Well, that escalated quickly. After the 76ers delivered a dud on national television against the Los Angeles Lakers losing by 11, Nerlens Noel was frustrated with his lack of playing time.
“I’m too good to be playing eight minutes,” Nerlens said after the loss. “That’s crazy. Need to figure this s–t out”.
For what it’s worth, this was Nerlens’ second game back of the season after getting minor knee surgery right before the regular season, and the first game played where Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Noel were all active. Brett Brown managing all of these minutes is like doing a puzzle with a blindfold on and throwing the pieces together. What is the true solution to avoid this frustration for the next 56 games?
Option 1: Play it out–> Look, it won’t be easy, but Brett Brown has been put through the ringer and if his problem is to solve where to put three talented big men, he can live with that. Rarely, did they put Noel in with another big last night, and tested that out. Despite the failure of Noel-Okafor together last season, they could try Noel-Embiid and bring Okafor off of the bench. Also, cutting minutes from a couple of the veterans (Ersan Ilyasova and Robert Covington combining for 65 last night) could help Nerlens’ minute totals. Most likely, nothing will happen at least up until the deadline, so maybe the experiment could work.
Option 2: Trade Joel Embiid–> Good try. Next?
Option 3: Trade Jahlil Okafor–> Often getting criticism for his play on the defensive end, before the season started, Okafor seemed like the odd man out of this rotation. Fortunately, Okafor has been solid this season, focusing a lot more energy on getting rebounds and help defense. His footwork for a guy who is 275 pounds is still spectacular and they probably could get some more value for Jahlil compared to Nerlens. In his last 10 games, Jahlil has averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds on 64% shooting. To me, if Jahlil and Embiid can either work together/run shifts where one is on the floor at a time, then the odd man out is…
Option 4: Trade Nerlens Noel–> Clearly, he doesn’t want to be here. While Embiid is focused on becoming a leader and working with the other bigs, and Okafor has kept to himself, Noel has spoken out about the process and doesn’t believe three bigs together can work. The 76ers made a grave mistake not trading him earlier, because his value continues to sink, especially with being a restricted free agent next summer. This won’t be as easy as the media/casual fan thinks it will be to trade Noel and get a decent haul in return, but if given the opportunity, GM Bryan Colangelo should pull the trigger.