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NBA draft prospects have more questions than answers

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Marc Narducci
June 23, 2011

With so much perceived parity, Thursday’s NBA draft is difficult to handicap, not only for the so-called mock-draft experts but also for teams.


Rod Thorn, the 76ers’ president, says his team was prepared for a number of scenarios with the 16th pick in the first round and 50th in the second round.


“After the first three to four picks, guys you think may go between five and eight may be available at 16. That’s how close the skill level is on a lot of players,” Thorn said.


Now, there is another potential hitch in the draft that teams will have to contend with: the uncertain availability of Jonas Valanciunas. A 6-foot-11 center from Lithuania, Valanciunas, 19, is considered among the draft’s top five players.


While there have been reports that Valanciunas won’t play in the NBA in the 2011-12 season because of a potentially large buyout to his European team, Lietuvos Rytas, his status was still uncertain as of late Wednesday afternoon.


Valanciunas doesn’t technically have a buyout clause in his contract, which was negotiated by his European representation, so his immediate release is subject to negotiation.


NBA rules allow a team to contribute up to $500,000 in a buyout situation. Valanciunas reportedly has three years left on his contract. Original reports said Lietuvos Rytas would require that Valanciunas play one more year in Europe.


“It’s been a difficult negotiation, and we’re hopeful that something gets resolved by the draft,” Valanciunas’s NBA agent, Leon Rose, said Wednesday by phone.


NBA teams, including the Sixers, will continue to monitor the situation closely.


“He has a contract for more than one year, and there is the very possibility he may not come here that first year, but that is not a sure thing,” Thorn said. “He will have a pretty big buyout, and that may hurt his draft spot.”


Thorn concedes that the situation could change the face of the draft.


“I know several teams are staying a little bit away from him because of this situation,” Thorn said. “It could have an impact.”


Asked if the Sixers would pass on a player they knew wouldn’t play next season in the NBA, Thorn responded, “If we thought he was good enough, no.”


It’s doubtful that Valanciunas would slip to No. 16, but the Sixers, and all teams, have to be prepared for any scenario.


Thorn also said that the Sixers scout all the teams and their needs and pay special attention to those drafting directing ahead of them. That would include Phoenix at No. 13, Houston at No. 14, and Indiana at No. 15.


Phoenix has multiple needs and could go for a big man or a shooter. Houston, like the Sixers, could use frontcourt help. Similar to Phoenix, Indiana needs size but also could use a shooter.


The Sixers president was disappointed that many top prospects didn’t come to Philadelphia to work out. Thorn said Tuesday that the workouts were over, although teams have scheduled last-minute sessions with players.


“In a perfect world, you would like to at least interview every player you are thinking about taking,” he said.


but the reality is a lot of player agents feel they are going to go higher then they ultimately go,” Thorn said.


“I was talking to a team in the (draft’s) top 10 and they are having problems getting players in and we had a problem getting several players in, but it happens every year.”



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