With one game left in the Philadelphia 76ers preseason, the team has some roster decisions to make and there's still plenty of questions moving forward regarding the logjam at center with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. With Noel nursing a groin injury, the situation won't really be a big issue just yet, but once he returns, it'll be difficult for all three to get consistent significant playing time.
Let's dive in to some questions that some of our reader's submitted this afternoon:
What do you think the Sixers should do with Nerlens Noel? Extend him? Trade him?
-Brad & Josh
By far the most significant story line that has consumed this team since Joel Embiid finally suiting up for game action is the three centers and what is going to happen in the short and long term. Short term, there isn't really a rush to do much of anything. Embiid is healthy and hopefully stays that way, Okafor will be on a minutes restriction to start and Noel is still nursing a groin injury with no timetable announced for return. To start the season, it looks like Embiid will get 20-24 minutes a night while Okafor and Richaun Holmes come off the bench.
When Nerlens Noel returns, though, things get a bit dicey. While Noel has shown time and time again that he can be an elite defender, some concerns are raised about his ability to contribute on the offensive end of things, thus potentially limiting his value. That being said, there are some good examples of primarily defensive big men having success in the league including DeAndre Jordan, Ben Wallace and Scottie Pippen. At this point though, Noel's comments on the situation and pending free agency are pointing towards him either being traded or the team not giving him a qualifying offer at the end of the year. Either way, I don't think the Sixers extend him before the October 31 deadline. It's difficult to determine his exact value too, especially if he misses significant time with this groin injury.
The main thing to remember here is that Joel Embiid is the best of both worlds. He has offensive upside in the post and mid-range while also displaying some pretty strong rim presence on the defensive end during the preseason. If Embiid shows the ability to stay healthy all year, both Noel and Okafor could be sent packing before the 2017-18 season.
Will Ben Simmons return this season?
The Philadelphia 76ers and their fans have been through three pretty painful rebuilding years with injuries to talented young players and roster turnover. Nerlens Noel sat out an entire year recovering from an ACL injury, Joel Embiid missed two seasons with back-to-back foot surgeries and now Ben Simmons is out with a fracture in his right foot.
There was a report by Bob Cooney of the Daily News shortly after Simmons' had surgery that there was no change his agent would let him return this season, but Cooney later said that he didn't hear that from a source, but rather a person he trusts in the business.
Honestly, I expect the Sixers to be overly cautious with this year's top pick as they were with Embiid for two seasons, but no I do not think that Simmons will end up sitting the entire year. This isn't an injury that requires that much recover and normally takes at least three months to heal. Best case scenario, he's back at some point in December, but I'd put my money on a January return. In the meantime, Brett Brown says he plans to help Simmons rebuild his shot during the rehab process, would could be very beneficial for when he returns to a team that lacks a scorer.
How much rope does Brett Brown get this season?
Over the last three years, the face of this whole rebuild has been Brett Brown. Even when Sam Hinkie was at the helm, Brown was at the forefront, answering questions and constantly having to deal with a new roster, new players and young talent to develop. For that reason and that reason alone, I don't think that Brown really has a leash at all this year. The team is still in a transition phase, seeing who could stick moving forward, but he's shown time and time again that he is dedicated and passionate for the program and he's done a great job given the circumstances. The record over the past three years isn't a reflection of Brown, but rather the result of a team filled with middle and low tier NBA talent.
How long Brown remains the coach, though, is a different question. When and if this team returns to the playoff picture during the coming years, it's tough to really know whether or not Bryan Colangelo will stick with Brown or go with another option once the team gets to a better place. At this point, I don't see why you don't hold on to the guy. He has a ton of great experience from his years in San Antonio and I think giving the young guys a coach that will be with them through the better part of their careers will help the chemistry of the organization moving forward. Constantly having coaching changes is never a good thing and I think Brown has developed a strong reputation in the city and should be able to see this thing through for at least another couple of seasons.
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