Nerlens Noel is a center. Though he played some power forward last year in an attempt to accommodate Jahlil Okafor, center is the position he played his rookie year, and when Okafor was off the court, and it’s really the only position he fits because of his size and his lack of offensive game.
But with Okafor still on the roster and with forever-rookie Joel Embiid supposedly healthy enough to play, the logjam at the center position will be even worse, and Noel is none too happy. Via The Philadelphia Inquirer:
“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 get something done this summer.”
“I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it’s just not going to work to anybody’s advantage having that on the same team. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated.”
Noel said all the right things about respecting his teammates and working hard no matter the situation, but it’s quite clear he is frustrated by past and current 76ers management.
It is one thing to have three good centers and struggle to find them all playing time. But we don’t even know if the 76ers have one good center, and there isn’t enough playing time to go around to figure out if any of these young, raw players—who could really benefit from the type of veteran guidance the 76ers, until recently, refused to employ—are part of their future.
Sliding to power forward is no salvation, either; there Noel would compete with rookies Ben Simmons and Dario Saric for minutes.
There is a further complication here, which is that none of these players are compatible. Not a single one of them has an outside shot worth a damn, and attempting to play Simmons or Saric as a wing to relieve the logjam will only compound this problem. This entire gambit seems to hinge upon Embiid—a 7-foot-2 rookie who has missed two full seasons with foot injuries—becoming a transformational two-way player.
More likely, it results in immense amounts of frustration, very fun anonymous leaks to the media, and somebody being traded midseason for dryer lint.