Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The case for sitting 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel for the 2013-14 season

Philadelphia 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel holds up his new jersey. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel holds up his new jersey. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
 
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    Tuesday afternoon's introductory press conference for Nerlens Noel had to seem like déjà vu for Sixers fans.

    There was the GM, albeit a different guy this time around, sitting up on stage, introducing a new center with injury issues, without providing a timetable for his return.

    Not only was there no timetable provided, Hinkie alluded to the fact that setting such a timetable hadn't even been discussed.

    "Here we go again," the fan base collectively sighed.

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  • Considering how poorly the franchise fared in a similar situation last summer, apprehension is understandable. The Sixers lost a lot of important parts over the past two summers, including two all-stars. And as of now, they have yet to see any return for it on the basketball court.

    While it is only natural to want to get Nerlens Noel out on the court to see exactly what the team got in return for Jrue Holiday, it may be in the Sixers best interest to sit him for the entire season.

    With that in mind, here are four reasons the team should consider not playing Noel at all this season:

    [Editors note: We were originally going to do five reasons, but Arnett Moultrie was asking too much money, so like Noel, we decided the number 4 worked just fine.]

     

    1. The kid is coming off of a serious injury.

    For Noel, as he acknowledged in Tuesday's press conference, the most important thing is for returning to full health. He won't be any good to the franchise in the short or long-term if he is damaged goods. To properly judge his capabilities on the court, he needs to be allowed to fully recover, rather than rushed back in any way. Noel has never played at the NBA level and exposing him to such big bodies when he is not 100% healthy would not be wise, especially if he figures to be a big part of the franchise's future.

    And if that is the case, then sitting him this season and allowing him to get completely over the injury, both physically and mentally - much like the Clippers did with Blake Griffin - will pay dividends.

     

    2. It'll give him some time to bulk up.

    At Tuesday's press conference, Noel stated that his weight was around 219 pounds. I knew kids in high school that weighed 219 pounds; apparently he didn't gain the freshman fifteen last year at Kentucky.

    In order to withstand the physical punishment of playing down low and banging with the NBA's biggest bodies on a nightly basis, the 19-year-old needs to bulk up. He is going to be asked to play the power forward and center spots, positions that require not only size but physical strength. The organization should get him on a regimen to add muscle mass as he continues to recover throughout the season. Bulking up his body will help prepare him for - and protect him from - the physicality of play in the paint. This, in turn, will add to the longevity of his career.

     

    3. The team is going to stink anyway.

    There is really no immediate rush to get him out on the court to contribute to a losing cause. Yes, it would be nice for him to get some experience and exposure, but he is going to get that at some point anyway. It doesn't have to be this season. If all goes according to plan, this time next year the roster will be full of exciting young talent that can all grow together. How much will playing 20 games at the end of a tanking campaign really do for Noel's future?

    If by some point late in the season he and the doctors feel that he is ready for competition then he can get his feet wet in the D-League to get some in-game experience.

    Otherwise, let him rest and get his body back to a hundred percent while the team stinks enough to get some good picks to put around him. His absence will only add to that cause.

     

    4. Let's see what else the Sixers have down low.

    Noel, a highly-touted lottery pick, is going to get ample opportunity to perform. Having him on the sidelines allows the Sixers to evaluate other players to see what they have to offer the organization. Expect Arnett Moultrie to get major minutes this season, and Lavoy Allen as well, who is likely on his last legs with the Sixers.

    The Sixers summer league roster was full of promising front court prospects. The extremely energetic Arsalan Kazemi, will likely get a long look, but his NBA ability remains unknown. Micheal Eric, Trevor Mbakwe, and Rodney Williams are intriguing as well. With Noel sidelined, these players could get a better opportunity this season.

    In a season that is already being labeled a wash, the Sixers might as well try out some talent.

     

    It is hard to imagine another big-name acquisition sitting for an entire season immediately following the Bynum debacle, but it may be in the organization's best interest to sit Noel for the season. Rehabilitating and better preparing his body for NBA play seems like a wise way for the would-be college sophomore to spend his season. There is little to gain and a whole lot to lose by bringing him back late this season, but there's much to gain by holding him out, letting him get back to 100% and allowing him to return as prepared as possible.

    So while it would be nice to see him out on the court at some point this season, his long-term health is of most import to the future of the franchise, which for once, appears promising.

    Michael Kaskey-Blomain Assistant Sports Producer
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