Sixers Mailbag #3: Opening Day Roster, Okafor projections
Every Monday we’ll have a Philadelphia 76ers mailbag, where we’ll discuss some of the pressing topics around the team.
In this third edition of the Sixers mailbag we’ll take a guess at the Sixers 15-man opening day roster, we’ll try to project out Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel‘s output this season, take a look at future point guard options, and discuss whether Nerlens Noel is a franchise player.
Note: any opinions expressed here are my own opinions, and not reports or expectations based off of inside information, unless I explicitly state that a statement is based off of inside information.
“Predict the Sixers opening day roster.”
We’ll start off with this one since it will be answered in the next few hours.
Here’s how I predict the 15 man roster will look when the Sixers have to submit their opening day roster to the league today:
PG’s: Kendall Marshall, Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canaan
SG’s: Nik Stauskas, JaKarr Sampson
SF’s: Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, Jerami Grant
PF’s: Nerlens Noel, Richaun Holmes, Christian Wood, Carl Landry
C’s: Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Furkan Aldemir
Twelve of those players I consider to be virtual locks, with the three somewhat up in the air being Carl Landry, Furkan Aldemir, and Christian Wood.
With Landry, I keep going back to the fact that they knew he was going to miss the entire preseason. If they weren’t going to keep him around I have to assume he would have been cut already so they could use his roster spot to evaluate another prospect.
The one scenario that I could see them keeping Landry around, even if they don’t intend to hold onto Landry throughout his rehab, is that perhaps they wanted to see if a trade materialized that they could include Landry in, perhaps to decrease the $6.5 million salary commitment they have for next year. With that time having run out, perhaps now is the time they’d move on? That’s the only scenario I could see them cutting Landry.
With Aldemir, it essentially came down to Aldemir or T.J. McConnell. I’m going with Aldemir, despite the fact that McConnell outplayed him, because I do think they want to give him some more time in the system to see if he was worth the investment.
That being said, as I mentioned the other day the Sixers are likely to be able to expand their roster size to sixteen because of the number of injuries they currently have, although they’re going to have to wait a week or two before this is available to them. If their intention was to keep both McConnell and Aldemir, Aldemir’s $3 million of guaranteed salary could work against him making the opening day roster. With only three teams capable of claiming Aldemir off of waivers (Portland, Utah, and Cleveland), Aldemir has a pretty good chance of clearing waivers and being available to the Sixers if/when they get the hardship exception granted to them.
So why did I go with Aldemir? I think they have more interest in him as a long-term prospect, whereas I think McConnell is more of a “fill a need at point guard until Marshall or Wroten come back.” I think they’re willing to live with that risk.
As for Wood, based on preseason play and talent he has no business being on the bubble. If he doesn’t make the team the only reason I could surmise is that some of the alleged maturity/work ethic concerns came up. That being said, I haven’t heard of any issues during training camp or preseason, and I think he makes the roster.
The wildcard is whether they claim Ish Smith off of waivers.
Sean Forman (@sean_forman) / Noah (email):
What are potential scenarios for the Sixers remaining cap space? What is your fever dream best case for Sixers this year?
The Sixers currently have about $9.6 million in cap space remaining.
I’ve previously said that I could see the Sixers making a trade of significance sometime in the next 12 months, but I think that’s more likely to be around the draft than it is at the trade deadline. If I had to guess, I’d say they will use the cap space on something “boring”, say acquiring a first round pick to help a team decrease their luxury tax burden.
Best case scenario: I’d say around 30 wins, Okafor looking like he can command a double team and score efficiently, and Noel being able to keep the team in the top-half defensively despite a roster that has more than a few not-so-great defenders on it.
“Next year’s draft seems weak at the Sixers position of need. Besides Jamal Murray it’s hard to find pg’s with all star potential. If they don’t get Murray who do you see as a future Sixers point guard assuming the he will be acquired either via trade or free agency?”
