on the board when they make their pick.

Kenneth Faried – Morehead State

No one in the history of Division I basketball grabbed more rebounds than Kenneth Faried, who pulled down 1,673 boards during four years controlling the paint at Morehead State. This past season, the Newark, NJ native averaged 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.9 steals as he lead the Eagles to the third round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Despite the fact that he’s only 6-6, Faried is an aggressive player whose exceptional positioning and energy allows him to outwork players who are several inches taller. While he lacks the ideal size to play the 4 position in the NBA, he has the athleticism and wingspan (7 feet) to match up effectively against most power forwards in the league. According to one scout at the recent NBA Draft Combine: “He’s an animal.”
Offensively, he’s nothing more than a post player at this point in his development. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Faried only attempted 13 jumpers this season for the Eagles.

For comparison’s sake, Faried is somewhat reminiscent of a smaller Ben Wallace, who was a defensive and rebounding nightmare in the early part of the last decade. When asked about Wallace at the Draft Combine, Faried didn’t shy away from the analogy.

“I fully expect I’ll able to do [what Wallace did], but it’s going to take time and progress,” said Faried. “I’m just going to keep getting better every day.”

Tristan Thompson – Texas

He may not be the most exciting player in the draft, but Texas freshman power forward Tristan Thompson does a lot of things exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that it won’t take long for him to hear his name called on June 23.

Thompson is a solid athlete who can run the floor and is eager (and able) to do battle on the inside. He’s the type of player who finds ways to score even when he’s not the focal point of the offense, and with his 7-2 wingspan, he causes problems for opponents on the defensive end as well.

Like most highly touted college freshmen, Thompson looked brilliant at times and completely lost at others during his one season in Austin. Mixed in with his 10 double-doubles in 2010-11 were disappointing performances against Top 25 teams, most notably Kansas (7 points, 2 rebounds) and Arizona (3 points, 6 rebounds).

Having just turned 20 in March, Thompson can almost be excused for his lack of consistency at this stage in his career. But he definitely looks and plays the part, and would be a welcome addition to any team’s frontcourt. According to a few mock drafts, that team could very well be the 76ers.

Markieff Morris – Kansas

While not as polished as his twin brother (and fellow Kansas’ teammate) Marcus, Markieff Morris is an NBA-ready defender and rebounder who would quickly work his way into the 76ers’ rotation.

In less than 25 minutes per game with the Jayhawks in 2010-11, Morris averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, while shooting an impressive 58.9 percent from the field. Not to be overlooked is the fact that he also knocked down more than 42 percent of his three-point attempts last season.

So despite the body and the game of a power forward, Morris boasts the shooting prowess of a much smaller player – think Marreese Speights, but with a much higher basketball IQ.

It’s unlikely that Morris will ever reach All-Star status, but he has all of the tools to quickly blossom into a solid low-post contributor for many years to come. In desperate need of an option off of the bench at the 4 spot, the 76ers would do well to consider Morris if he’s on the board at 16.

Donatas Motiejunas – Lithuania

Probably the frontcourt option least known to most 76ers’ fans, Donatas Motiejunas may have more upside than any player in the draft.

A legit 7-footer, Motiejunas is a versatile big man who can stretch the floor with his athleticism and his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter.

His great hands and exceptional footwork around the basket made him one of the better low-post options in the premier division of the Italian League, where he averaged 13.5 points per game for Benetton Treviso.

NBADraft.net compares Motiejunas to Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani, and the two share a great deal of similarities. Much like the Raptors’ center, he isn’t very effective on the glass, and neither player will ever make an All-NBA Defensive Team.

Despite his size, Motiejunas was one of the worst rebounders in the Italian League this past season, and will have to bulk up from his current weight of 215 pounds if he ever expects to be a force in the paint.

That all said, he is an intriguing option who may just need the proper coach in order to blossom into one of the better all-around players in the NBA. If the 76ers’ front office thinks Collins is that man, don’t be surprised if they select Motiejunas with their No. 16 pick.