Nerlens Noel, not Jahlil Okafor, could be odd man out in Philly; Ben Simmons reveals close ties with Okafor, Joel Embiid
Nerlens Noel could be the odd man in Philadelphia, with the 76ers admitting the need to address their frontcourt logjam.
The consensus around the league points at Jahlil Okafor as the 76ers’ expendable big man, with the 20-year-old being linked to several trade talks in the past few months. CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely quoted an NBA executive claiming Noel’s athleticism and defensive abilities makes him a better fit for the 76ers over Okafor’s scoring prowess.
“From the moment Philly drafted Ben [Simmons], everyone around the league knew that they would have to trade a big, either Okafor or Nerlens [Noel],” an NBA scout told CSNNE.com.
“Okafor is the better scorer; it’s not even close really. But Nerlens has that ability to run the floor and can protect the rim. Those two qualities . . . you can’t have enough guys in the frontcourt who call those two skills, strengths. That’s why Okafor is the more expendable player.”
However, there are many levels Noel could be the 76ers’ trade assets.
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk noted how Ben Simmons feels he is in an “ideal situation” with the 76ers, given the Australian phenom’s history with coach Brett Brown and teammates Joel Embiid and Okafor. Simmons revealed he has known Okafor and Embiid since high school, which eliminates any chemistry issues among the youngsters.
“I’ve known them since 10th grade so we have had that chemistry for a while,” Simmons said. “As soon as we hit the court, hopefully it is the same. I am looking forward to playing with them.”
This is not to say that Simmons have not familiarized himself to Noel’s game. In fact, the 2016 first overall pick mentioned that he learned “everyone’s game pretty well” since joining the 76ers. But the connection to Noel is probably more different than Embiid and Okafor.
Simmons is not only expected to become the 76ers’ top playmaker on the court, but many, including the franchise itself, consider him as the main piece in their attempt to be relevant in the NBA map once again. This could mean utilizing his max potential translates to being surrounded with people he knows very well, which may not be Noel.
There is also a belief that Okafor could be the perfect fit playing alongside Simmons. Sports Illustrated’s Fansided writer Bret Stuter is convinced that Okafor could be the scorer-slash-shooter Simmons need, citing the potential of the two gelling together as a dynamic duo in Philly.
“Now place Ben Simmons on the roster with Jahlil Okafor for 82 games. What do you think can happen to the team as a result? Well, with little help from teammates, Okafor was able to generate his own scoring opportunities with double and sometimes triple teaming in the post. With Ben Simmons, that won’t happen,” Stuter wrote.
“A post game with Simmons feeding Okafor catch and shoots at the post will be an incredible upgrade and boost to Jah’s already impressive offensive display.”
There is no telling whether the 76ers truly considers Okafor as their best trade asset, but Noel seems to have the equal value in trade talks. But as far as being connected to Simmons, Okafor has the upper hand, and that could give him the immunity from any potential deals.