The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in a position most NBA teams would love to be in. In the three seasons of tanking the 76ers managed to build a wealth of talent through high draft picks. Now, the same picks may be what gets the team back into the playoffs.
In the offseason, there were rumors that the 76ers had their entire frontcourt on the trade block. As the team was set to rebuild the feel in Philly was that they could get rid of one and began to bring in the necessary talent for their backcourt. The deal with the Boston Celtics fell through before the NBA Draft, then Nerlens Noel got hurt and all plans were put on hold.
But, here is the silver lining in those problems.
The 76ers selected Ben Simmons with the top pick in 2016 giving them a frontcourt of Noel, Joel Embiid, Simmons and Jahlil Okafor. While young, they each have a high ceiling.
The key to all this confusion is Embiid. His debut season has been nothing short of spectacular as he is sure to make the 2017 NBA All-Star game in New Orleans. Along the way, Noel got healthy and the 76ers were left with a player that didn’t need.
But, which player remains to be seen.
Is it Noel or Okafor? While the talk has been mostly directed towards Noel as the odd man out, the 76ers must take into account what each brings to the table.
Noel is a defensive ace. He’s quick on his feet, plays with passion and loves the physical nature that comes with being in the paint. Okafor, on the other hand, is a defensive nightmare. He looks lost on the court at times and his offensive game is not what it was when he was at Duke University. In short, Okafor has regressed.
Defense wins championships and the 76ers are far from contention but if they are trying to compete then they must make their frontcourt as versatile as any other. With Embiid showing signs that he will be the next Patrick Ewing, the 76ers need a player on the other side that is willing to sacrifice a bit of his offense game and be there to take the charge or come up with a game-saving block.
And remember, we have yet to see what the chemistry with Simmons would be like with either of these players. But we do know that Simmons is a slasher and has worked on his perimeter game after he was drafted. You add those skills with a defensive ace like Noel and the all-around presence of Embiid and the 76ers could be mentioned as one of the best frontcourts in the league in the next year or so.
Okafor is good but he doesn’t fit what the 76ers need going forward. There are teams that could use his services and if the 76ers play their cards right and not jump at the first offer they could very well find the SG or PG they need to make the team complete.
Noel stays and Okafor goes.