It’s Wednesday before the Thursday NBA Trade Deadline and the rumors are beginning to trickle in a little more quickly now. We’re not expecting fireworks, but we are hopeful the team makes a few key changes.
Our Josh Grieb recently summed up one of the fan base’s biggest concerns in his recent rotation trust piece:
“After seeing [Montrezl] Harrell’s play this week, it isn’t a shock that Philly is rumored to be in the backup center market. This was capped off by the horrendous stretch against the Knicks that saw the minutes swing back to Reed. In fairness to Harrell, the reason why he is on this team is clear: he is a pick-and-roll big who has good chemistry with James Harden. With that being said, why does he hardly ever share the floor with Harden?????”
Currently the Sixers are trying to thread one nasty needle. They want to vie for a one seed, and they also want to rehearse playoff viable lineups and rotations.
Well, as we stand today, they’ve been consistently doing something that appears to help neither goal — that is playing all-bench lineups with Montrezl Harrell on the floor while both Joel Embiid and James Harden sit and rest.
Doc Rivers’ preferred all-bench “attack” of Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, Georges Niang, Trez and Matisse Thybulle sparked the Knicks’ 17-0 run last weekend. It completely flipped a game Philadelphia, up 20 at one point, had been in control of.
Amazingly, the Sixers tried more all-bench lineups in the second half as well.
Is this because they want to reduce Harden’s work load and plan to give him all of these non-Embiid minutes come playoff time? If so, it’s getting awfully late in the season to not do something they intend to do when the stakes are at their highest.
all the Sixers bullshit on display v. NYK:— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) February 6, 2023
-overhelping in no man’s land leading to open 3s
-lack of athleticism giving up open lanes, o-boards
-inescapable Backup Center Prophecy to go -19 in 4 min, give viewers a UTI
-Harden ballwatching, Jo carelessness
worst best team in NBA
Would a bench upgrade help them avoid these seemingly needless rotational problems?
The latest per Marc Stein, via his Substack Newsletter’s “Latest Whispers:”
“I feel like we’ve been writing for weeks about how resistant Detroit is to trading the likes of Bojan Bogdanović, Alec Burks and Saddiq Bey. The Piston most likely to be traded this week: Nerlens Noel. Sources say Miami and Philadelphia continue to register interest in Noel.”
If healthy (a sizable if here so they’d better conduct due diligence on the medical report) Noel provides his team with some rim protection and some athleticism. Daryl Morey has said he wants his bigs to be able to space the floor or switch, Nerlens can’t space the floor but he might be able to switch.
In theory, the team’s former first-round pick whose injured presence kicked off The Process, might offer Harden a bit of an “arbitrage” Clint Capela. Harden played some of his best ball back in Houston alongside Capela, now with the Hawks. In a perfect world Noel could do some of what Capela used to do, that is switch defenders onto a wing without getting completely dusted, finish lobs in the half court, crash the glass, and protect the rim.
Doing all of those things may be a tall order for Nerlens, but he’d be an upgrade over what they have now for sure. And best of all, he might (maybe I’m dreaming here) lead Rivers away from some soul-crushing all-bench mayhem and back to a Harden-fueled bench unit to survive the forever terrifying moments Joel sits; that could help them stack wins and also develop vital chemistry for the playoff bench unit.
Noel earns $9.2M this season, so the Sixers would need to cobble together more than one player salary to fit him in unless this becomes a buyout market play.
Here was what our Paul Hudrick wrote about this idea when he suggested it last week:
“Any bad blood Noel had with the Sixers is gone. He remains great friends with Embiid. Serving as his backup would be both beneficial for the Sixers and quite fun for Process devotees. Unlike Drummond, Noel is pretty damn good moving in space as a big and is still an excellent rim protector. Overall, Noel is a strong and disruptive defender. He’s also a decent lob threat for Harden to play with in non-Embiid minutes.
Another reunion that makes so much sense ... if the price is right.”
Noel’s numbers per 36 this season: 7.8 points, 2.2 blocks, 3.2 steals, 8.8 rebounds, shooting just 42 percent from the floor. Maybe the Sixers read that and made the call.