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A Look At 76ers Surprising Pick of Moe Harkless

A look at the new 76ers acquired last night in the NBA draft, and how they could fit with the 76ers current roster, and whether they indicate any future roster moves.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18:  Moe Harkless #4 of the St. John's Red Storm looks on against the UCLA Bruins at Madison Square Garden on February 18, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Moe Harkless #4 of the St. John's Red Storm looks on against the UCLA Bruins at Madison Square Garden on February 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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Most of the reaction today by 76ers fans isn't geared towards the overall talent level of Moe Harkless. Harkless isn't the household name of Perry Jones III or Jared Sullinger, but he wasn't a complete unknown, either. With his combination of youth (he just turned 19 last month), size (measuring just under 6'9" in shoes and with a great wingspan), and incredible athleticism, Harkless has elite physical tools for an NBA small forward.

He also played heavy minutes on a depleted St. John's team, increasing not only his per-game averages but also his visibility among fans.

Draft Express has had Moe Harkless going in the 19-22 range in their mock draft since March, and the Rockets were reportedly interested in him at 16. I had him at #16 on my own big board I submitted at Liberty Ballers earlier this week. Harkless going this high in the draft isn't too much of a shock. It's that Harkless went this high in the draft to the 76ers that is surprising.

One the one hand, picking an athletic, versatile wing who struggles shooting from the perimeter was about the last thing the 76ers needed. On the other hand, the willingness to draft what they believe was the best available talent rather than reach for a position of need is generally a draft philosophy that works out well, and a deviation from what their philosophy was last year.

Moe Harkless is first and foremost an athletic standout. While he is a fairly raw player, there's also some latent basketball ability and feel for the game to work with. He has a quick first step with long strides that once his ball handling ability catches up he should be able to create off the dribble with some regularity. He's a terror in transition, who rebounds as well as any small forward in the draft, and has great anticipation on defense.

What's holding him back? The aforementioned ball handling is one area. While not as bad of an overall ball handler as fellow 76ers forward Thaddeus Young, Harkless has virtually nothing in the form of a left hand and he can get turnover prone when asked to do more than one or two power dribbles to the hoop. He's showing signs of developing a right to left spin move and a crossover dribble, but those are still very much works in progress.

The most glaring problem is his jump shot, however, and it's something that is going to take considerable effort to correct. His footwork and balance are inconsistent, something he's going to have to correct to really see consistent results. He also struggles to shoot off the dribble, something that is also going to further hamper his dribble-drive game until it's improved.

His defense is a strength of his, albeit one with minor concerns. He moves his feet extremely well defensively and has good anticipation, doing a good job of reading a play and playing the angles correctly. He has excellent physical tools and displays a consistently high effort level.

That being said, there are two relatively minor concerns. First, he played primarily power forward in college, something not all that atypical from big small forwards at the collegiate level. Second, St. John played a primarily zone defensive scheme, giving us limited tape when looking at him defending his man from the perimeter.

With his physical tools, effort level, and strong basketball IQ on this end of the court, those are very minor concerns, though.

As I previously mentioned, it's not Moe Harkless' talent level that makes this pick surprising. Even with his raw offensive game, I could see him coming into a team and playing 15-20 minutes as a rookie just based off of his excellent defense, rebounding, and transition game. I just can't see him doing that on this 76ers team.

It's not just his fit with Iguodala, long rumored to be on the trading block. The team could trade Iguodala and he'd still be a poor fit with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young. The team desperately needs a set-shooter to space the floor for these guys, and Harkless isn't going to fill that role this season.

That being said, if the 76ers feel this is the best talent (and while cases could be made for a few others, Harkless was in the mix at 15), I can't complain that they went with that strategy.

Arnett Moultrie

As I mentioned in my draft guide, I have some reservations about Arnett Moultrie. At 27 though, he was a steal. But the 76ers didn't give up the 27th pick to acquire him.

The trade with Miami sent a future first round pick that was only lottery protected. With the 76ers recent penchant for getting the 8th seed in the playoffs, there's a very good chance the pick they gave up for Moultrie will end up being the 15th-20th pick of a very recent draft. The relative value they used to acquire Moultrie was thus likely to be one of a pick in the late teens, not the 27th pick.

As such, I'm only lukewarm on the acquisition. Moultrie has some definite athletic talents, and his ability to finish around the hoop off of offense generated by his teammates should work well with Holiday, Turner, and Iguodala if he remains. He's also a very good offensive rebounder, something the 76ers lacked last year as all their big men tended to float on the perimeter.

That being said, there are a number of areas of need Moultrie doesn't fill. While he played largely with his back to the basket at Mississippi State, he's unlikely to translate much of that to the NBA. He was only an average defensive rebounder (21.8% defensive rebounding percentage) on a Mississippi State team that was only an average defensive rebounding team. He lacks the lower body strength to deny deep post position to good post scorers, and he offers virtually nothing in the form of weak side shot blocking despite his length and athletic ability.

Giving up a 16th-20th pick for Moultrie was certainly not a horrible move, but I hardly consider it a slam dunk, either.

Overall, I would give this draft a B-. There were probably players with more upside available (Perry Jones III), picks with more polish/skill (Jared Sullinger), and picks with higher floors available (Tyler Zeller), and certainly better fits and positions of need available. There is bound to be some disappointment that they didn't move up from 15, as well as some disappointment that John Henson didn't fall one pick further.

But Harkless is a player with a very high level of upside and a fairly high floor as well, as his excellent defense, rebounding, and transition play along with his strong character, maturity and work ethic should assure he becomes an NBA contributor. I don't think they struck out, and all the people they passed on had considerable red flags.