STARKVILLE — The middle of the first round of the 2012 National Basketball Association draft is where the curious case of Arnett Moultrie will begin.
The former Mississippi State University forward, who surprised few by giving up his final year of eligibility with the Bulldogs program, will find out if he’ll be the first MSU product taken in the first round since the combination of Erick Dampier and Dontae Jones were selected 10th and 21st respectively.
“(The NBA teams) have all told me I have lottery talent but it all depends on how I perform at these workouts,” Moultrie told Oregonlive.com after a workout with the Trailblazers organization on June 16.
In his final collegiate game, Moultrie scored a career-high 34 points in a double-overtime loss to the University of Massachusetts in the 2012 National Invitation Tournament first round contest at Humphrey Coliseum.
Moultrie led the Southeastern Conference in rebounding this season at 10.5 per game but puzzled a lot of player personnel executives by declining the physical workouts at the Chicago pre-draft camp earlier this month beginning rumors that he and his agent Derek Lafayette were given a promise by the Detroit Pistons franchise that he would be their choice at No. 9 overall in this draft.
“I’m a top-10 talent, for sure,” Moultrie told mlive.com after he worked out with the Pistons earlier this month. When asked where he expected to be drafted, Moultrie said he expected to go “anywhere from six to 10.”
Moultrie, who averaged 16.4 points per game last season at MSU, has not been invited to the first-round ceremonies in New York City and will watch the festivities in Las Vegas with his agent and their management team.
Multiple messages to Moultrie and his agent by The Dispatch were not returned.
The Pistons (No. 9 overall), New Orleans Hornets (No. 1 and 10 overall), Portland (No. 11 overall) and the Phoenix Suns (No. 13 overall) but with the reports of impending trades happening before, during or after the draft, the fate of Moultrie is completely unknown at this point.
“Detroit is a perfect fit,” Moultrie said. “I know that they need a big. They’re looking for an athletic big to play above the rim, to play alongside (center) Greg Monroe. They have a lot of good guards that can score the ball, so I wouldn’t come in and worry about scoring. I’d come in as a role player and do all the dirty work.”
After winning the draft lottery a month ago, New Orleans is expected to select University of Kentucky center Anthony Davis with the first overall pick as the 2012 Wooden Award winner could be one of five players off the national champion Wildcats program to be drafted tonight (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
ESPN.com draft analyst Chad Ford has Moultrie projected to be taken with the 18th overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ford projects Moultrie as a power forward that is a “long, athletic big man and explosive leaper that runs the floor well and can play both inside and outside”.
It is perceived by the scouting community that Moultrie can play both the forward and center positions in the modern-day NBA game that includes more transition than ever before as witnessed by the 2012 NBA Finals where Miami defeated Oklahoma City. The five-game series was a matchup of two teams that didn’t have large post presence but executed at a high up-tempo pace.
“They may be (looking at me as a center) because they had me working out with the centers,” Moultrie said on July 24 at the NBA draft combine. “For what reason I don’t know. I lot of (centers) are built like me in the athletic mold.”
However, Ford has issues with Moultrie’s lack of strength after doing only 10 repetitions in a pre-draft workout on the bench press.
If Moultrie is drafted in the first round, MSU will be one of possibly two schools in 2012 to have a player selected in the first round of the pro football, baseball and basketball drafts.
Texas A&M University, with draft-eligible guard Khris Middleton, is the only other school that can possibly achieve that mark tonight.
“I’m definitely the sleeper of the draft,” Moultrie said to mlive.com. “But that’s fine, they can sleep on me. I’ve been a sleeper all my life.” MSU’s all-time leader in assists Dee Bost is expected to be signed as a undrafted free agent but could hear his name called late in the second round of today’s draft. In the NBA, second round draft picks are not given guaranteed contracts but offered invitations to play summer league and attend camp to where they can earn a contract from a franchise.
Bost unfortunately made some news Friday in his workout for the Utah Jazz when he was involved in a simulated game that resulted in a fractured foot for Syracuse point guard Scoop Jardine. Jardine landed on the foot of Mississippi State guard Dee Bost and will require immediately surgery to correct the injury.
“I came down and it just popped,” Jardine told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “I tried to finish the workout, and I couldn’t put any pressure on it. They shut me down.”
The other draft eligible prospect is MSU center Renardo Sidney. Since leaving MSU without speaking to reporters following the NIT loss to UMass, Sidney has parted ways with two different agents. At the New Jersey combine in May, Sidney weighed 304 pounds with 22.4 percent body fat, by far the highest of any participant.
Sidney averaged 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season at MSU, which was down from his first season in Starkville after serving a suspension by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits out of high school and lying to investigators.
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