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In this Sunday's edition of the Inquirer, we'll be continuing our five-part series called Sixers 2.0, discussing the different parts of the organization and on-court needs the Sixers must address if they truly plan on making the jump from a 41-win team to a 50-win team. This Sunday's article focuses on the team's international setup and its international drafting history and future. With that detailed story coming on Sunday, it makes sense to look at the top 5 international prospects in the 2011 NBA Draft, which is scheduled for June 23.
Before we get to that, here's a brief overview of how the Sixers run their international operation. When president Rod Thorn was hired last summer, he hired Marin Sedlacek, who currently serves as the team's overseas scout, talent evaluator, etc. Sedlacek is a native of Serbia and Montenegro and has ties to the Nike Hoops Summit, played each year in Portland, Oregon. Sedlacek mainly focuses on Europe and Africa, while the team uses a handful of contacts within South America to keep them on top of what's going on over there. In addition, director of player personnel, Courtney Witte, made two extended trips overseas this season and general manager Ed Stefanski made one. By all accounts, the Sixers feel very comfortable with the knowledge they have entering this year's draft.
Obviously, we'd be remiss not to point out that the nature of international scouting has changed. We could list some incredible finds going through the draft archives of about a decade ago (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Leandro Barbosa, Mehmet Okur, Dirk Nowitzki, etc.), but the days when you could find a gem, one that not every team was in on, are gone. Essentially, especially with the increase in exposure camps and games, and also with the technological increases (YouTube, etc.), all 30 NBA teams have approximately the same knowledge. That said, some teams have scouts for each area: a scout for Europe, one for Africa, one for South America. The Sixers have Sedlacek, some contacts in South America, and Witte who travels and scouts and serves as the primary liaison.
The Sixers international drafting history is not impressive: Marko Milic, Jiri Welsch, Paccelis Morlende, Petteri Koponen, and Kyrlo Fesenko. They drafted Thabo Sefolosha with the No. 13 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, but traded him to the Chicago Bulls for Rodney Carney. Thorn, while with the New Jersey Nets, drafted center Nenad Krstic with the 24th pick of the 2002 NBA Draft, which was his most impressive international selection.
With all of that background info, the Sixers enter the June 23 draft with the No. 16 pick and five international players -- Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, and Donatas Montiejunas -- projected to possibly go in the top 20. That means it's very likely that when the Sixers go to pick at No. 16, one of their international players will be on the board and under consideration.
1. Kanter, who we've talked about repeatedly, will likely go in the Top 5 of the draft. He's a 6-foot-10 center from Turkey. He is, perhaps, the only legitimate starting center in the draft.
2. Valanciunas, a 6-11 center out of Lithuania, who many scouts have listed as the second-best center out of Lithuania in this draft, behind Montiejunas. This kid is high on potential and athleticism, but low on NBA ready-ness.
3. Vesely, a 6-foot-11 small forward/power forward, originally from the Czech Republic. Very big for the forward position, highest comparisons have him blossoming into an Andrei Kirilenko-type player.
4. Biyombo, a 6-9 power forward from Congo. There is no player I receive more e-mails about than Biyombo (save for Andre Iguodala). Sixers fans, and a lot of NBA teams' fans, seem to think this guy is the answer for any team needing to add a relentless rebounder (and what team doesn't want to add a relentless rebounder?) and energy guy.
5. Montiejunas, a 7-foot center from Lithuania. If we had to guess, we would say that one of the two -- either Valanciunas or Montiejunas -- will be available when the Sixers draft at No. 16. Are they willing to take a project big man who possess the right height, but perhaps not the right skills at this point?
The entire international story will run in Sunday's edition -- this is just a primer. If you have a specific question you want addressed during next week's blog run, send it to email@example.com.
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