Evan Turner stood calmly against a wall in the Sixers’ PCOM practice gym and answered questions lobbed at him by a friendly media contingent, its collective antagonism numbed by the day’s humidity and the team’s prolonged ineffectiveness.
The former Ohio State star praised Philadelphia: “I think this is a good city and a good program,” he said, unwittingly equating the Sixers with a college team by calling them a “program.”
He expressed satisfaction with the selection of Doug Collins as the team’s new coach: “He has a positive outlook on how he’s going to coach the team,” he said.
And he promised to look sharp next Thursday at the NBA Draft, but not outlandish: “I’m not wearing a bow tie or anything,” he promised.
This was the typical show workout staged by teams to convince fans and media they are performing their due diligence before the draft. Turner’s presence – he worked out with Villanova’s Reggie Redding and Ryan Brooks of Temple – was meant to show just how seriously the Sixers are considering him and was more to let NBA teams covetous of his skills know that the guard/forward might not escape the number two spot. So, if you want him, you had better come with a pretty good offer.
The Sixers repeated the show with Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins and Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors Friday. Saturday, Wesley Johnson of Syracuse came to town. There have been others. There may be more. But the Sixers aren’t advertising everybody they bring to town for a look-see. At this point in the drafting process, the cloak-and-dagger levels skyrocket, and GMs like the Sixers’ Ed Stefanski need daily confessional appearances to seek forgiveness for all the misinformation they spout in order to mask their true intentions.
Which brings me back to Turner, for whom Stefanski has declared his affections. Collins, meanwhile, is partial to Favors, the 6-10, 245-pounder, whose body and athletic ability are said resemble Orlando All-Star Dwight Howard’s. It’s almost a given the Sixers will choose one of the two. The questions are which player will they select, and how will that choice impact the rest of the roster.
With the help of three NBA personnel execs, it’s possible to bring some light to a very murky situation that could result in a dramatic re-shaping of the Sixers. The fun began last Thursday afternoon, when the Sixers announced they were shipping the world’s most miserable millionaire, Samuel Dalembert, to Sacramento for center Spencer Hawes and forward Andres Nocioni. Come draft night, things could get even crazier.
For instance, if the Sixers take Turner, they will have effectively selected a player with the same skill set and style of play as Andre Iguodala.
“If you take Turner, you have to do something with Iguodala,” a Western Conference GM says. “Turner doesn’t have the athletic ability of Iguodala, but Iguodala doesn’t have the feel for the game Turner does.”
And neither of them can shoot, although Collins assured the media Thursday that Turner should have no problem improving that area of his game. “Shooting is one area of the game you can get better at,” he said, conveniently omitting the fact that Iguodala has never improved his long-range marksmanship, despite hiring a personal shooting coach.
Another Western Conference exec uses the word “redundancy” to describe the Turner-Iguodala pairing, since both players need the ball in their hands to be effective. “There’s not enough floor space for the two of them,” he says. The selection of Turner “might lead them to do commit to trading Iguodala,” he says. Now, that’s an idea. But how is it possible? Iguodala still has four years and roughly $56.5 million left on his Superfund site of a contract. Taking responsibility for that could lead to the beheading of a GM. Then again…
“Teams would like him, because they need a playmaker,” the Western exec says. “There are enough teams that need wing playmakers.”
Sounds great. The Sixers draft Turner, trade Iggy for a draft choice and expiring contract, and the rebuilding contract continues apace. Except for one thing. “I would never draft Turner to trade Iguodala,” the Western exec says. About the only reason he can see to do that would be for salary cap relief.
So, maybe Iguodala – despite his shaky shooting – is a better prospect than Turner, who carved up a rotten Big Ten Conference this year. If that’s the case, the Sixers should take Favors. “He would be their best frontcourt player and has a chance to be special,” the Western exec says.
An Eastern Conference basketball operations chief echoes that sentiment. He thinks Favors has tremendous potential, since at 18 he has already demonstrated the ability to rebound and defend well. He’s a solid character guy who appears ready to work hard at becoming a big-time NBA player.
“From day one, he’s an elite-type athlete and has the size to compete right away,” the Eastern boss says. “He can rebound the ball and defend, and the rest of his game will grow down the line. He can give you those two things and finish in transition.”
The decision to dish Dalembert might just make Favors the obvious choice, since the Sixers now do not have a good interior defender. The Western Conference GM thinks Favors “can absolutely play center in the NBA.” And even if Favors is a true four, he will be better than Marreese Speights almost from the jump. Thaddeus Young is a three man, and Elton Brand is a pick-and-pop jump shooter who will be best utilized off the bench. Some think Favors could even become a better player than Kentucky guard John Wall, the de facto first overall pick. “There was a time this year when you wouldn’t have been laughed out of a scouting meeting if you said you would take Favors over Wall,” he says.
So, is it Turner or Favors? The Sixers have options, and they have decisions to make. I would take Favors and worry about fixing the two guard spot in the future. No matter what happens, this will be a wild week in Sixerland. Let’s hope the results pay off.
* Those of us still pining for Cliff Lee will not be cheered by these numbers: In 10 starts, he has struck out 67 and walked four.
* The Big East lives on after last week’s truncated realignment ride, but the drumbeat for an all-sports conference is getting louder, and that could leave Villanova and its non-big-time gridiron buddies looking for a new home.
* Let’s not get carried away after the Lakers’ NBA title. Kobe Bryant may have five rings, but he was the wingman on three of them and is still behind Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the list of the franchise’ greatest players.