76ers take USC's Vucevic, Temple's Allen

The Philadelphia 76ers select Nikola Vucevic from USC as the 16th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.

June 23, 2011 9:03:38 PM PDT
The 76ers started to worry around the 12th pick they might not get their man.

Even tried to trade up.

Not to worry. Their big man was waiting for them at 16 and the Sixers pounced, selecting 7-foot, 260-pound USC center Nikola Vucevic on Thursday night.

The 20-year-old Vucevic (pronounced Voo-CHAY-vitch) gives the Sixers the frontcourt help they need. He worked out for the Sixers and coach Doug Collins became an instant fan. He won over the rest of the organization and expects to become an instant part of the rotation.

He just might not make an instant impact.

"He's not an above-the-rim type of player," Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski said. "When I saw him a couple of times this year, I knew what kind of size he was, but it's his length. Was his length good enough to overcome that lack of playing above the rim? He's got very good wingspan. So, that's the plus."

Despite rumors, the Sixers did not come close to trading swingman Andre Iguodala. That said, Stefanski said the Sixers were serious about moving up. But the price was "too expensive."

"There were times where we were looking about moving up to secure him, but we were never able to make that deal," Stefanski said. "So, you get lucky."

Vucevic said he followed the Sixers in the postseason and believes he can fit in with a young nucleus - and in the front court with power forward Elton Brand. And, he can't wait to get going with Collins.

"I'll fit really well in his system," he said. "I felt like he's a great fit for me. I follow a lot of the NBA games and I watched a lot of the Sixers against the Miami Heat. They have a great young team."

The Sixers stayed local in the second round, picking Temple forward Lavoy Allen with the 50th pick.

Allen played four seasons with the Owls and is the program's career leading rebounder. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward won't have to go far to begin his career - Temple and the Wells Fargo Center are separated by only a few miles.

"I'm just real excited to stay at home," Allen said, "and play in front of my family and friends."

He averaged a double-double as a junior, but his rebounding numbers dipped his senior season. Still, Allen worked out twice with the Sixers. and impressed Collins.

"I proved I can play at a high level," Allen said, "with a high motor."

Philadelphia has won only one playoff series since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals. This year, the Sixers won 41 games and stretched the Miami Heat to a five-game playoff series Collins' first season as coach.

Spencer Hawes, a restricted free agent, started at center this season. The Sixers have little depth and size and needed a big man. They have one now.

"He will fight for some time as a rotation player," Stefanski said.

Vucevic skipped his senior season with the Trojans to declare for the draft. He is coming off the best season of his career. He was All-Pac-10, averaging a team-high 17.1 points and a conference-best 10.3 rebounds.

"Defensively, I'm better than people give me credit for," Vucevic said. "I know how to play defense."

USC coach Kevin O'Neill, who once coached the Toronto Raptors, had said that Vucevic was ready to make the jump to the NBA. He believed his star player will be able to make an impact at the next level.

"He's a stone-cold center," Stefanski said.

The last time the Sixers picked 16th was in 2008, and they took Marreese Speights. That didn't work out, but a year later, the Sixers got a steal with Jrue Holiday as the 17th overall pick.

Holiday has blossomed into one of the top point guards in the league. Holiday, at UCLA, and Vucevic were Pac-10 freshman together.

"People want to play with Jrue because this kid's going to be special," Stefanski said. "Vucevic said he would love to play with Jrue."