At some point, the 76ers were going to have a dilemma.
Team President Bryan Colangelo understood that fact when he took over for Sam Hinkie. Finding minutes for Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel would be a monumental challenge. Then there was the realization that Dario Saric, Ersan Ilyasova and Richaun Holmes would have to fit into the rotation as well.
Noel missed the first 23 games after undergoing knee surgery. Okafor was limited in the early going while coming back from knee surgery. Embiid has been on a minute restriction all season.
Everyone is available for the most part now and it’s causing friction. Noel has already voiced his displeasure. Okafor hasn’t jelled yet starting alongside Embiid. Holmes has barely played.
Coach Brett Brown is in the midst of a very difficult situation trying to figure out a solution. There are no easy answers.
“We’re dealing with a logjam of players based on some decision making that was done prior to me being here,” Colangelo told reporters at practice earlier this week. “Coach has talked about inheriting a center situation. You couple that with the uncertainty with regard to health of all three, it made it virtually impossible and there was virtually no ability for me to go out and actively even discuss a trade.”
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Of course, a trade is always possible. It could be Noel. It could be Okafor. Realistically, Noel or Okafor may need to be moved. But Noel will be a restricted free agent in July, so that makes the situation even trickier.
The trade deadline in February will be worth watching.
“I will only make deals that make sense for this organization,” Colangelo told reporters. “Hopefully we can make mutual benefit to both the organization and players involved in whichever respective trades between the trade deadline or before the draft, ultimately. I’m pretty sure everyone is lined up to criticize whatever deal I make with Nerlens.”
Noel received a huge ovation when he entered the game Tuesday night in what wound up being a disappointing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. But he has only played 15 minutes combined in two of the last three games. For a trade to be completed, other teams will need to see the big man in action.
“He is a young, talented prospect that we are trying to determine whether or not he’s a fit for this roster,” Colangelo told reporters. “Further, I would say, given that he has been unavailable for any sort of evaluation throughout the summer, unavailable early in the season because of a surgical procedure that kept him out, and now made available for really the first time, it’s like starting at ground zero with respect to his opportunity to kind of break in as we speak. But, because of his talent, because of his earned respect with respect to what he’s already accomplished, we need to now determine whether or not some of that is going to translate to us moving forward as a unit.”
Year one of the Colangelo regime is still very much a rebuilding project. It’s better in Brown’s fourth year but far from complete. The next draft will provide two relatively high draft picks. Free agency will be available. Don’t forget that Ben Simmons hasn’t stepped on the court yet. There are decisions to make and the issue of multiple big men needs to be sorted out soon.