Breaking Down The Trade That Sent Nerlens Noel To Dallas

As I sit here and write this I glance out my window. The sun is out and it’s 73 degrees in February. Yet for some reason morale isn’t as high as it should be. It’s like there is this ominous, imaginary cloud looming over Philadelphia. This is because for the umpteenth time in this new era of Sixers basketball, it appears they have taken a step backward. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia may be the name of a popular TV show but ask any Sixers fan and I’ll bet they beg to differ.

Yesterday was the NBA trade deadline. Let me first rewind a couple weeks back to what the general consensus was regarding what the Sixers would do. Joel Embiid looks great when he’s healthy, he’s hurt now but we’re definitely keeping him. A stud in the making, he’s not going anywhere. Nerlens Noel might not be the best rebounder and he certainly doesn’t intimidate on offense, but at 22 he’s an elite defender and has shown great improvement as someone who can be a defensive stalwart for a long time, health considered as always. Plus, he’s been here for four years and while he’s had his moments of immaturity (what 22 year old hasn’t?) he’s handled the losing situation as well as anyone could and actually seemed like he enjoyed and embraced playing in Philadelphia, especially as of late. Jahlil Okafor hasn’t played as well as the other two bigs. He doesn’t defend well and his effort and passion is questioned at times. Yes he can be a potential 20 point scorer but with a big man logjam he appears to be the odd man out. That’s not to say Jahlil can’t be a valuable NBA player though. He’s only 21 and was a third overall pick. Maybe a change of scenery would be best for all parties involved. No hard feelings, no harm no foul. Despite his underwhelming play, his attractive contract situation and age and potential should still make him quite valuable to other NBA teams. Or so one would think. Best of luck Jahlil, but you’re going to be traded.

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Nerlens seemed to enjoy representing Philly basketball…

And what actually happens? They keep Okafor, trade Noel…DUH! Not only did they trade Noel, they traded him to the Mavericks for a lottery protected, first round pick. That pick is all but certain to end up not even being a first round pick but instead dissolve into two second round picks. They did however get a player too, Justin Anderson. Anderson is a 6’6 wing player who is known for his length (7 foot wingspan) and defense as he’s able to D up other big bodies on the wing. But 20 teams passed on Anderson in the 2015 draft. And he couldn’t crack the Mavs rotation… and Dallas is 22-34. Quite like Jahlil Okafor, league insiders believe that Anderson just needed a change of scenery, which he was given with being traded to the Sixers.

Honestly, I’m not even mad the Sixers traded Noel. He figures to ask for and receive close to, if not a maximum contract. If the Sixers didn’t think he would be an essential part of a championship contending team then I can live with that. Plus, if they plan on having Embiid be their center long term then they just aren’t going to pay big money to two centers. Wasn’t going to happen. I like Nerlens too and am a fan of his but at the end of the day I just want the Sixers to be a winner and if they think they have to get rid of certain players to get there then I’m fine with that. What ENRAGES me however is the compensation they received for Noel. Two second round picks? I’d rather have two sides of cheese for my bucket of crab fries. Justin Anderson can be a solid player, heck maybe he can be elite for all I know. But he was drafted 21st overall and as previously mentioned couldn’t get playing time on a crappy team. Nerlens would have been the de facto number 1 pick in his draft had he not get injured prior. It’s not that I’m down on Anderson but it’s just impossible and straight up foolish to say his value equals anything close to Nerlens Noel. I get it, the Sixers had to move him if they weren’t going to pay him instead of getting nothing, but they should have figured this out and acted on it sooner. Also, here’s a thought, why not just pay him? If they gave him a near max or max deal as long as he plays how he’s playing he would still be trade-able in the future. You don’t think a team would take on his contract if they thought he was an important fit? The fact that he was a restricted free agent is what hurt his value because he could leave after the season but why inflict pain on yourself for another teams problem? ALSO, Joel Embiid missed TWO whole seasons before playing this year. He STILL  hasn’t proven he can stay on the court with a minute restriction, let alone for a full NBA season. AM I TAKING CRAZY PILLS? I love the dude, I really love Embiid but let’s be honest he’s injury prone. Knowing this and trading Nerlens Noel for what they did is just stunning to me. It’s baffling how these near max contract guys can be moved for such low returns. Demarcus Cousins potentially could have signed a contract worth 209 million dollars and gets traded for what many believe to be a low return. Nerlens Noel expects to sign a huge deal and gets traded for a couple second round picks and a dude drafted 21st overall. But then again I’m just a dude who blogs so what do I know? Bryan Colangelo was hired because he’s a “basketball guy” with better connections and relations with teams than Sam Hinkie and thus would be better suited to work out favorable deals. What happened to that?