Kris Dunn and Isaiah Briscoe are both names to keep your eye on as well, as are Malik Newman and Caris LeVert, even if I consider Newman and LeVert to be more two-guards than points. Those are names to watch out for more with the Lakers or Heat pick (although Dunn could sneak into the top 5-7 and become an option depending on where the Sixers pick falls), but guys to keep an eye on as well.
As for the position specifically, I wouldn’t expect that the Sixers are as focused on the position as most fans or media members are. As I’ve mentioned many times, I think their primary concern right now is getting guys they can build around, whether that be bigs, wings, or points. I don’t think they’re going into the draft thinking “man, we need to replace MCW and get a legitimate, long-term point guard here.”
I also think that there’s such a saturation of point guards in the league today that if they did find their star(s) through the draft, flipping some of the assets that they’ve accumulated for the right fit at point guard to surround the stars they have in place wouldn’t be all that difficult. Look at all the point guards that changed team last year at the deadline. They’re available.
“Last season, Sixers signed Ish Smith and Thomas Robinson, supposedly to get a free look at some guys who could be pieces moving forward. It looked like a good move when both guys played great, so it was forgiven when they helped spark the Sixers to win 6 of the next 16 games.
However, flash forward to today, and both guys were not brought back by the team. The Sixers only missed the top lottery position by 2 games. It’s very possible that Thomas Robinson and Ish Smith cost us Karl Anthony Towns. Why does nobody talk about this as a huge mistake? Why tank a whole season, only to possibly miss out on the next big star for the opportunity to rent a couple of bench pieces?”
Eh….I wouldn’t worry too much about how much Thomas Robinson or Ish Smith helped the team win. From a purely numbers perspective, neither of them were above league average in any of box-score plus minus, value over replacement, or win shares. Both had pretty glaring holes in their game, especially Robinson, who really only rebounded well. Were they “better than Sixers replacement level?” Maybe, but not to the point where they’re really adding significantly more wins to the team.
On a larger scale, if you’re scared of bringing in vagabond free agents because they might win a game and cost a 5% better chance in the lottery, you might as well not suit up. Ish Smith helped bring out the best in Nerlens Noel, and player development is still the most important part of the Sixers process.
“Could you project an expected stat line for both Okafor and Noel?”
Just a couple of general expectations:
- I don’t think Okafor is going to score as efficiently as you hope.
- I think Okafor will score a decent amount of points, because they’re going to run a lot of the offense through him.
- I don’t think Okafor is going to play as many minutes as you’d want, especially in the first third of the year, as they continue to focus on him going full tilt in whatever minutes he’s in the game rather than maximizing the amount of time he’s in the game.
- I don’t think Okafor is going to rebound on the defensive side of the ball as well as you would hope
- I think Okafor is going to turn the ball over more than you’d hope, especially in the first third of the season.
As for stat lines, just completely made up on the spot:
Okafor: 15 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists in 26 minutes per game, shooting 44% from the field.
Noel: 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.0 blocks, 49% field goal percentage, 33 minutes per game.
“Would you consider Noel a franchise player? Despite his offensive flaws?”
That’s a tough question. Franchise player, superstars, etc are such ambiguous terms that they’re hard to define.
If the definition is a top-1o player in the league, I don’t think he’s quite going to reach that point. I think it’s really difficult to be a top-1o player in the league without being an impact player on both ends of the court.
There are some positions that are easier to hide than others, especially hiding wings defensively. There just aren’t that many high-level offensive options at the position and you’re almost guaranteed to find a matchup where you can hide a below-average defender on, especially if he’s paired with a versatile defender at the other wing position. And, with the way the league is going, I do think having a non-threat in the front court is tougher to hide than a poor defending wing.
That being said, Noel is so unique of a defender, and a big with his kind of versatility can impact a game in so many ways, that I do think he’s on the path to All-star / stardom level player. It’s tough to overrate a guy who can transform a bad defensive team into a good defensive team almost single-handedly, and his versatility makes building around guys like Okafor feasible on the defensive side of the court. You’re probably going to need 1-2 high-level offensive options to pair with Noel, but he’s absolutely a cornerstone type of guy, in my opinion.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.