We're back with another Liberty Ballers mailbag, just one day away from the start of the 2015-16 NBA Regular Season. Exciting times. If you'd like to catch up on any previous mailbag installments, you may do so here.
@Trevone2Philly: Is Okafor and Stauskas healthy enough to play the home opener?
Okafor has been bothered with a knee injury for most of the preseason, one that Brett Brown said might hamper him for the season opener. But Jahlil played the final two preseason games, including 30 minutes against the Boston Celtics three days ago. I imagine he'll be a full go Wednesday and beyond.
On the other hand, the Sixers have been pretty quiet about Stauskas' status. He insists that he'll be ready for Wednesday's game, but we haven't had any solid evidence to prove that. We'll just have to wait and see with him. My guess is he won't be ready.
Mirzet Mandzic (via email): If we get the injury exception do you go for Ish Smith, Jabari Brown, or Perry Jones?
I would take Ish Smith, except he's now been claimed by the New Orleans Pelicans. I'm still very surprised they didn't come to terms with him over the summer, and I think the team is worse off because of it (What A Time To Be Alive).t. They're really high on TJ McConnell, and I imagine they think Isaiah Canaan is suitable until better options return to full health.Although he's a fan favorite around these parts, Perry Jones III isn't worth taking a flier on anymore. The ship has sailed on him ever being a contributor in the NBA. Jabari Brown is a solid player but Philadelphia can only snatch up so many off ball shooters before the numbers catch up to them. There are other areas on this team with a much higher priority worth addressing.
My first choice would still be Bryce Cotton. I would certainly have considered bringing back Ish Smith, but the Sixers didn't feel the same way.
Maxwell Kelly (via email): Tell me why Nerlens Noel isn't going to be as good as Kevin Garnett.. Or tell me why he is..
Nerlens Noel said in December that he's idolized Kevin Garnett all his life, and is doing his best to try and model his game after the future Hall of Famer. Defensively, Noel could emulate anybody he wants. The world is his oyster on that end of the floor. Offensively, I'm not sure if he ever acquires the mid-range game Garnett had. Watching him shoot still looks unnatural. Unlike Garnett, Noel's jump shot has no arc, and will continue to clank off the back of the rim if he doesn't fix that. KG was really able to rely on his jump shot throughout his career, and I can't see Nerlens ever getting to that point. Realistically, he doesn't have to be like Kevin Garnett from 15-feet out, just good enough to have defenders think twice about leaving him wide open. He may have bits and pieces of Garnett's game, but I can't see Nerlens ever figuring it out offensively to be in that category.
John Yorgev (via email): More complete/cohesive/exciting starting 5? Marshall/Stauskas/Covington/Noel/Okafor or Marshall/Stauskas/Covington/Wood/Noel?
The option with Noel and Okafor in the front court is a really easy choice. Christian Wood had a solid preseason andI like the outlook for his future, but prior to Aldemir getting cut, there was more talk of Wood spending time in Delaware than in Philadelphia. They may need him to play some rotational minutes out of necessity, but he's really raw at this point. Wood desperately needs to bulk up, which would help him a ton on the defensive end. He's also still working on finding his range, although Wood does have a good shooting foundation.
But in this scenario, you're replacing a really good offensive player in Jahlil Okafor with an average one in Christian Wood, and not really improving all that much on the defensive end. Hard to see that being more effective.
@senortalone: Why do Hinkie/Brown consider Canaan an option (even temporary) at PG? What PG skills (not shooting) does he have?
Canaan doesn't really have any. He's a shooting guard trapped inside a point guard's body. I think Philadelphia sees this as a teaching opportunity to try and mold Canaan into being more than just a shooter at the point guard position. He had at least four assists in three of his five preseason games, so Canaan's at least making a concerted effort to move the ball more. He also seemed more comfortable attacking the basket, although he was mostly doing that from an off-ball position. Basically, the team knows Canaan is not a real point guard, but think he's suitable enough with his current skill set while they try and help him improve his passing. And until better options return to full health, Canaan will just split some reps with T.J. McConnell.
@lou_lopez814: I've seen a few Sixers writers say they believe Okafor will play the four and Noel will play the five by January. Your thoughts?
I just don't see how this could work well. Jahlil Okafor probably has a better shooting foundation than Nerlens Noel does, but at the end of the day, that's not his game. Okafor rose to prominence because of his incredible low-post game, and by moving him to the four, his development would be severely hurt. While he's struggled to establish post position throughout the preseason, it's worth remembering he's played five quasi-NBA games, and is only 19-years-old. Most of his rookie season is going to be a feeling out process where he tries to figure out what aspects of his post game work or don't work. But that means he'll need some positional stability, and honestly, Noel could use it too. Philadelphia has been working on adjusting Noel's game to the four since Joel Embiid entered the picture. At some point, there needs to be some genuine commitment to one role so Noel can work on his jumper, or Okafor can find his sweet spot in the post.
Not to mention, Okafor moves like he's trapped in molasses for the most part. I'm not sure how he could sufficiently guard NBA four's, who these days are getting smaller, faster, and better at perimeter shooting. There's no need to move these two this season. It'll only hurt them both.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.