As I sit here and finish this up today, not only is Nerlens Noel gone, word is that Joel Embiid will be out “indefinitely”. Ben Simmons will also be shut down for the rest of the year. Out of their last four top picks only Jahlil Okafor is currently playing on a regular basis. I’m not here to compare Sam Hinkie and Bryan Colangelo but I’ll say that with Hinkie even if we stunk at least there seemed to be a plan in place that would inevitably be fruitful to us in the future. Where we stand now, I’m not so sure if there’s even a plan. If there is it’s not very transparent and keeping  fans in the dark after this many seasons of intentional losing is disgraceful. It’s so frustrating because the Sixers tried to be bad these past few years so they can get these “assets”. Assets have turned to suspects. The Sixers suck at sucking. And that sucks.

Joel Embiid Bullies Richard Jefferson, Brouhaha Ensues

The Sixers lost by one point earlier Sunday to the Cavs, but everyone knows that for Sixers fans that pretty much means they won. People only watch the Sixers for one reason this year and that’s to get a brief (24 minutes, max) glimpse of the highly talented and entertaining rookie, Joel Embiid. The seven footer once again delivered against Cleveland, dropping 22 points (including three 3’s) 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. Perhaps his finest moment came in the first quarter when he powered through Richard Jefferson to secure an “and-1” play and send the old man into a frenzy afterwards (below).

Gotta love it. Future perennial all star and hall of famer just punishing the long time journeyman role player. That must suck for Jefferson, his 36 year old body on its way out of the league getting severely abused by a youthful stud on the rise. Kind of like when Woody got completely out shined by Buzz Lightyear for all to see. Except Richard Jefferson isn’t like Buzz Lightyear, he’s like one of those side character toys you forget if they’re in the sequel or not. Can’t wait for the Sixers to take off the training wheels with Embiid and see what real terror he can unleash on this league.

Early Thoughts: Joel Embiid Looks Special

The Sixers may have only played two games (and lost both) but watching them this year has been wholeheartedly more exciting, mainly due to rookie Joel Embiid. Simply put I cannot stress how impressed I’ve been with the former number three overall pick thus far in the early 2016 season.

What about Embiid makes me gush? Well, there’s a lot. But the most striking thing to me isn’t really something tangible, instead it’s how natural and polished he looks as a basketball player, a rookie one at that. He has this confidence about him with the ball in his hands and looks like someone with years of experience despite playing just 44 total minutes. He looks unprecedentedly polished with his handles and moves. Actually, his whole career thus far has been unprecedented. Embiid was considered to be the number one overall prospect after only 28 games at Kansas but a surgery to his right foot following the season caused him to slide down and be selected third. He missed his entire rookie year. And the year after that. Not to mention he missed the NCAA tournament while he was still in college. So in his first real NBA games there would surely be some rust right? Not hardly. So far Embiid has put on display all the elements of his game that scouts believed could make him elite. He can step back and shoot, threes even. He has shown flashes of being a formidable defender with highlight reel rejections, including one on veteran Dwight Howard no less.

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Additionally, another reason i love watching the kid is because his game is plain old refreshing. With so many guard oriented attacks now, it’s cool to see a seven footer handle the rock and lead an offense. He doesn’t look awkward or clumsy like many players his size so often do. He plays like a guard or forward in a centers body.

I must admit that out of all the Sixers young “assets” (remember that word?), I was the most skeptical about Embiid, mainly because of his history of injuries. I still am skeptical to a degree about his body going forward. But thus far, saying he looks impressive would be an understatement. Has he only played two games? Yes. Is he going to make some bad, ugly rookie mistakes this season? Yes, of course. But from this small sample size it’s hard not to get amped about what this guy can do for a success starved franchise in the years to come.

Why The Sixers Shouldn’t Trade Jahlil Okafor

The Sixers, for once, find themselves in a not-so-terrible-place despite finishing last season 10-72. The reason being is, for once, things worked out for them on the night of the draft lottery and they secured the #1 draft pick that they…”deserved”. Additionally, they have no real cap concerns and already have a handful of highly coveted prospects on the roster. So why do I still have elevated levels on anxiety regarding this team? Because I think they could make a big mistake and trade away Jahlil Okafor.

