The SportsTalk Shop: “THE” 76ers Pick

I try to maintain a “level head” when forming my sports opinions.  When fans rush from one extreme to the another (eg.,remember fans proclaiming the Eagles were going to the Super Bowl last year?), I try to take a step back and examine things objectively from all sides.

But…

I must admit, when the rumors were coming in hot and heavy for the 76ers to be “major dealers” (per ESPN) come the night of the NBA Draft, I was getting exciting for some major shake-ups and perhaps, finally, some resolution as to what this team will do with all the “bigs” they have in their front court.

So, when the team didn’t do anything – which slightly overshadowed the fact that they got the best player available in the country in Ben Simmons – I was initially disappointed with the organization.  But, as some time passed, I felt good about the team’s draft night and think we actually learned a few important facts about the Sixers and how the “Colangelo Era” will proceed through this rebuilding process.

BRYAN COLANGELO IS NOT HOWIE ROSEMAN
Not that any of Roseman’s moves this off-season are currently viewed as a “bad” move, but Roseman clearly had Chip Kelly issues and expediently removed all traces of Kelly’s influence with the Eagles following Chip’s departure.  Clearly, the Colangelos and Sam Hinkie could not co-exist, but I credit both Jerry and Bryan Colangelo for not stubbornly trying to undo everything that Hinkie tried to establish—just to prove themselves to the fan base.

I did start to get nervous when the rumors indicated the 76ers might deal Jahlil Okafor AND Nerlens Noel AND the 24th AND the 26th picks in the draft.  With a guard-heavy draft coming up, and the team owning three first-round picks over the next two years, there was no need to unload everything that Hinkie had built up just to make a deal for the third pick in this year’s draft.

NERLENS NOEL MIGHT HAVE MORE VALUE THAN WE EXPECTED
IF the 76ers were going to make a move to get the third pick in last week’s draft, I was perfectly OK giving up Noel for a potential starting guard (aka Kris Dunn).  But it seems that there was more interest in Noel than Okafor, which might be the reason the Sixers chose to hold on to both players.

Think about this…if you are the Sixers and Joel Embiid is healthy (or, if you’re any other team and already have an established starting center), which player would you rather have?

Noel is a shot-blocking/rim-protector guy who could back up Embiid and maybe play a little “four” against certain lineups.  And, IF Simmons turns out to be a major star, and IF Embiid is as good as some envision, wouldn’t Noel be a better complement than Okafor, who’s a major scorer, with not much defense, who can only play the five spot on the floor?

Since the Sixers are not going to win a championship next year (and I still have major issues regarding Embiid’s health), perhaps it was wise to hold onto Noel and see what shakes out, and wait until next year’s draft (or free agency) before deciding on a back court pairing to build your team around.

HOW MUCH VALUE DOES OKAFOR REALLY HAVE?
Before the draft, everyone, including me, seemed to think that trading Okafor would automatically get you the third best pick in the draft.  After all, the Celtics desperately needed a big man, and Okafor seemingly would have been a great fit.  But at the end of the day, Dunn fell to the fifth spot, meaning, if the Sixers were as aggressive in their talks as reported, two other teams other than Boston would have had an opportunity to pick up Okafor as an unproved talent…and passed.

High-quality guards were also selected at the sixth and seventh spots—which is interesting since CBS Sports reported before the draft that Philadelphia was very aggressively looking to move up and select a second “top eight” pick, but elected not to do so at the end of the day.

I still think he’s a valuable piece to the 76ers moving forward—mainly because I have very little confidence that Embiid will ever be the player most hope he’ll be (too many bad Jeff Ruland nightmares, perhaps, still fresh in my memory).   If you traded Okafor before knowing if Embiid can play, you might suddenly go from having too many scoring options at the center position to very little.

The best thing that could happen is that Embiid shows he’s healthy this year, but Okafor still gets enough minutes and takes a big step forward in developing his game during the 2016-17 campaign. If (there’s that word again) he increases his value,  a playoff-bound/post-player-starved team over pays to give you more than you would have acquired than by moving him this summer.

WHO’S DEFENDING WHO?
It was strongly hinted at after the draft that Simmons, who might be the team’s “point forward,” might be guarding other teams’ power forward, which brings us to another huge question regarding having all these post players in the first place…

Defense!

For argument’s sake, say Embiid is healthy, Dario Saric decides to play for the 76ers this year and no other forward/centers are moved.  Your potential “first eight in the rotation” could look something like this:
Ish Smith
Isaiah Canaan
Nik Stauskas
Ben Simmons
Dario Saric
Nerlens Noel
Jahlil Okafor
Joel Embiid

Question…who, among all these players, would guard the opposing team’s small forward?  Considering some of the league’s most dominating players play that position, it’s a question that probably won’t be answered this season (barring a significant move).  But developing some defensive stalwarts (in addition to another point guard, an outstanding long-range shooting guard, et al) have to be major priorities as you move forward with this rebuilding effort.

All in all, I think the 76ers make all the right decisions with this year’s draft.  I’m expecting some mid-level free agents to be added to the mix to help develop the younger players (both on and off the court) and the team should add more wins and have more interesting storylines to watch for this winter.

Put the Kris Dunn talk (and guards of a similar ilk) behind you–for now–and try to concentrate on taking the next “baby steps” as this process inches forward towards a better, brighter 2018 season.

Or 2019 … or 2020.

PROGRAMMING NOTE:   NBA & 76ers Beat Writer Tom Moore (Caulkins Media) will be joining us on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” (live at 7pm, RCN-TV) to give his insights on the this year’s NBA draft.  The show will also be available via our podcast (rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk) on Friday.

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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