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Sixers Mailbag Volume 5 - Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel's upside, starting lineup, and more

In volume 5 of LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag, we talk about the upside of Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, what the optimal starting lineup would be, and about the 2015 NBA draft.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of the week again, where we return for volume 5 of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbags.

You can check out our previous installments of the Sixers Mailbags at our Story Stream.

With last night's loss to the Nets, the Sixers are now 0-15, tying the franchise's worst start in history. With the next two games being against the Spurs and the Mavericks, they're almost guaranteed to be playing for history next week against the Wolves, where they could tie the worst start in NBA history, and against the Thunder, where they could set it. Those are both winnable games, but nothing is a guarantee with this club.


Q: When all's said and done who has the better career, Joel Embiid or Nikola Vucevic?

Embiid, and it's not even close in my opinion. Vucevic is a dominant rebounder, and that allows him to get some of his offense inside, even if he is a bit too reliant on mid-range jump shots for my liking. But he doesn't create a ton of offense for himself in the post, isn't able to draw double teams and generate open looks for his teammates, doesn't get to the free throw line at all, struggles with efficiency because of that, and is a net-negative defender. He's a very valuable player, but he's not a franchise centerpiece. Joel Embiid, in my opinion, is. He can potentially be dominant offensively, defensively, on the glass, and become a great passer. I don't think this is a question in 5 years.


Q: Can a healthy Embiid have a comparable impact as Anthony Davis? Is he that good?

Oh man, that's tough. I think Embiid, if healthy, has a chance to be one of the two best big men in the league...along with AD. But AD is so dominant, so unique with his freak physical gifts and guard background, and on such a quick learning curve, that I can't project Embiid out to become better than him at this point.


Q: What is Noel's ceiling? Poor or rich mans Ben Wallace?

I think Ben Wallace is an interesting comparison, because Ben was such a unique big man in his ability to block shots, defend the post, and have such active hands on the perimeter. I think so many Noel comparisons fall short because of this last bit. It's one thing to have a shot blocker, and that's great, but to have the quickness and coordination that Noel does to cause havoc on the perimeter, especially in today's NBA game where pick and roll defense is so vital, is incredibly valuable.

But there's also a few catches: strength and rebounding, two areas that I think are pretty substantial question marks in Noel's game. Noel was 216 pounds in high school and was 217 pounds in training camp, he only dropped weight at the NBA combine due to an illness and his injury, which makes it seem like he's making more progress than he actually has. That lack of progress, while not damning at this point, is still a bit of a concern in my mind. And he's struggled to consistently make an impact on the glass, where his technique and positioning, in my opinion, haven't been all that great. Take away those two aspects of Ben Wallace's game, where he was dominant in, and that's not Ben Wallace. Then again, I do think Noel has more offensive potential than Wallace, which he's been displaying of late.

I think Noel can be one of the most unique big men defenders in the game, at least if he's playing in the paint defensively more than on the perimeter. Making a direct 1-1 comparison is tough, though.


Q: How many people who played vs. the Nets will be on the next Sixers playoff team?

2? 3?

I think you have 6 people who could legitimately be longer term pieces (MCW, Wroten, McDaniels, Noel, Sims, Thompson). But guys like Sims and Thompson, while potentially valuable ~8th men, frequently change. They're fungible. So it wouldn't surprise me if they leave, even if they belong in this league. Wroten I can't really see fitting with MCW, and I'd be surprised to see him here beyond his option years. It really, in my opinion, comes down to MCW and Noel. I don't think it's impossible that one, or both, could be packaged to get a really good player who fits with Embiid (and the 2015 pick). The only one that I'd be shocked if he isn't here, assuming he signs this offseason and doesn't get a crazy offer from another team, is K.J. McDaniels. He's so easy to fit around virtually any superstar that I think he has a high chance of being on the team for a long time.


Q: What do you think the starting lineup should be? What is their best defensive lineup?

I'd probably go with Michael Carter-Williams, Hollis Thompson, K.J. McDaniels, Henry Sims, and Nerlens Noel.

Thompson, McDaniels, and Sims would give the Sixers three of their best shooters on the floor with MCW. He'd still probably try to do too much, particularly at the beginning, as he's really the only ball handler or shot creator in that group, but that group has the best chance to have some semblance of floor spacing and ability to run a set offense, and hopefully MCW settles down.

Best defensive lineup? Probably the same, but without Sims. Unfortunately, we don't have a whole lot of options at the 4 opposite Nerlens. The best defensive lineup might be MCW, Hollis, KJ, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Noel.



Q: Is the losing starting to get to you at all? I really want a win and watching them look worse than they did last season, at times, is killing me.


Look, I'm 100% behind the plan. I was long before the Hinkster was hired. The thought of getting legitimate superstar potential is exciting, and needed.

But day to day? I love watching good basketball, and this is anything but. Noel, McDaniels, and Wroten will occasionally make an incredible play to take your focus off of the poor basketball, but it's undeniably there. And plays like this just drive me insane.


Q: The Sixers were extremely active last year at the deadline, but they really don't have any pieces to move this year. How much noise can they really make?

I still think they'll be active.

I think there's a combination of the Sixers wanting to get assets, wanting to reach the salary cap floor, and teams wanting to limit their luxury tax payment, that will make sure the Sixers are active. Remember, luxury tax calculations, like minimum salary calculations, are based off of full season team salary at the end of the year. So teams don't have much incentive to shed salary now, which I think is part of the holdup with the Karasev/Kirilenko rumored deal. Expect there to be more activity at the deadline when teams have a better view of whether they're legitimate playoff contenders.


Q: I am an Ohio State fan, and the buzz on D'Angelo Russell is getting crazy. Do you think he would be a good fit?

He's been very, very, good so far.

Now, the caveat that Ohio State hasn't played anybody so far has to be attached to that. Sure, they've played Marquette, but Marquette's in a down year. Sacred Heart? Campbell? UMass Lowell? We'll need to see more against legitimate competition. They have Louisville coming up, but Ohio State's schedule really gets interesting in January, February, and March. We'll learn a lot about Russell then.

But we have him at 13th in our current DraftExpress mock draft, and he has the kind of diversified offensive game that would definitely be a fit with the Sixers. Can shoot it from deep, but is crafty finishing inside, can pass the ball, has good length, and has been a little better of an athlete than I was led to believe. He's very interesting, especially considering the Sixers team needs.


Q: Is the night darkest before the dawn?

Yes. And I promise you, the dawn is coming

Unless it's not. In which case, everything burns.

But Sam Hinkie is the GM that Philadelphia needs right now, even if he's not the one that many deserve. He's our silent guardian. He's Waldo.

That will wrap it up. Hope everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks to everybody who submitted questions, and my apologies if I didn't answer yours. If you want to submit a question for next week, either hit me up on twitter (include #sixersmailbag in the tweet) or send me an email.

Also, I did a solo podcast last night. If, for some odd reason, you want to listen to a guy talk to himself about an 0-15 basketball team for a half an hour, listen here.

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