Last year the Sixers were 18-64 and came away with the 3rd overall pick in the draft which was almost universally considered a flop for the team since they weren’t able to take guard D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State, which in hindsight is probably almost universally considered a blessing. Jahlil Okafor, having been apart of Duke’s championship squad as a freshman, for lack of a better phrase, fell into their laps as he was deemed too talented, too valuable to pass up despite already having two other highly touted big men on the roster. Okafor was seen coming into the NBA as a perennial 20/10 guy who’s poor stamina and free throw shooting were already well documented. He is still expected by basketball experts to be a 20/10 throughout the better part of his career and even averaged almost 18 points and 7 points during his rookie season playing with a terrible team composed of fringe NBA players. So with those averages, why would it not be shocking news if the Sixers parted with him after only a year?

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Well, it was apparent there wasn’t a great deal of chemistry with fellow big man Nerlens Noel, who is expected to be a centerpiece on this young team going forward. Second, as mentioned before, the Sixers have another coveted big man on the team not named Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid. Embiid, like Okafor, basically fell into the Sixers lap when they yet again had the 3rd overall pick in the draft the year before Okafor. Embiid was also considered a can’t miss talent who many expected to go #1 that year before he got injured just before the draft which inevitably hurt his stock. Perhaps saying that Embiid was a can’t miss talent is an understatement, even with limited basketball experience people compared him to Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. Additionally, Jahlil Okafor has had a rocky freshman campaign from an off the court standpoint. He was pulled over for going 108 miles per hour over the Ben Franklin Bridge heading into Philadelphia and was also involved in multiple drunken altercations, one where he was caught on camera punching someone and the other where he had a gun pulled on him. Finally, the last big reason why the Sixers might trade him is because he’s still considered to be one of their most valuable assets, despite all of this. He is viewed as someone who can still live up to his potential, who could benefit enormously from a change of scenery. For that reason, the Sixers could probably get a considerable offer for the 20 year old.

OK. Now that i supplied the reasoning why the Sixers could potentially swing a deal, I’m ready to defend not doing so like Johnnie Cochran in ’95.

  1. Yes, it is true that there was a lack of chemistry with Nerlens Noel and that they didn’t play well together. However, since when is it considered ok to give up on an elite prospect after only one season? Nerlens Noel is 22 and just learning how to play on his own, the notion that he should already be able to tailor his game to compliment another big man seamlessly is laughable. Not playing well with a guard is one thing, but this is another seven foot body, it’s not normal to have two elite big men playing alongside each other let alone them figuring the whole thing out in one year. Brett Brown has won less than 20% of his games as an NBA head coach. We all know that’s mainly because of the severe lack of talent but still he’s relatively inexperienced as a head coach. Maybe he should have some accountability? If he’s considered a coach worth keeping maybe he’s able to figure something out?

2. This is really the big one, no pun intended. JOEL EMBIID HASN’T PLAYED A SINGLE GAME IN HIS TWO YEAR NBA CAREER. Typing that in caps was such a satisfying release I want to do it over and over again. If you’re playing devils advocate you could argue that him not playing was more of a deliberate move by the team as they want to ensure he’s 100% healthy instead of a chronic inability to stay on the court. The point is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if he’s the next Tim Duncan or Hakeem Olajuwon, there is literally 0 NBA experience to validate that. He was hurt in COLLEGE. His team got eliminated from the tournament as he sat on the sideline with a stress fracture. He hasn’t played in a meaningful game since. Who knows if he can even play? There’s always players who are projected to be the next _______ (insert Hall of Famer here) who never pan out even when they’re healthy. The fact that the Sixers seem poised to bet the farm on this kid  is basically doubling down because not only is his health in serious question, there’s just no tangible evidence he can play in the NBA. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15. Okafor seems like a lock to be a consistent 20/10 guy for years to come. What’s Embiids projection? 25/15? 30/20? Although you probably can’t tell, I still like Embiid! That’s not sarcasm! He had two years to rest up and has a lot of potential, I just would rather see him in action and see what we have before we trade away a valuable player like Okafor. Who knows, maybe Nerlens is the odd man out? I’m just throwing out nonsense because the whole point is you don’t know what you don’t know.

