The Philadelphia 76ers might be stalling, but it’s quite clear they won’t be able to carry on for much longer with five big men who all expect to be starters and be a meaningful part of the team. From the looks of things now, trading Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor, if not both, makes the most sense.
The Sixers have been consistent with their draft choices over the last few years, using their first round picks on big men, twice injured, once unwilling to come to the United States right away. However, with the era of intentional losing officially over, the Sixers need to decide what to do with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Okafor, Noel and Dario Saric.
Right now, the assessment seems to be that both Okafor and Noel are flawed in such a way that it’ll be impossible to build a contender with them as key cogs. Noel, the 6th overall pick in the 2013 draft, missed the first year of his career, and has since established himself as good defender, but a player with very little offensive ranger or moves, averaging 10.5 points with 8.1 rebounds through his first two seasons, playing 30.1 minutes a game.
Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, did make the all-rookie first team and put up some nice numbers, averaging 17.5 points with 7 rebounds in 30 minutes a night, while shooting 50.8% from the field. However, his defense is as bad as everyone thought it would be heading into the NBA after one year at Duke, and with Embiid, Saric and Simmons waiting for their chance now (all about to be rookies), there aren’t enough minutes for everyone, and both Okafor and Noel are deemed expendable.
But wait, isn’t sending away the veterans a classic Hinkie-era Sixers move? Probably not. The Sixers know what they have with Okafor and Noel, and although both of them are only 22 and 20, sometimes certain limitations and flaws can’t be fixed, and are too noticeable right from the start. If the Sixers don’t believe they can fix ’em, while having what they feel are as close to the real deal as possible waiting for their opportunity, why waste time and let the value of Okafor and Noel deteriorate?
Embiid has missed two NBA seasons, but the Sixers love what they’ve seen from him since he’s been cleared to increase his workload. Simmons had his moments during the summer league, and seems like a special player: A big man with the point-center potential in him. Saric, the 12th overall pick in 2014, has stalled his arrival, but the Sixers see in him another big man who can do the same things guards do, although there are question marks above all three.
However, after losing a lot of games in three years, and settling for things that simply haven’t been good enough, the next stage in deciding who is going to be their key big man/men in the next few years, the Sixers have to do some house cleaning, and get rid of Okafor, Noel or both.