by Cris Jones / @HeirJones

Steered by new coach, Doug Collins, the Philadelphia 76ers took significant strides forward during the ‘10-11 season. After sleep-walking through a disastrous 27 up, 55 down ‘09-10 campaign, a 14-win improvement and Playoff appearance were welcomed with open arms by the Sixers’ faithful. But in this town, arguably more than any other, fans are never satisfied.

Even after giving the Miami Heat hell and nearly pushing their opening round bout to six games, the Sixers’ play left something to be desired. Maybe it was Andre Iguodala playing like a FIBA World Champion in only one of the five contests. Or maybe it was the fact that the Sixers’ were consistently out-rebounded during the series. In Game 3, Miami out-rebounded Philadelphia to the tune of 50-34. The Heat pulled down 20 offensive rebounds, 8 of which came from Zydrunas Ilgauskas! Forgive my passion, but that just can not happen.

In the City of Brotherly Love, trade rumors abound as I digitally pen this piece. But even if the Sixers deal Andre Iguodala—as so many fans have pined for—it does not change the fact that the Broad Street Boys desperately need help on the interior.

So, with the 16th pick in the SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select…

Markieff Morris from the University of Kansas.

Welcome home.

This is a true no-brainer. Aside from not having an undisputed No. 1 scorer on the roster, the Sixers’ most glaring hole is their lack of rebounding and interior toughness. With the addition of Morris, the Sixers can scribble little red check marks beside the two. Though a rejuvenated Elton Brand played his heart out in the Sixers’ first round series against the Heat, he is only aging by the minute and needs something close to an heir to his expensive throne. One could argue that Philly should take a chance on Kenneth Faried at 16, but Markieff Morris is clearly the more complete prospect, set to fulfill the future power forward void in the Wells Fargo Center.

In a draft full of tweeners, Morris’ pre-draft measurements appear to have him locked in as a power forward in the Association. Standing at 6-9 ¼ in his kicks, and weighing in at 240 pounds, the Morris brother will use his strength to clear out space in the painted area. If he can bring the tenacity and fire that he played with at Kansas, he should get the chance to contribute immediately. In only 24 minutes per contest last season, Morris averaged 14 ppg and 8 rpg. Not only can Morris play down low offensively, as he proved with nifty drop steps and baby hooks. But he can also step out and hit the NBA mid-range jumper, as he shot a solid 42 percent from behind the NCAA arc. He will get after it on the defensive side, as well.

This one half of the Morris’ twins exudes a necessary confidence one needs to succeed at the next level. Just check the quote he gave The Washington Posta couple weeks ago on potential No. 1 pick Derrick Williams. “What he did to Duke, he wouldn’t do that to me or my brother. I’m dead serious.” Now only time will tell if this is true, but the Sixers have not had any overly vocal players since the original AI (happy birthday to him) left town. I’m not saying Morris will be a team captain, but certain squads should match the nature of their city. And right now, few players on the Sixers embody the grittiness of Philadelphia—a trait the 2001 Sixers’ encompassed.

Back to the pressing matter. With Thaddeus Young’s contract up, and the labor situation looking murky, the Sixers’ must take a proven commodity here. Going into the 2011-12 season, Philly’s front court bunch includes: Brand, Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights, and Craig Brackins. The world knows what Brand will provide. Hawes is best suited as a back up center. Speights has a sweet J, but his low basketball IQ had him chilling in Coach Collins’ dog house for the majority of the season. And Brackins totaled 33 NBA minutes in his rookie year, spending most of this season in the D-League. This quartet does not look like a group ready to advance past the first round of the Playoffs, or even jump from 41 wins to 45.

Over recent years, the Sixers have drafted Iguodala, Young, Evan Turner, and traded for Kyle Korver and Rodney Carney on draft nights. Each player no taller than 6-8, and no shorter than 6-6. Selecting another small forward with this pick would just be foolish. Selecting a guard at 16 would be a reach too, and the Sixers may find one of some value with the 50th pick. Morris may not have the almighty “upside” going for him, but he is undoubtedly one of the safer picks in this Kevin Durant rail-thin draft. Morris will be another piece to the puzzle the Sixers need to put together to get themselves out of non-lottery, mid-draft purgatory. Hopefully, the Sixers’ brass does not over think this one.

2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayerPickTeamPlayer
1CavsKyrie Irving1676ersMarkieff Morris
2TWolvesDerrick Williams17Knicks
3JazzBrandon Knight18Wizards
4CavsEnes Kanter19Bobcats
5Raptors Bismack Biyombo20TWolves
6WizardsJan Vesely21Blazers
7KingsKemba Walker22Nuggets
8PistonsKawhi Leonard23Rockets
9BobcatsJonas Valanciunas24Thunder
10Bucks Alec Burks25Celtics
11WarriorsMarcus Morris26Mavs
12JazzTobias Harris27Nets
13SunsJimmer Fredette28Bulls
14RocketsChris Singleton29Spurs
15PacersTristan Thompson30Bulls