3. Yes, his off the court incidents were troublesome. The footage of his altercations were embarrassing. He was 19 years old. It takes time for some players to mature and handle adversity. It’s probably tougher than you would imagine to go from the National Champion to laughingstock in less than a year. Hey, let’s not act like all the other Sixers are choir boys either.  Nerlens Noel is being sued by his landlord for extensive damage and mistreatment to his property. Again, doesn’t a head coach have some influence in off court behavior? Since Brett Brown’s our guy shouldn’t he be able to show these men how to act like a professional? Just a thought. Okafor played for Mike Krzyzewski. I’m not concerned. He flipped out for being on such a lousy team and while he reacted in the wrong way, I’ll take a player with passion over a player who doesn’t give a shit any day.

4. Yes, Okafor is one of the team’s most valuable trade piece. We can probably get a top 3 pick for him and under normal circumstances that could very well be worth doing. They can get the elite guard which has been ever so elusive for years now. They can pair two young top players from this years class to go with two promising big men, but that’s all under the assumption that Joel Embiid is going to be the team’s power forward for years to come. While it’s possible that may be the case and even hopeful, it is still ultimately an assumption that’s premature nonetheless. I’ll leave you with this question: if we lose a talent like Embiid (any injury would probably be longterm at this point) do you really want to wait another 82 games trying to find his replacement?

Gratzfeed Special: Sixers Draft In Review

Ok so it’s Monday and we’ve all had a few days to digest what Sam Hinkie and company have done with their latest attempt to make basketball in Philadelphia relevant again. I was actually driving down the shore during the draft but had my radio turned all the way up for the entire way down, listening intently and trying to learn as much about this years draft as possible. During typical bro talk, the same question often came up, “what do you think about the Sixers?” Well, let’s break it down, shall we?

The Good: The Sixers got a very talented player with tremendous upside who can be an elite big man in the league for years to come. Although Jahlil Okafor was selected third overall, it wasn’t farfetched to argue that he should have gone second or even first. Although he was only a college freshman his arsenal of low post moves resembled a perennial NBA all star. He also proved himself as a winner, being the best player on a Duke team that won the NCAA championship. Additionally, this gives the Sixers some flexibility in regards to their big men. With recent news that Joel Embiid’s foot isn’t healing as expected, they at least now have another potential stud big to pair with Nerlens Noel for however long Embiid is dealing with whatever the hell is wrong with him.

Finally, another positive is that they passed on Latvian mystery man Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis garnered a lot of hype for himself as we got closer and closer to draft night, and maybe for good reason. Although it wasn’t the NBA, he did play, and played well, in a talented league overseas. He has a lot of potential as he’s super tall (maybe even taller than 7 foot) with a deadly outside shot. People have said he could be the next Dirk. So why was passing on Porzingis a good thing? Well, he very well could be a great player in the NBA, but frankly the Sixers weren’t in a position where they needed to take the risk. Even though he could be a scary force, so could Jahlil Okafor, so why wouldn’t you take the guy who you’ve seen first hand dominate consistently in the NCAA and could scout easier over a guy who just really started to gain hype a couple of weeks before the draft. Yeah we saw Porzingis draining three pointers, but it was literally against the air. He’s totally too skinny and still needs to put on a lot of weight, which is much easier said than done. The bottom line is yeah, maybe he is the next Dirk, but maybe he’s the next Darko Milicic or Andrea Bargnani, and quite frankly the 3rd overall pick in a talented pool isn’t where you take that type of risk.

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The Bad: The Sixers didn’t get D’Angelo Russell. Lets face it, this is the guy who everyone in Philadelphia really wanted, badly. The Sixers need a guard more than a drunk person needs Wawa at 2 am and that’s really, really badly. Despite this need, they did little to address their backcourt situation with their other picks. With their first of 5 second round picks they drafted a big man from overseas only to trade him to the Knicks. Then with their following two picks they drafted two more big men, one being Richaun Holmes, a complete project from Bowling Green who doesn’t figure to matter anytime soon and the other being a big man from Lithuania who also doesn’t seem to have any real relevance. They then took 6’6 small forward J.P. Tokoto, who actually has some promise, but he still isn’t a guard and is a long shot at best. Why not take a flier on a shooter or any type of guard who can improve the backcourt down the road instead of stockpiling big men in an already way too crowded logjam of centers and power forwards? The Sixers were said to have had interest in putting together some of their second round picks and trying to get back into the first round, but they never did which is disappointing. Listen, nobody expects much from second round picks, but still with an extremely deep pool of young frontcourt prospects, taking a few guards for a spin couldn’t have hurt.

