Sixers Mailbag: Can Embiid be Better Than Horford, Noel and Embiid Together and More
Each week Derek will answer reader questions and tweets and will appear on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill to answer your questions.
In this week’s edition of the Sixers Mailbag, Derek answers your questions about Glenn Robinson, Mario Hezonja, Dario Saric, the 2015 NBA draft, and more.
Now….on to your questions!
Q: Do you think the Sixers should go after Khris Middleton or Brandon Knight This summer in Free agency? Both guys are only 23 and can really shoot and would seem to be good fits on any team because of that.
I like Brandon Knight's game, and certainly like the progress he's made over the last year or two, I'm just not sure I'm ready to commit major money to the point guard position yet. Also, I don't think Phoenix gave away the Lakers pick just to let him walk, so I have to think they made the move having already made the decision that they'd be willing to match any offer, especially since our entire mindset on what is and is not a good contract will be changing drastically now that the cap increase won't be smoothed out.
Middleton would be a great, great get. He's really polished out the rough edges in his game over the last two years, and is now the kind of corner-three shooting, switchable, versatile defender that seems like exactly the type of guy Sam Hinkie and Brett Brownwould be looking for on the perimeter.
Check out these defensive numbers:
|Area defended||FG% diff (from season average)|
|less than 6 ft||-4.4%|
|less than 10 ft||-1.5%|
|greater than 15 ft||-5.1%|
The Bucks are in a pretty good salary cap position, so I'm not sure we can find a way to structure an offer that they wouldn't match, but I'd absolutely make a (sizable) offer for Middleton.
Q: My question is basically whether you think in today’s NBA you can build your team around 2 big men.
Sure. Height alone doesn't preclude a pairing.
The question is really about fit, both in terms of how Noel and Embiid fit, and how you approach the draft. With big men, I think there are 2 real keys:
- Can they stretch the floor enough for an offense to execute efficiently?
- Are they versatile enough where they can move their feet and slow down pick and rolls?
If the answers to those two questions are yes, then I absolutely think you can build around two big men.
Noel obviously fits one of those criteria to a T, in that he can absolutely guard stretch-4's and defend pick and rolls. The much tougher question is whether Joel Embiid can be an effective post player with Noel's man consistently leaving to double, and whether Noel's lack of range could clog up the lane for a slashing wing.
And I think it's a very valid concern. Much has been made of Noel's improved play since the all-star break, and deservedly so (Related: I think part of that is an example of how spacing helps a big man), but he's still only shooting 3-14 from 15-19' since the All-Star break. His free throw shooting has looked legitimately better, but translating that standstill shot to a jump shot is not always easy, especially with Noel's release and how extremely inconsistent it is, particularly the timing of the release. Signs may be positive, but it's far from a guarantee.
Sure, Embiid's range, just judging by practice, has been improving, but you really don't want Embiid floating out on the perimeter for much of the game -- doing so is wasting an incredible post talent.
The good news is that the rotations may shake out where Noel and Embiid don't play more than 15 minutes or so per night together, as keeping an elite shot blocker on the court at all times is a huge benefit for Brown when building a defensive scheme. And some of the guys towards the top of the draft -- Towns and Porzingis, especially -- either look to already be good perimeter shooters (Porzingis) or look to have that potential down the line (Towns).
If your question is do the Sixers have to trade Noel, no, they don't. There may be legitimate concerns with the offensive pairing of Noel and Embiid down the line, but I think you can get creative enough with your rotations to minimize that and not have to give up an elite defender.
Also, Embiid insurance.
Q: When looking at prospects, do you look at how individual skills may translate or how the total package will translate?