Sixers Mailbag: Nerlens Noel Progress, Derek’s NBA Draft Big Board 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 on the NBA Draft, Nerlens Noel's progress, updates his big board and more.
On to your questions!
Welcome back to 10 addition of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag. Busy week, with the Sixers first home win of the season (in incredible comeback fashion), followed up by one of the worst performances of the season, with a completely inconsequential trade and a Tony Wroten rumor mixed between them. Fun times.
If the Sixers draft Jahlil Okafor, do you think Coach Brown slims him down to play the 4? Do you think he's capable of that?
I mentioned this the other day. I think you're already seeing a slimmer Jahlil Okafor than what you saw in high school, and I think if you put him in a world class conditioning program day in, day out, for multiple years, it's possible you could see a substantial improvement in his conditioning level. Brett Brown doesn't talk about conditioning, nutrition, and sports science ad nauseam for no reason.
Can it be enough for him to (effectively) defend the power forward spot? I'm not so sure. It's certainly done wonders for guys like Marc Gasol and Kevin Love (although not necessarily as a defender, in Love's case), and I would have never predicted Gasol to become the defender that he has. Can I rely on that happening? Am I banking on him being a plus defender at the 4? Probably not. But I am interested in what a guy like Brown could get out of what is a seemingly eager student.
Q: What do you think of Embiid's shooting ability? Can he shoot 3-pointers?
I think it shows flashes. His form is mechanically solid. He has nice touch. Like virtually all aspects of his game, he's a quick learner. It's not a guarantee, and he's streak right now even in practice, but there are reasons for optimism, and he is able to occasionally hit from three point range in practice.
Three point range? To the point where you actually want him regularly attempting three's in games? That may be a ways away. And, unless he does end up getting paired up with Okafor, perhaps not something you ever truly want to make a staple of his game. If he's paired up with what is now a more conventional stretch 4, the biggest thing I want to see in terms of Embiid's shooting is his free throw shooting becoming really consistent. But I think there's some hope for him becoming at least a reliable enough midrange shooter to help a potential Okafor/Embiid pairing work on the offensive end.
Q: We get 2nd pick and Okafor is gone, do you draft Mudiay and trade MCW? What can MCW fetch us in a trade?
I've mentioned before that Karl Towns is second on my big board, and that's who I would take if Okafor is gone, unless somebody blows me away on an offer for Michael Carter-Williams (which I don't see happening with the way he's playing right now) or, after I get a chance to watch more of Mudiay's play this season, my evaluation of him improves substantially. But right now Towns is my (2nd) guy.
Q: Why the heck aren't we better at alley-oops?! I was really looking forward to that this year.
It is a little bit frustrating at times. I think the combination of some of our guards not being the most accurate of passers, combined with some of our big men not having the best of hands, probably doesn't help. A lack of floor spacing to make hard cuts in the half-court also probably plays a factor. The best opportunities we have right now are in transition.
Q: Do you remember watching Nerlens in college? Was his offensive game this weak or did it look better against weaker/younger competition?
I mean, I write for a scouting website and it was less than 2 years ago that he played. I would hope I remember the guy we had rated as the best prospect for most of the year.
His offensive game has always been weak. He had slightly more success posting up in college due to not being as over-matched from a strength perspective every night, but we expected him to transition to more of a face-up and pick and dive player in the pro's, which he mostly has. But his game was always very raw.
The one area of his offensive game game that I'm most disappointed in has been his hands. Which brings us to our next question.
Q: Nerlens Noel's hands are not good. Is this a teachable skill in basketball and if so, how?
His hands are not good, which is a situation that the Sixers brass is definitely aware of.
I think one thing that is hopefully in his favor is that his hands aren't really small, which was the bane of some players problems, such as Kwame Brown, which waspointed out by Kyle Neubeck on our latest podcast. So hopefully that gives some hope for the future.
I think it's also something that could be helped by having stronger hands, so hopefully his natural progression in terms of physical development will help limit this problem.
But I also think a large part of it is hand-eye coordination, something that is best improved by doing. I'm sure the Sixers are trying to put him in as many situations as they can where he's catching the ball in traffic. Hopefully with repetition he'll get more comfortable, the game will slow down for him, and it will become second nature. But it's a legitimate concern.
Also, better floor spacing would probably help as well.