The Philadelphia 76ers were able to acquire who many thought would be the top pick in last year’s NBA Draft with the sixth overall pick. The problem was they had to trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to acquire that pick. So the new face of the franchise and the head of the team’s rebuilding plan is Nerlens Noel.
The rookie from the University of Kentucky was a difference-maker at the defensive end of the floor during his only year of college. Before tearing his ACL, he averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and a ridiculous 4.4 blocks per game. These are the kind of numbers that warrant a top overall draft selection because he is already elite on the defensive end of the floor. His offense needs work, but that will come and is easier to improve upon.
The reason why Noel slipped in the draft was because of the questions about his knee. The Sixers were hand-wrapped a gift at no. 6 overall and new GM Sam Hinkie accepted it with open arms. Hinkie now has the centerpiece of his roster overhaul, but the problem is that his beloved fans in Philadelphia won’t get to see him play until the new year at the earliest while he is rehabbing that knee.
Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown will obviously be cautious with Noel in 2013 because this isn’t the year the 76ers are expected to contend. But I think for the sake of this city and giving them a glimpse of the future, they need to play Noel this year and not let him sit. He needs to get some games under his belt because if the ping pong balls bounce right for the Sixers, they could be a borderline playoff team in 2014-15.
Because of this, Sixers fans need to see their future big man at some point this season. One thing is for certain: the product on the court isn’t going to fill the seats at Wells Fargo Center this year, so hopefully a Noel return sometime in January will get the city buzzing again.