Sixers Eyeing New Big Man, 2-Time Player of the Year

Luka Garza

Getty Former Iowa center Luka Garza is a two-time National Player of the Year.

Joel Embiid may be one of the most dominant centers in the league, but you can never have too many big men. Especially not when the consensus National Player of the Year might be available in the upcoming NBA draft.

The Philadelphia 76ers worked out former Iowa standout Luka Garza on Wednesday. The 6-foot-11, 243-pounder is projected to go in the late first round (maybe second) and should be on the board when the Sixers select at No. 28. Garza, a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, averaged 24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game last season for the Hawkeyes. He left Iowa as the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,306 points) and the only player in Big Ten history with more than 2,250 points and 900 rebounds. They already retired his jersey number (55).

Garza revealed he was in Philadelphia for a workout during an interview with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. He was being interviewed after being named the Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year. Owens was a track star at Ohio State, hence the award being named in his honor. Former Sixers’ top draft pick Evan Turner took home the honor in 2010.

“I’m here in Philadelphia,” Garza told Warren. “I work out for the Sixers tomorrow.”

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Sixers Searching for Backup Center

While Embiid is the undisputed starter in the middle, the Sixers will need a reliable backup center. Both Mike Scott and Dwight Howard are free agents, while the team traded Tony Bradley at last year’s trade deadline.

Howard, who logged 17.3 minutes per game, could come back on another cheap veteran minimum deal and reprise his role. Not a bad idea. But the Sixers would probably want to get younger at the position sooner than later.

Some other names to consider include Nerlens Noel, Mitchell Robinson, Robin Lopez, Daniel Theis, Cody Zeller, Tristan Thompson. Keep an eye on Milwaukee Bucks playoff hero Bobby Portis who could opt-out of the two-year, $7.5 million deal he signed in 2020. The 6-foot-10 veteran averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while winning over Bucks fans.

Garza Could Fall to Second Round

It’s odd to think the two-time National Player of the Year could fall into the second round of the draft, yet that’s a real possibility. He missed his first NBA Combine scrimmage with a groin injury, per reports, and there had been questions about his weight. Garza was listed at 256 pounds to start the 2020-21 campaign at Iowa, then slimmed down to 243 pounds. He confirmed he has been working with a dietician in an effort to improve his mobility on defense.

“I know I need to be a little lighter going into the NBA game,” Garza told ESPN. “There’s not as much posting up. I was posting up 47-percent of the time. I need to do that less and get on the outside more. I recognize that, and that’s why I made the change.”

Here is a quick scouting report, via Chad Ford of the NBA Big Board:

Garza was a dominant college player who, like some other bigs on this board, might be out of step with today’s NBA. He is skilled, can score in a variety of ways in the paint and from the perimeter and has a great feel for the game. But the concern is his below-the-rim game just won’t translate at the next level. Garza had a groin injury that kept him out of the 5-on-5 play at the NBA Draft Combine. While scouts were impressed that he had lost some weight and looked like he was in better shape, he still tested as the worst overall athlete in the combine.

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