The Andrew Bynum debacle likely soured Sixer fans on knee injuries for the foreseeable future.
One of the last things followers of the franchise want to see, aside from a Kwame Brown on the court, is another center sitting on the sidelines for an entire season without seeing a second of in-game action.
Especially a center with a fancy hair-do (see: flattop).
Thus, reaction was mixed when the Sixers selected the already-injured Nerlens Noel on draft day.
“Are they serious; another one?”
Noel wasn’t expected to play until the all-star break at the earliest anyway, but at his introductory press conference a few weeks back it didn’t seem like the organization had set any timetable on his return.
“[Noel’s] long-term health is our main goal,” Hinkie stated very vaguely, leaving little indication of when we may see the scrawny (Noel said he weighs around 219 pounds currently) center out on the court.
However, considering the current state of the Sixers (not very good), and their overall aspirations for the season (stink & secure lottery picks), an argument could be made that it isn’t necessary to bring Noel back this season.
Pros of playing Nerlens Noel during the 2013-14 season:
A. Actual NBA experience: The most obvious pro for playing Noel at some point this season, whenever he is ready to return, is so that he could gain some actual in-game NBA experience. There is no equivalent to playing in an NBA game as far as experience. Drills and D-League runs can’t prepare a player, especially a 19 year old kid like Noel, for what to expect, both mentally and physically, out on the court. Exposing him to some action this season would allow him to get a sense of what to expect, and give him a better idea of what he needs to do to prepare going forward.
B. The organization will get an idea of what they are working with: The Sixers organization gave up a whole lot to get Nerlens Noel. Jrue Holiday was coming off of an all-star appearance, and showed a lot of promise and potential. While he might not have been the guy the Sixers were going to build a true contender around, you don’t get rid of a player like that for pennies on the dollar. The organization faces a lot of big decisions in the near future, especially next summer when they will be looking at a loaded lottery and a top of cap space. It would be nice if the team had an idea at least of what they can expect from Noel on a nightly basis, and then made moves accordingly. Even a twenty game sample could provide some insight into the type of player he could become.
C. To see if there is any chemistry between him and his old AAU teammate, Michael Carter-Williams: A lot was made about the pairing of Noel and MC-W and their shared past. The two were AAU teammates for a couple seasons, and have both been very vocal about their excitement about being back together. Noel even went as far as calling Sam Hinkie a “genius” for orchestrating the moves that re-united the two. If Noel sits on the sideline all season, we won’t get an opportunity to see if there is any carried-over chemistry from their past playing days. If Noel does play for some brief period of time however, the duo could re-familiarize with each other and see how they now coexist together. Any on-court chemistry they strike up could be carried over and improved in the off-season.
Pros of sitting Nerlens Noel for the 2013-14 NBA season:
A. Allow him to return to full health: With the Sixers in no place to contend for anything but a top lottery pick this season, there is no reason to rush Noel back into action at any point until he is completely ready, both physically and mentally; similar to what the Clippers did with eventual rookie of the year Blake Griffin. While in-game experience is important, making sure that a kid who has never seen a second of NBA action is fully prepared is more important, especially for his psyche. Playing precautionary and having to worry about re-aggravation of an injury is not the ideal way to begin a dynamic young career.
B. Allow him to focus on adding size and strength: Noel clearly needs to add some size if he is going to be expected to bang with the big bodies of the league on a nightly basis. Dude is super skinny. At his press conference Noel stated that he weighed around 219, which is not much at all for a baller who is just short of seven feet. To protect his body and increase his longevity in the league, he needs to add some muscle mass; probably ten of fifteen pounds. It would actually be wise for Noel to add some size before he sees any action to insulate himself from the wear and tear. If Noel sits out the season, he can focus solely on rehabbing and getting stronger without having to worry about the daily grind of in-season action. Let him get bigger and build his body up before throwing him into action during what is sure to be a stinkfest of a season. Allowing him to rehab fully and bulk up could have long-term benefits.
With the team set to struggle, basically banking on it, and Noel facing an extremely abridged season either way, there seems to be little to gain by exposing him to action this season. Instead, the Siers could fill the roster with one-year contracts, land in the lottery, and save Noel until next summer and the following season, when the team truly begins to build.
Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikekb
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