The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off of the 2nd worst season in franchise history, finishing 10-72. Due to this, they lucked into the 1st pick in this year’s draft, where they drafted Ben Simmons, who suffered a foot injury and will be out until at least January.
The past few years now the 76ers have been on a mission to be at the bottom of the league in order to stockpile high draft picks and build a team through the NBA draft, and thus have gotten some good players. Throughout this method, they 6ers have gotten 3 great big men, in Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid.
Embiid has been injured the past 2 seasons and excluding preseason, hasn't stepped foot on an NBA court. Coming out of college, Embiid was compared to a young Hakeem Olajuwon. And, honestly, if you have watched him this past preseason and in college, it doesn’t seem that for out. He’s a great big man with phenomenal finesse and footwork around the rim.
The 76ers are pretty much not trading him. But, they still have a log jam at the Center position, and neither Okafor, Noel or Embiid have the skill set to compliment today’s game of tons of floor spacing, they all are effective around the rim or just outside the paint. This leave Okafor and Noel, Okafor is a pure low-post scorer, lot’s of post ups or easy dunks, not much else. He’s also not too hot on the defensive end.
On the other hand, Nerlens Noel is the polar opposite of Okafor. Noel is a genuine defensive beast, while his offensive game is currently limited. Noel is similar to a poor man’s DeAndre Jordan, in the sense that he can really only score on a pick and roll heading to the rim, dunk in transition or a wide open layup or dunk. If the 76ers trade Noel, they lose a ton of interior defense.
Noel actually had a down year in defense, but that was mainly because he played a lot at the power forward position, which is a horrible fit for him due to his previously mentioned limited offensive game, and the fact that he’s a rim protected and most of the starting power forwards today are stretch 4’s. In the 2015 season, however, the players Noel was guarding shot only 44.9% at the rim, a lower percentage than DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside that season. This past season, Noel’s opponents shot 48% at the rim. When we look at Okafor’s defense, his opponents shot 50%.
When we compare them offensively, Okafor has to score in a post up, and is not too naturally gifted athletically, which limits him in pick and rolls and running in transition. Despite this, he managed to put up 17 points per game this past season. When we look at Nerlens Noel, he is an athletic freak for someone his size, he can run up and down the court like a wing, and he’s got some hops.
Nerlens is very limited on the offensive end, as stated before, he can only score really on pick and rolls and in transition, he isn’t really an established post player. He still found a way to put up 11 points per game this past season. When we look at the rest of their games, this past season Noel put up numbers of 8 rebounds, about 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting 52% from the field, a significant improvement from his 46% last year.
When we look at Okafor, he put up 7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks, while shooting 50% from the field. They are both 6’11, so height didn’t put either of them at an advantage or disadvantage over one another. Now, Jahlil is younger, but that’s by less than a year, so that isn’t too big of a factor. According to their PER’s, (player efficiency ratings), they are both above average players.
One thing does stick out to me, though, Jahlil played in only 52 games this past season, while Nerlens played in 67. Jahlil has shown to be more injury prone, as Noel played 72 games in his rookie season. But what does this all show? Well, it shows that they both have about equal value in terms of the ability to play basketball. But, if you remember, I previously mentioned Joel Embiid, he is a post scorer, and so is Okafor, do the 76ers really want 2 young post scorers?
Or would they rather have a post scorer and a post defender? Embiid has shown the ability to stretch the floor and knock down open jumpers here and there. It’s a matter of need. It’s more logical the 76ers trade Okafor because of his play style. Since he is younger and other teams may think he has more potential, he might carry more value than Noel, so they can get pieces they need, like young wing shooters.
This is all my opinion, of course, there is no guarantee the 76ers trade Okafor, heck there is no guarantee the 76ers trade either of them, although it is likely. Also, for this trade it will be best to happen in February 2017, due to Nerlens Noel injury and that he will be out off the court 3-6 weeks.