After the draft this year, I was beyond excited for the upcoming basketball season. The Yankees were doing bad at the time, so the Sixers were a nice relief from my struggles so far this year as a sports fan. The Sixers had just drafted Ben Simmons and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, two promising looking players that I was excited to see in action.
Welp…here we are now in October, and at least I’ll get to see one of them play sometime soon with the recent news of Ben Simmons’ fractured right foot after he rolled it in practice. Although they say he is only expected to miss three months, I feel as though they should not rush his return. This team is still in a rebuilding stage, so it is not like we need him back soon in order to compete for a playoff spot or anything. The team is still figuring things out for the future, and with him being a vital part of the future of the Sixers franchise, why rush him back when he is not ready and risk him re injuring his foot, possibly even more severely the next time? I think the best course of action in a time like this is to sit him out for the season and give him all the time he needs and then some to recover from this injury. Foot injuries are scary, especially in the basketball world. Plenty of foot injuries have cut careers short in the NBA, the famous example of course being Yao Ming, who suffered chronic foot injuries yet still made the hall of fame. Just imagine what more he could have done if he didn’t suffer all those injuries. It is somewhat interesting how in the past four year, two, and now possibly three of the Sixers first round picks have sat out their entire first season, two would be due to foot injuries. Foot injuries are bad news, I think the Sixers, and Simmons, should take their time with this one and make sure it is treated carefully and properly.
As for the rest of the team, one big question is still in the air: Who stays and who goes? The Sixers are stockpiled with big men and with only so many minutes to go around, it only makes sense that one or more of them must go. This belief isn’t an unpopular one either. Many other writers and analysts have expressed this as well. Hell, even the Sixers organization itself has made it fairly clear with all the trade rumors surrounding both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Noel and Okafor are the two players that it appears the decision has come down to, which makes sense just based on process of elimination. Both Embiid and Saric have yet to see any minutes in the NBA, so their trade value is quite low, plus the Sixers themselves have no idea what they are capable of at the NBA level. Although Simmons is a big man technically, the Sixers have said that he would be seeing minutes at point guard and more or less act as a point forward for the Sixers, much like Lebron’s role with the Cavaliers. Simmons is also too great of an athlete to pass up on. He’s got the size, height, and talent that just doesn’t come around often, making him an untouchable. All of this makes Noel and Okafor the two big men left available to be moved.
As for what I think the Sixers should do, my opinion comes slightly biased. This is due to my love and appreciation for Nerlens Noel. Nerlens Noel was the reason I began to watch basketball. During the 2012-2013 college basketball season, I happened to be watching the Kentucky game my dad had on one day, and I noticed this tall, lanky player with an amazing high top fade. I noticed the name on his back Noel and I asked my dad about him and he told me that that was Nerlens Noel, one of the most highly touted players in the NCAA. As the game went on I started liking this guy more and more. His athleticism and fierce defense was absolutely amazing to watch. He made me appreciate the game of basketball in a way I never had before. My dad had always tried to get me into basketball, but it wasn’t until watching Noel at Kentucky did I ever begin to follow the game.
When Noel ended up with the Sixers, after being traded from the Pelicans for Jrue Holiday when the dust finished settling after the 2013 draft, I decided to follow Noel and join the Sixers nation as well, leading me to fall in love with the Sixers organization as a whole.
So here we are, back in present time after that lovely little flashback, faced with the decision between Noel and Okafor. Although my opinion may be slightly biased, I still believe it would be best to keep Noel and trade Okafor, even after Noel openly stated his frustration with this whole situation. To me, that statement he made wasn’t that big of a deal, because I understood his feelings. It wasn’t that he was frustrated with the organization itself, he was simply tired of the constant anxiety of possibly getting traded. That can really take a toll on a person and I know I certainly would not want to be put under that kind of stress, constantly knowing that at some point you could be traded. It’s a lot on a person, simple as that.
Although people argue that Noel’s trade value is higher than Okafor, I feel his skills and abilities on defense are too great to pass up. Over the past two years, he was putting up defensive numbers that haven’t been seen by a player in their first two seasons since David Robinson. In an offensively driven era of basketball, defensive specialists like Noel don’t come very often. Offense comes and goes, but defense is something special. Not just any player can play defense like Noel, he really is unique, despite his stats flying under the radar the past two years, due to the lack of love for good defense. If the Sixers got rid of a defensive force like Noel, they may not regret it now, but they will somewhere down the line.
I can see why the Sixers may trade him, however, due to his higher trade value. But if they do decide to trade him, I feel that they should only do so if they receive an established guard along with a decent draft pick. It’d be going backwards for the Sixers if they got another young, unestablished player, especially if that player was…dear god..another big man. They’ve got plenty of those. It’s about time that they start letting these young guys develop, instead of trading them away prematurely for more draft picks. Have some patience, have some faith.
Personally, in some weird, crazy way, I could see a future where none of these big guys are traded. In an era where players are playing at unorthodox positions, then why couldn’t you sometimes put a guy like Okafor out on the court at say the small forward position? And if they simply rotate correctly and in an efficient manner, these guys could all see a good amount of minutes this year. Especially since Embiid isn’t even going to see that many minutes this year due to precautions with his foot. That makes room for guys like Noel, Okafor, and Saric to see more minutes out on the floor. I say let the big men stay. At least for this year. See how the rotations work out, see who performs, see who just isn’t working out, and then at the end of the year, decide who you want to keep and who you want to trade for much needed guard support.
This season is looking to be an interesting one. This team is by no means near a playoff contention season, in all honesty, they’ll probably be in the cellar again this year, but I still have hope that they are going to surprise people and win a decent amount of games. Not a lot of games, but a decent amount of games. I see them improving from last year, based on the continuing growth and development of these young guys. I look forward to seeing how this season plays out. #Trusttheprocess