Can Nerlens Noel And Jahlil Okafor Coexist?


This must be a frustrating time for Brett Brown. Before the season had ended, the belief was that Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel would be able to hold down the front-court for the future and the Philadelphia 76ers would be able to draft someone like D’Angelo Russell as an exciting back-court piece with the 3rd overall pick. That plan would not be able to come into fruition though.

As we know, the 76ers selected Jahlil Okafor with that 3rd pick and it was announced that Embiid would most likely miss this upcoming season putting his future into question.

More from Sixers News

The initial goal was to have Noel play center on offense allowing Embiid to spread the floor with his solid shot. Then, Noel could take over power forward on defense since Joel was bigger and more capable of defending the stronger opposing centers. Nerlens has nice defensive capabilities and quick hands for a player of his size. He would be able to guard the opposing power forwards on the high post nicely and is a great pick and roll defender. If the power forward comes to pick the guard, the 76ers can trust Noel to switch and have the ability to defend that opposing guard.

With the drafting of Okafor, the defensive assignments don’t necessarily have to change, but offensively, there is a problem. As I highlighted in my article on Carl Landry, Nerlens Noel does not have a jump shot. Neither does Jahlil Okafor which questions their respective offensive assignments.

ALSO ON SIXER SENSE: 2016 NBA Draft: Exploring The Shooting Guards

Every significant front-court duo in recent memory has complimented each other well. Let’s start with one of the more recent ones: Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in Memphis. What is nice about this duo is that both have an extended post-game. Both can hit the mid-range jumper, take the defender off the dribble, or pull a nice move to get by the defender with their back to the basket on the block.

If Gasol is on the elbow, then Randolph will be on the opposite block and vice versa. In turn, this allows their three point shooters to have more open shots because the defense has to move around so much to defend every spot on the court.

Now, let’s take a look at a talented front-court that did not pan out. For the past two years, the Detroit Pistons have showcased a power forward and center combination of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. It was always confusing to so many people to why they were never succesful.

The reason? They couldn’t spread the floor. Like Noel and Okafor, both Pistons’ big men were unable to spread the floor because of their inability to have a mid-range game. The Pistons opted to let Greg Monroe go this off-season because of this factor.

So, to answer the initial question, if these two could play together, I would assume the answer has to be no because of the offensive problems that they will have by clogging up the paint. This year they can definitely coexist and hopefully one will gain a jump shot as they continue to develop, but down the line it might not be so premature to say that they can’t work together which would end up making one of them expendable.

Nerlens would be the one to be traded, not Okafor. Now am I saying that they should trade Noel this season? Not at all. I’m simply saying that throwing Noel’s name in the trade market to see what you could get wouldn’t be the worst idea if they aren’t able to work together.

Either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor will need to develop a shot from around 15 feet from the basket for there to be any chance for this front-court to be successful in the future. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at this point and say that it is possible that one of them could develop a mid-range game, but like I said, it’s very possible that Noel could get dealt if these two struggle to coexist.

Next: Was The Sixers' Offseason A Success?

More from The Sixer Sense