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Love from home, consternation from Philly: reactions to Sixers pick of St. John's forward Moe Harkless in the NBA Draft

Maurice Harkless reaches out for David Stern's hand as a first-round NBA Draft pick, in a moment that all ballplayers dream about.
Maurice Harkless reaches out for David Stern's hand as a first-round NBA Draft pick, in a moment that all ballplayers dream about.

Seeing St. John's forward Moe Harkless taken at pick 15 in the NBA Draft was a surprise for Red Storm fans, Sixers fans, and NBA fans. Twitter blew up with excitement, questions of "who is Moe Harkless?" from the less informed, and some wailing that the Philadelphia 76ers could have taken senior Tyler Zeller from North Carolina to fill a big man hole, or the enigmatic Terrence Jones from Kentucky.

Time will tell whether Moe Harkless' decision to go pro was wise in terms of the longevity of his playing career; but receiving guaranteed money as a first-round pick means that at the very least, it was an excellent financial decision. As players like Perry Jones III, Harrison Barnes, and others showed once more, staying in school might be great for the education, the camaraderie, and the emotional maturity - but it probably won't help the pocketbook.

There will always be a hot one-year freshman player who catches the NBA's eye with his potential. If a player has caught the NBA's eye - and that player has well-connected, intelligent advisors who take the long view of a players' career - going pro is a chance that player cannot pass up, despite the pros and cons.

And per his interview after being drafted by the Sixers, Harkless plans to come up to St. John's in the summertime and work towards his degree.

St. John's fans feel the Sixers made a wise choice; Sixers fans are more in a wait-and-see mode. Will Moe Harkless be seen as a deft move by Philadelphia General Manager Rod Thorn, or a pick that will make the Philadelphia faithful throw ice balls and batteries?

Watch Moe - wait, now Maurice Harkless - and his responses to reporters' questions (video) at the NBA Draft interview room. Some reactions from New York, Philly, and nationally after the pick:

The love from home for Moe Harkless

Red Storm Sports: MOE GOES PRO: Philadelphia Selects Harkless In First Round With 15th Overall Pick
"Moe is the most well-rounded and complete player I've coached relative to this juncture or stage of a playing career," said St. John's head coach Steve Lavin. "His intellect, size, skill set and athleticism set him apart from others. Not surprisingly, Moe impressed NBA brass in his recent workouts and interviews. We are happy for Moe and his family. Given the rich heritage of St. John's basketball, it is a noteworthy distinction to be chosen at No. 15, the highest drafted Johnny in 20 years."

NY Post: St. John’s Maurice Harkless, drafted by Philadelphia 76ers, no longer New York Knicks fan -
"That’s really cool to me because I’ve pretty much been close to home my whole life, going to St. John’s and being from New York and having my family close and being able to come out to games is definitely a great feeling," said Harkless, a 19-year-old, athletic 6-foot-8 small forward with huge upside as a rebounder and defender.

NY Post: Braziller: Harkless perfect example for city stars
Harkless is – should be – a role model to all the city’s top players with aspirations, for how he handles himself on the court and off, how he took care of his academics, how he didn’t let the so-called rankings experts bother him with their slights.

Harkless wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American. The recruiting sites didn’t go gaga over him.

He wanted to get better. He wanted to excel. He didn’t care what others said – at least he didn’t show it publicly.

Love and hate from the draft analysts

Sports Illustrated: Draft Analysis - 2012 Draft Tracker
I love this pick by Philadelphia. Harkless was a front-office favorite in recent weeks, and it's his combination of scoring ability, rebounding and athleticism that has executives thinking he is going to be "really, really good," as one such source said. The 76ers might have made it easier to trade veteran small forward Andre Iguodala with Harkless as an option for coach Doug Collins.

Sports Illustrated: Winners, losers and more from the 2012 NBA draft - Chris Mannix -
Three winners

(3)• Philadelphia -- At No. 15 the Sixers took St. John's forward Maurice Harkless, a raw but extremely gifted small forward. Then the Sixers cut a deal with Miami to acquire Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie, a double-double machine with the Bulldogs who can defend and hit the offensive glass. The decision to draft Harkless likely spells the end for Andre Iguodala, who could be moved for a shooter the Sixers sorely still need.

Sporting News: NBA Draft 2012: Pick-by-pick recap, analysis - NBA
15. Philadelphia 76ers. Moe Harkless, St. John's. Harkless has exceptional size for his position and had a productive freshman year, but his rise from underrated high school prospect to solid first-round pick seems a bit rushed. He played in a situation with so few teammates and such limited talent at St. John’s that someone had to score. No team in basketball gets shut out. He had the freedom to take about any shot he wanted, so he must learn offensive discipline. He lacks an ideal release on his jumper — he flings the ball a bit. His shot is not as unattractive as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s, but it’s actually less reliable. According to Synergy Sports Technologies, Harkless grades out as a terrible spot-up shooter, average in isolation, below average as a finisher. Harkless looks like a player who thinks he needs to rush into the NBA Draft before scouts figure out what he does not do well — which is a lot — rather than remaining in college and actually learning to do these things better.

