With the 17th pick in 2008 draft, the Indiana Packers took Roy Hibbert.
With the 16th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers took Marreese Speights.
If this were a multiple choice test, which featured the question, “Which of these were the mistake?” undoubtedly every Sixers’ fan in the Delaware Valley would probably have a resounding unanimous answer.
Not only, do the Sixers no longer have Speights or his lack of production, they currently lack the inside post physicality needed to go toe to toe with the top big men in the NBA.
As great as Spencer Hawes looked early on the season, much of his noteworthy contributions have come as a result of his mid-range shooting and not his interior paint play. The story gets even worst defensively. As Chris Bosh, Nene, Greg Monroe, Andrew Bogut can testify, there is no intimidation factor when driving the ball against Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ bigs.
Hawes’ understudy, Nik Vucevic, can simply described as Spencer light. Sure, he is on the rookie grading curve and has great upward potential, but his game is nearly identical to Hawes. He’s great at spacing the floor and dropping a jumper, but when it comes to the interior battles, he loses consistently on both ends of the floor.
This isn’t a written crucifixion of the Sixers’ center position, especially with the surprising success that they have had, thus far. It is however, an acknowledgement of incompetency that lead to missed picks of two of the better physical centers in the NBA.
Of course, that was a different general manager, and even different ownership group then the current Sixers’ front office. Though, if the Sixers had selected either Hibbert or McGee, the thought does cross your mind, “How much better would the 11-12 edition of the 7-6 be?”
They would be a defensive powerhouse. With an interior enforcer to accompany an already stout perimeter defense, it would be all a tall task for anyone to score against that group.
But alas, the Sixers were in love in Samuel Dalembert, who too, is no longer around.
Despite all of the big man woes, the Sixers sit in first place at 11-5. Things to seem to be going much better than expected. They got a big win against Atlanta but were over-matched in a visit to South Beach against the Heat. There’s no shame there.
All in all, Sixers are doing fine… but, there always is a but… The Sixers lightweight center position has gotten even worse thanks to the gift of the injury bug.
Hawes has missed 3 straight contests with a strained back and an Achilles injury, while Vucevic left Saturday night’s game with a left knee contusion. Both could miss Monday night’s game against the Wizards. The Sixers should be ok without either one, after all the Wizards are disastrous bunch.
Though, the possible absence of both Hawes and Vuc could lend itself to a huge game from the aforementioned McGee; especially, against the journeyed Tony Battie, as well as Temple alumnus and ultra-rookie Lavoy Allen. Both would be forced into significant playing time because of the hobbled “trees”.
While, the injuries could end up being a continuous nagging issue, they do nothing but shine a spotlight of what was already known. The Sixers sorely need a big that can stand tall in the front court.
Without it, the Sixers’ perimeter defense, which has been excellent, will begin to become more and more futile, as guards continue to exploit the Sixers soft interior with penetration to score or to feed their own big men inside.
This is what the Hibbert’s and McGee’s of the world provide. They aren’t superstars and in all actuality they aren’t that much better statistically then Hawes. Yet, their presence alone, on both ends of the court, adds another dimension that is simply missing from the Sixers right now.
It’s a dimension that could have been solved 3½ years ago.
Instead, the Sixers ultimately ended up on the road of the softies with these words from David Stern…
“With the 16th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Marreese Speights.”