Sixers Roundup: Nerlens Noel’s Health Reignites The Great Big Man Debate

What should the Sixers do about their big man situation? Is Joel Embiid the top 23-and-under prospect in the NBA?

Both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor will be out of the lineup when the Sixers take on the New York Knicks in preseason basketball tonight at Madison Square Garden | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Sixers keep Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor? | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers are finally starting to get healthy, which in Sixers Land means controversy. In this case it’s a revival of the Noel-vs-Okafor debate.

Part of the debate, which seemed to engulf last year’s NBA season, is because of the polar opposite ways each player goes about playing the position. Many people have a certain archetype in their head of what they think an NBA center should be, whether that’s a big man who can command a double team in the post or an elite defensive player who can anchor a defense, and both Okafor and Noel only tick one of those boxes.

Contributing to the debate is an acknowledgement from almost everybody involved that the situation isn’t tenable long-term. Before the season Nerlens Noel said having all three on the roster “didn’t make any sense“. Last week head coach Brett Brown said it would be an “extreme challenge” to keep all of them on the roster all year. While Bryan Colangelo claimed they would be willing to do so if they didn’t get a good trade offer, he didn’t exactly disagree with his coach’s assessment, either.

That feeling that a trade is inevitable has only served to heighten the debate.

With Noel sidelined for the start of the season that debate was briefly shelved, but now that Noel has returned (while openly complaining about playing time), that discussion will naturally return to the forefront until the situation is resolved. It is then no surprise that it has generated quite a few articles on the subject.

* Ben Detrick of The Ringer  wrote an article titled “Free Nerlens Noel”. As you may have guessed by the headline, Detrick is a big fan of Noel, but he explored the possibility of moving any of the three highly-touted big men. []

* Detrick’s Ringer colleague Jonathan Tjarks took a broader approach to the subject, taking a look at the league-wide glut of big men, and some of the teams who may look to move some of their excess. Unfortunately, that excess doesn’t help the Sixers’ leverage in a trade. []

* More Ringer content, as Bill Simmons wrote about the NBA’s most unique young players, guys who have a chance to become irreproducible unicorns. Joel Embiid (along with Karl-Anthony TownsKristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo) were the focus of this 23-and-under article (As you’ll see below, it’s like everybody decided to write/talk about the same 23-and-under topic this week. Seriously). []

* Tom Haberstroh of ESPN with a fascinating read on the explosion of DNP-Rest, and why it’s here to stay. This is particularly relevant to the Sixers since Joel Embiid is on a minutes restriction, and is, as of now, prevented from playing in both games in back-to-back situations. []

* Another week, another Rookie Ladder, another ranking of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric 1st and 2nd in this class. []

* Comedian Chris Trew is a season ticker holder for the New Orleans Pelicans, and gave a hilarious description of what happened on the Sixers sidelines that night. []

* Marc Spears profiled former 76er Kenny Thomas, who has transitioned from his playing days to becoming a restaurant owner, at the advice of Magic Johnson. []

* Be sure to check out our coverage of Bryan Colangelo’s press availability on the Nerlens Noel situation, as well as our coverage of how we got to this point (and who is to blame).


* Paul Flannery and John Gonzalez (formerly of CSN Philly) kicked around the topic of which young player you would prefer to build your team around on SB Nation’s Drive and Kick Podcast. Joel Embiid didn’t win — there’s a lot of young talent in the league with Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kristaps Porzingis — but he did make the top-5 for each. []

* The same duo spent the next podcast discussing what to do with the Sixers’ frontcourt logjam. []

* Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux had a similar 23-and-under franchise player ranking, with Embiid once again in the discussion. []

* Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver re-drafted the 2014 NBA draft for Sports Illustrated’s Open Floor podcast. A certain 7’2″ Cameroonian was discussed. []

* Spike Eskin and Michael Levin discussed Joel Embiid’s comments about Nerlens Noel on this week’s The Rights to Ricky Sanchez. []

* Over at The Sixers Beat, we had SI writer Chris Ballard on to discuss the time he spent with former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie for his SI profile, then followed that up with a podcast about the 76ers convoluted big man situation. You can listen to both of those podcasts, and also get links to subscribe for iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Google Play, over at

* I also joined the BBallBreakdown podcast to discuss the state of the Sixers. you can listen to that here.

* Also give a listen to Max Rappaport and  on The Stepover Pod talking about the Sixers big man situation. []

That will wrap it up. Happy Holiday’s to all.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.