Over the past month, the Sixers have done some experimenting with their rotation, specifically at center.
The whole experiment dealt with who should be receiving the bulk of the minutes as the backup center between Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. This “experiment” started with Jahlil Okafor playing the bulk of the minutes, even starting next to Joel Embiid. This went horribly wrong. Joel Embiid had his worst net rating out of all two-man combinations that he had been a part of all season.
Then over the past couple of games, Nerlens Noel was given his opportunity to play the bulk of the reserve minutes, and Noel was overwhelmingly better.
Over the past four games, in which Jahlil Okafor has played a total of 10 minutes, the Sixers have won three of those four, with the one loss coming to the Celtics in a game that they led until the end. They have been playing much better basketball and it was because of having one backup center, Nerlens Noel.
Now that it is established that Nerlens Noel is the more valuable of the two centers to your team, you have two things you can do. The first thing is you can trade him for guard help, and hope that Okafor can become competent enough on defense to the point that you are not losing much when Embiid takes a rest. The other option is to pay Nerlens Noel, which is the move the Sixers have to make.
I am a firm believer in defense winning championships, and that all starts with your center protecting the rim. The Sixers have two great young rim protectors right now in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, and it would do wonders for this team down the road to have one of them on the court for the entire game. The effects of that are already being shown, albeit in a small sample size. Over the last four games, the Sixers have the sixth best defensive rating in the NBA.
Knowing that you have a top ten defense with one of these two on the court at all times, it makes it much easier to build a championship contender. Now the trick is, how much do you have to pay for Nerlens Noel? I think that with the value he brings to the team, he could command a 4 year deal worth $72 million. Now, with how much he means to THIS team, I think that is a fair price for him. It is similar to the contract that Tristan Thompson got. Thompson may not be worth $64 million, but to that Cleveland team, he is worth every dime. For the Sixers, Nerlens Noel is the type of player that you don’t appreciate until he is gone, I just hope we don’t get to that point.