As the NBA preseason approaches, it still seems like the Philadelphia 76ers have too crowded of a frontcourt. At some point, they’re likely to move either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, but for some reason they’re waiting, perhaps planning to drag this thing until the deadline.
The Sixers have Okafor, Noel and finally, Joel Embiid. It might be Embiid’s return, health and form that will be the main decider on when and who to trade for Bryan Colangelo, who has said a number of times he doesn’t feel comfortable with having all three players on the roster. Noel will begin his third NBA season, Okafor his second, and for Embiid, who was drafted in 2014, it’ll be his rookie year, assuming he does get on the court when the season begins.
The Sixers also have Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, but they’re more of the forward type, even in the NBA’s small-ball trend. Jerami Grant is another big man the Sixers can use, and they’ve also signed Elton Brand, which might be just to add someone with experience to the whole venture. However, the salary cap rising didn’t change one of the most fundamental things about the NBA: Games are still going to be 48 minutes long, unless the Sixers plan double overtime every night.
Okafor is talented offensively, but one big hole on defense. Noel seems to be developing into a fearsome rim protector and someone who can help on the perimeter, a big plus for big men these days. However, his offense is very limited, which sometimes cancels out his ability to help on the boards and on defense. Embiid could be the real deal on both ends of the floor, but Instagram work out videos are hype, nothing more. Right now, he is closer to being Greg Oden than Hakeem Olajuwon.
The contract situations of both players could be another thing teams look at when they make the trade. Noel, who missed what should have been his original rookie year with an injury, is entering the final year of his rookie deal before becoming a restricted free agent, so any teams adding him has a very good opportunity to lock him up for a long time. For Okafor, there’s a team option at the end of this season, but it’s hard to believe no one will keep him on the team for $4.9 million in 2017-2018 and $6.3 million in 2018-2019. He’s bad on defense, but a rookie who scores 17.5 points a night will always find a job in the NBA.