76ers select Nikola Vucevic with No. 16 pick

Nikola Vucevic was selected by the Sixers in the first round of the NBA Draft. (AP Photo)

With the No. 16 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, the 76ers selected USC center Nikola Vucevic. This is the guy the Sixers had targeted all along as they feel he will be a strong pro and be able to contribute immediately in the frontcourt. Vucevic averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds a game last season with the Trojans.

Believe it or not, as Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski said afterwards, the Sixers actually considered trying to move up a few spots to make sure they'd get their guy. The biggest concern for the Sixers was that the Houston Rockets would ssnag Vucevic with the No. 14 pick. Considering that Houston's center Yao Ming is injured and not under contract for next season, many folks (including the Sixers) were worried that they'd take Vucevic as he's a legitimate 7-footer with solid fundamentals. But because this draft became a little whacky at certain points (Charlotte taking Kemba Walker when most folks had them taking Marcus Morris), Morris was available for the Rockets at No. 14. As soon as Houston selected Marcus Morris, the Sixers front office knew Vucevic would be available. And he was the guy they wanted all along.

"We are incredibly thrilled to draft Nikola Vucevic," Sixers Head Coach Doug Collins said in a statement. "I liked him from the moment I saw him at the Chicago pre-draft camp. He is a hard working, skilled big man with a desire to succeed who gives us more size in the front court, which is a need. He is a player that we are ecstatic to have on our roster and I look forward to coaching him."

Stefanski said he spoke with Vucevic's agent earlier today and that his agent said that Vucevic absolutely wanted to play in Philly. Stefanski said that Vucevic was "in love" with the idea of playing for Collins. And it seems like Collins was motivated to make sure that Vucevic -- who has strong fundamentals, a good shooting touch, and is a solid rebounder  -- was added to this roster. Vucevic said he got along very well with Collins and felt that Collins had a good feel for his game and how it could be improved.

The Sixers were so high on Vucevic that they wanted him over a few other talented players who were, somewhat surprisingly, still on the board at No. 16: small forward Chris Singleton and Jordan Hamilton. The pick makes a ton of sense for the Sixers because, as of right now, reserve Marreese Speights is the only big man under contract for next season. Starting center Spencer Hawes is a restricted free agent and backup Tony Battie was only playing under a 1-year deal so he's an unrestricted free agent. By adding Vucevic, who they believe is going to be productive player in the NBA over a long career, they've set in motion their off-season plan to improve this team for 41 wins to 50 wins. 

The next order of business will be finding a strong trade option for swingman Andre Iguodala. Obviously, we heard a few rumors swirling today (Iguodala to the Lakers, to the Timberwolves for the No. 2 pick), but these are only a couple of all the possibilities we'll be hearing in the next week, which is the last before the impending lockout. It still makes sense that the Sixers would prefer to land a scoring guard for Iguodala.

With their second-round pick, No. 50 overall, the Sixers drafted Temple power forward Lavoy Allen. Allen, 6-foot-9, played all four seasons for the Owls and averaged 11.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game during his senior seasons. To follow on Twitter, you can do that here: Deep Sixer.


Each week, Kate will check in from the road and answer fan questions about the Sixers. Click here to ask Kate a question or e-mail her at kfagan@phillynews.com.