The Bottom Line: It’s too early to really have a strong opinion one way or another on this draft. The Sixers didn’t do anything great or special, but at least they didn’t blow it. I think you have to look at this one as the glass half full because there wasn’t anything they could have done about not getting Russell. Emmanuel Mudiay I believe is going to be a stud but he does carry some risk, and with Embiid’s situation the way it is, Okafor makes total sense. This reminds me of the Eagles offseason, people were freaking out when they traded LeSean McCoy…until they signed DeMarco Murray. There was a complete void at wide receiver after not resigning Maclin… until they drafted Nelson Agholar. Right now, the Sixers plan isn’t as crystal clear as it could have been, but it’s also far from the impending train wreck it could have been either after picking a very good big man. We still have to wait and see with Embiid’s foot, that impacts a lot of things. I also still think if he ends up being healthy the Sixers could trade any one of the three big dudes, with Noel actually being the most likely to go, but who knows at this point. It would have been great to get Russell, but Okafor could be a blessing in disguise, he can really be a special player in this league. Now that they have their newest pieces or as everyone likes to say “assets” it’s time for Sam Hinkie to devise a plan accordingly. The Sixers didn’t really “win” this draft, but they didn’t blow their future either, and nowadays as a Philly fan, not blowing it is a “W” in itself.

Grade (as of now): B+

Gratz’s Grumblings: Could Joel Embiid News Be a Smoke Screen?

Sixers fans (the few that actually exist) probably feel like they’ve been punched in the stomach after news broke this past weekend that Joel Embiid’s surgically repaired right foot is healing slower than expected. Nobody really knows what that particularly means other than well….his foot isn’t healing as expected, leaving radio hosts, writers, analysts and sports fans alike only able to speculate about what this might mean for a team whose fan base (again what little base that may be) is running out of patience and faith in the organization and facing extinction nearly as bad as the dinosaurs in Jurassic World.

There’s always a wide spectrum of different thoughts and theories created by fans and media alike, perhaps the most prominent one right now being the possibility of Embiid sitting out another entire season, despite no official word of that being a possibility. While it’s definitely a plausible outcome, could it be possible that the injury might not actually sideline the big man for the second consecutive season? It seems very likely that he won’t be ready for the start of the season, I can concede to that, but what if the Sixers are using this news as a smoke screen, maybe to create mystery about what they’re going to do in the draft?

Prior to the news, it seemed almost universally agreed upon that the Sixers would target a guard, specifically D’Angelo Russell with the 3rd overall pick. Now there’s some speculation about the pick, which could help with its value if they look to trade it or whatever the case may be. For instance, if Towns/ Russell go 1-2, then wouldn’t the pick seem less valuable since their guy was off the board? Now, if that happens and teams think they might need a big man since Embiid’s future is uncertain to say the least, then wouldn’t that would add some value to their pick? I get how this could seem like a stretch, but then why would they announce the news less than 2 weeks before the draft? Let’s be real here this guy is the Sixers prized pick and expected to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come, they probably watch over him like a meshugenah jewish mother and you’re going to tell me that all of a sudden they just found out his foot isn’t healing right? I don’t know, seems a little gefilte fishy to me…

Speaking of smoke screens, I don’t believe (or at least I don’t want to believe) that the Sixers would actually take Kristaps Porzingis with the 3rd pick. Word is that Sam Hinkie loves the Latvian big man, but I don’t think they would actually take him over say Russell/ Mudiay or Okafor. For the record I believe the Sixers should grab whichever best guard is available at 3, whether it be Russell or Mudiay. Russell is obvious but Mudiay would be great too if Russell is gone already, he’s got the size, strength, and maturity it takes to be a great guard in the NBA. He’s cultured and played professionally overseas and got a taste of the physicality and demanding workload the NBA will bring. Yes his shooting needs a lot of improvement, especially his free throw shooting, but his shot is mechanically off which can be coached and fixed by NBA coaching. He’s definitely a risk, but less of a risk then Porzingis and with a center who missed a season already, a Joel Embiid who might not play until who knows when AND already a big man overseas in Saric, the Sixers simply shouldn’t take another risk on a foreign big man.

The bottom line is that there’s a lot of uncertainty in an already murky and mysterious time for the Sixers’ rebuilding plan. If the Embiid news is as grim as people are thinking it could be, it would be simply devastating for Philadelphia’s bastard child of sports teams. But, until we know officially what the damage is, and with another top 3 pick in 10 days, there’s reason to believe it might not be as bleak as it seems.

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