Nerlens Noel was impressive in the Orlando Summer League, particularly on the defensive end. Credit: Getty Images Nerlens Noel was impressive in the Orlando Summer League, particularly on the defensive end. Credit: Getty Images

Picture this: Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric protecting the rim for the Philadelphia 76ers.

It may be a few years, and there are hurdles to climb – but the picture is sure enticing.

Noel and Embiid recently traveled to Spain along with Michael Carter-Williams, coach Brett Brown and general manager Sam Hinkie. They went to visit Saric, who was competing in the FIBA World Cup championships. Saric was drafted by the Sixers but is likely to remain overseas for at least the next two years.

 

This was a way to bond and also to ponder the future.

For now, Carter-Williams is back for his second season. He was named Rookie of the Year and eventually underwent shoulder surgery. Noel will be making his debut after sitting out all of last season with a torn ACL. Embiid may miss all of the 2014-15 season rehabbing a stress fracture in his foot.

Who knows what the future holds?

“I think about it every day,” Noel said.

So does Embiid, who was taken No. 3 overall from Kansas by the Sixers.

“(Noel) talked to me about (sitting out all year),” Embiid said. “He told me it sucks.”

The Sixers are planning for the future and they’re clearly willing to wait for certain pieces.

“I’m a much better player than I was (at Kentucky),” Noel said. “Sitting out did so much for my maturity and it really brought me a long way both physically and mentally. Having to go through that was tough and going into the future there’s nothing that will be harder than that.”

During the trip to Spain, the players became much closer. It bodes well for future seasons in Philadelphia if everything works out as planned.

“Joel is a lovable kid,” Noel said. “He brings so much energy no matter who he’s around. He’s exactly what you see. He’s a funny, lovable kid.”

And immensely talented.

With Noel, Embiid and Saric together – well, it’s exciting to think about it.

“We're great shot-blockers,” Embiid said of himself and Noel. “I’ve seen him in practice working on his post moves and he’s pretty good. And in college, I showed some flashes of an offensive game. I have it, but people haven’t seen it.”

Once again, the Sixers are going to be extremely young. They will have inexperienced players getting meaningful minutes, a potential star sidelined in Embiid and another standout performing in another country.

“We look forward to that day when we can be out there every night and say tonight we have a chance and, in fact, they're sort of fearful coming in here to play us,” Hinkie said. “When that comes, I don't know. I think a lot of that is about the development of our young guys. As our young players come along, we'll see, but right now there is an unknown to that.”

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