COMMENTARY | There is one simple question that can be easily answered by the Philadelphia 76ers after a dismal 2012-13 season: Does the team need a center?
The answer is clearer than mud: Yes!
And if you ask around or read the experts' opinions, many believe the answer - no, not that Answer - is Kelly Olynyk (O-LINN-ik) from Gonzaga. I, for one, wholeheartedly agree.
The seven-foot redshirt junior from Kamloops, B.C., is foregoing his final year of eligibility - he has already earned a bachelor's degree - for what he hopes will be NBA riches. He's projected to be picked somewhere in the middle of the first round of the June 27 NBA draft, so might be available when the commissioner calls the Sixers up to make their pick. They'd be foolish not to select him.
Olynyk played two years for the Zags and then took a redshirt year off to work on his game, developing more core strength and improving his agility and balance. It paid off.
The Associated Press first team All-American averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocks this season. He made 63 percent of his shots as Gonzaga put together an impressive 32-3 record and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Olynyk is exceptionally agile for someone who has to duck when walking through a door. He can run the floor and can score off the dribble in traffic. He has a Kevin McHale-like up-and-under move in his arsenal and is not afraid to pull up for a 15-foot jumper, either. However, unlike the team's current starting center, Spencer Hawes, Olynyk takes a jumper as a last option, not a first and always preferred one.
On the defensive end of the floor, Olynyk is as fundamentally sound as they come. He stays between his man and the basket and rarely bites for a pump fake. When he does go for a steal, he usually gets it or at least deflects the ball harmlessly out of bounds.
And get this - he plays with consistent energy and effort. How many current NBA centers can say that?
Some would say Olynyk's only downside is his straggly hair. But that will actually please Sixers fans that he doesn't care about his hair, unlike Andrew Bynum. And from what I can tell through some quick research, he's not a bowler, either, which is also a plus in fans' eyes.
With all due respect to our northern neighbors, the Sixers might be wary to spend a high draft pick on a Canadian. Flashback to the 1983 draft: The Sixers were coming off an NBA title and with the 17th pick selected Leo Rautins, making him the first Canadian ever taken in the first round. But knee problems - maybe that problem stems from the city's water system - limited Rautins to just 28 games and the only thing less impressive than his playing time were his stats (1.5 points, 1 rebound per game). He was wearing an Atlanta Hawks uniform one year later, playing in just four games before finishing his career in Europe. Mention his name in Philly and people begin swearing in French.
But Olynyk is not Rautins. In fact, he might very well be the next Dirk Nowitzki. Olynyk is smart - named the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men's basketball - and has the skills, heart and work ethic necessary to be successful in the NBA. And most importantly to team management, he'll sell tickets and light a fire under a Philly fan base that desperately needs something to cheer about in the world of sports.
If the Sixers are smart, they'll take Olynyk with their first pick. In fact, they should trade away future picks if necessary to move up and ensure they get him. Without a legitimate center, the future is grim in Philly. With one, there's hope.
The question is simple. So is the answer. The Sixers should draft Kelly Olynyk.
Jon Buzby is an award-winning sportswriter from Delaware and has followed the Sixers since 1976. He contributes regularly to multiple newspapers, magazines and websites. Follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.
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