ESPN: 2012 NBA Draft Results Round 1 - ESPN
Harkless has been rising as we've moved closer to the draft. He's a very good athlete and an excellent slasher, reminiscent of Trevor Ariza. But did they really need another non-shooter in Philly? -- Chad Ford

ESPN/ Grantland: Bill Simmons and the peanut gallery break down the first round of the NBA draft - Grantland
8:57 — Philly takes Maurice "Don't Call Me Mo Anymore" Harkless, the St. John's forward who keeps getting compared to Trevor Ariza (as if it's a compliment to be the next version of someone who's been on six teams already). Speaking of comparisons, we crossed an invisible line this year — except for Anthony Davis, every player was described as either a 2.0 version or a rich man's version of someone. So, "Would you rather have a 2.0 version of yourself, or a rich man's version of yourself?" We vote unanimously for the 2.0 version for the following two reasons:

A. The "rich man's version" implies the new version is superior in every way, and that the other version was fairly forgettable.

B. The "2.0 version" gives the older version more credit, inferring that it created the prototype and laid the groundwork for everything after.

In other words, Mo Harkness [SPELL IT CORRECTLY, GRANTLAND. - Rumble] can be the rich man's Trevor Ariza. He can't be Trevor Ariza 2.0, because that would imply that Trevor Ariza 1.0 was memorable.

From the Sixers' side:

Liberty Ballers: Thoughts on Sixers Draft Haul of Moe Harkless and Arnett Moultrie - Liberty Ballers
The Sixers definitely have needs with the team assembled as is, but as we've said: needs are irrelevant when you're mediocre. The most important thing for the Sixers to do was draft for talent. And Harkless has a ton of potential and, at 19, will likely not contribute right away. They aren't full-on rebuilding, but that's certainly a step in the right direction.

Though I'm not ecstatic about the two players the Sixers are coming away with, I am pretty thrilled about the direction they're heading. Andre Iguodala will most definitely be traded. Evan Turner may be traded. Thaddeus Young could be traded. Nothing is certain and nothing should be, because this team and these players aren't good enough to force the Sixers hand. They have to assemble all the highest-upside prospects they can, and maximize their potential.

SB Nation Philly: A Look At 76ers Surprising Pick of Moe Harkless - SB Nation Philly
As I previously mentioned, it's not Moe Harkless' talent level that makes this pick surprising. Even with his raw offensive game, I could see him coming into a team and playing 15-20 minutes as a rookie just based off of his excellent defense, rebounding, and transition game. I just can't see him doing that on this 76ers team.

It's not just his fit with Iguodala, long rumored to be on the trading block. The team could trade Iguodala and he'd still be a poor fit with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young. The team desperately needs a set-shoot to space the floor for these guys, and Harkless isn't going to fill that role this season.

That being said, if the 76ers feel this is the best talent (and while cases could be made for a few others, Harkless was in the mix at 15), I can't complain that they went with that strategy. Hark! There's Mou
In Harkless, the Sixers got a player who seemingly has many of the same forward qualities as Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, etc. That is a player whose shooting is suspect but is athletic and can drive to the basket and defend the perimeter.

President Rod Thorn said the difference is that Harkless, who measured at just under 6-9 and weighed 207 pounds, can shoot the ball, despite making only 44.5 percent from the floor, including 17-for-79 (21.5 percent) from three-point range.

"He shot [79] three-pointers at St. John's and we watched him at St. John's and in Chicago [at the rookie combine] where he was terrific," Thorn said. "When we had him come in and work out, he made 37 out of 50 three-pointers."

That's all well and good, but the general assumption is that the defense in the Big East was probably a little bit better than the open air during shooting drills at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine where Harkless worked out on June 15. John Smallwood: Harkless doesn't meet Sixers' needs, but Moultrie might be the answer
Legitimate big men were still on the board when the Sixers picked, including North Carolina power forward Tyler Zeller (7 feet, 250), St. Bonaventure power forward Andrew Nicholson (6-9, 240), Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger (6-9, 280), and Syracuse center Fab Melo (7 feet, 274). All seemed better suited to fill an immediate need for the Sixers.

"It's not a matter of trying to sell a pick," Thorn said. "It was our basketball people together feeling that this was the guy we should take for our franchise going forward.

"If you feel strongly about a player, then you take him. We feel, in the long-term scheme of things, [Harkless] has the chance to be an outstanding player, not just another player."...

"We felt [Harkless] one of the top 10 players in this draft," Thorn said. "Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. [Moultrie] a big who is athletic. He's a good rebounder and defender, and has a good jump shot.

CSN Philly: Sixers once again opt for upside in NBA draft
Maurice Harkless (see bio) has what Sixers president Rod Thorn termed "tremendous upside". Those two words are a draft night buzz kill when fans are looking for their team to add to its roster a player that fills a gaping hole.

Still, to their credit, the Sixers have done an excellent job developing the young talent they have drafted over the years. Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday, Lavoy Allen and Nik Vucevic were all mid-first-round to mid-second-round selections.

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