Originally drafted sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2013 NBA Draft, Nerlens Noel found himself donning a Philadelphia 76ers cap by the end of the night as his rights were traded to the Sixers.
Now entering his fourth NBA season, all in Philadelphia, Noel looked and sounded frustrated at the team’s 2016 Media Day in September. Noel was notably the only player not wearing any 76ers apparel of any kind and blatantly expressed his frustration with the current situation of having three young centers on one team, vying for minutes.
Via Bret Stuter/thesixersense.com: “I think it’s just silly . . . this situation that we are in now with three starting centers,” Noel said on the eve of the Sixers’ media day. “With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to set something done this summer. Don’t get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court,” Noel said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Now, Noel does have a point. He was a high pick in his draft class which means that your team should be looking at you as somebody to build around for the future. Having to try to split time with two other centers who the team drafted in consecutive drafts might raise some eyebrows, especially those of Noel. However, to go out on media day and clearly express your frustration and basically saying that one of us has to go, that shows signs of having your own agenda over the team’s.
Unfortunately for Noel, those consecutive draft picks were Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor who both have a higher ceiling than you do, especially on the offensive end.
In his short three year career, Noel has averaged 10.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Now, these are pretty good stats for the average NBA player, but when you look at the fact that not only were you a top pick, but you’re also fighting for time between two bonafide scorer’s in Embiid and Okafor, you’re going to be hard pressed to see your way into over 30 minutes per game.
Noel has assets that can help any NBA team, especially one that may be contending for a title. He is a great defensive player who is versatile on that end of the floor and he gives you great hustle and energy off the bench. However, in an offensive driven league, he hasn’t developed his offensive game at all since he’s played college ball at Kentucky where it was a concern there too. Noel gets his points off of offensive rebounds, putbacks, the fast break, and will occasionally score in the halfcourt.
When you talk about building a team around a player, Noel doesn’t fit that prototype as much as Okafor and especially Embiid does.
Last season, Okafor averaged 17 points, 7 rebounds and just over one block per game. On the defensive end, Okafor needs improvement, but defense is something that players in the league have been known to develop once they got there. What Okafor does provide is a legit scoring option in the half court that you can run an offense through. He possesses amazing footwork in the post with an array of moves that are effective and will continue to develop with this being only his second season. If you had to choose who to start your team around, most General Manager’s would pick Okafor.
Embiid was drafted in 2014 and until this year had yet to play. But boy, was the wait worth it.
Through four games this season, Embiid has looked electric hitting threes with confidence, scoring in the post with hook shots, turnaround jump shots and obviously taking it strong for dunks. On the defensive end, he has been putting on a show blocking shots. Only averaging 20 minutes per game, Embiid has averaged 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
When you look at Noel in the midst of the other two centers, he really barely registers.
He played well in the second half of the season last year coming off the bench, providing a spark for the Sixers and using his assets to help the team. Now, he comes into this season looking to become the guy on a team that doesn’t need him to.
With Okafor and Embiid starting at the four and five spots with Noel coming off the bench for 25-28 minutes per game, the Sixers can have a winning nucleus that is set up for years to come. Noel’s game doesn’t lend itself to being the main guy on any team, especially not a team that has two other players they can mesh and build around.
So saying all of this, it comes as no surprise that with this past Monday being the deadline to extend contracts for players or exercise player options, Noel and the Sixers didn’t even discuss any type of extension. This is not only due to the fact that he’s hurt right now, but it has to do with the fact that the team has three legit pieces that they can build around with Embiid, Okafor and Point-Forward, first overall pick, Ben Simmons who is also hurt right now. Many experts are comparing Simmons to LeBron James.
So it’s safe to say that Noel is the odd man out and if the Sixers are waiting for him to blossom offensively to reach the levels of talent that those three already possess, then they shouldn’t wait any longer. Noel can be a good piece on a contending team, so in my opinion, the Sixers should shop Noel if not this season, this off-season to try to get a wing player who can shoot the basketball efficiently.
Noel should be traded, so he can get the minutes he thinks he deserves elsewhere.
Do you think the Sixers should trade Nerlens Noel? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.