Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor And Nerlens Noel Forever Linked

Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (right) talks with center Jahlil Okafor against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (right) talks with center Jahlil Okafor against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers have two big men in the midst of trade rumors, and the comparisons of the two will never stop.

The Philadelphia 76ers have perfect opposites. Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel‘s style of play is so opposite, you’d think they would be able to complement each other. Okafor’s offense was supposed to hide Noel’s lack of ability in the post. Noel’s defense was supposed to hide Okafor’s shakiness down low without the ball.

None of that happened in the 2015-16 season. Okafor and Noel both struggled at the power forward position. Maybe a decade ago the pair would have worked. Okafor’s passing ability from the post would have opened up the offense for the Philadelphia 76ers in ways never seen before. Noel’s defense would have masked Okafor’s poor ability to stay in front of big power forwards.

The Philadelphia 76ers would have been in a great scenario, adding a third talented big man in Joel Embiid and two versatile players in Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. This isn’t 2006, however. Today’s game was infiltrated by quick power forwards that can stretch the floor, rebound, and pass. Everyone is looking for their Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard. Small forwards in theory but the ability to play power forward at a high level. 

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How could Jahlil Okafor develop into a lockdown perimeter defender? How could Nerlens Noel develop into a dangerous outside shooter? What was a gold-mine in the last generation of the NBA is now a problem for the Philadelphia 76ers. They have two centers they must trade to fully maximize both the team’s and the players’ potentials.

The trade may not come this season, but talks of it will drown out every single Philadelphia 76ers game. Okafor and Noel, teammates who have the shared goal of success, have now been morphed into rivals by media. Both players haven’t yet seen the groundwork of their potential. With Noel being the senior of the pair at just 22, both centers are still growing on and off the court.

The pair’s immaturity was shown through out last season. Okafor and his various off-court issues, including his bar fight in the streets. Noel and his gatorade filled apartment. Okafor’s tunnel vision on the court when holding the ball in the post. Noel throwing up unwarranted baby hook shots on the run. The two have a lot to learn about the NBA life.

The Philadelphia 76ers may not have the time to teach both, however. The additions of Simmons, Saric, and Embiid have added wrinkles in the fold for the two big men fighting for time. There may not be the necessary minutes for the both to develop to their full potential on the court.

Noel is in a turning point year for his career. He is on the last year of his rookie deal, yet is still a project. After missing one season due to an ACL injury, Noel will enter his third playing year missing an important season of on-court development. Still, Noel’s natural defensive abilities shined through in his two seasons on the court. The questions on offense are still there and there wasn’t much of a jump in improvement on either side of the ball.

A big performance would earn Noel a huge contract. A big performance from Okafor may solidify his spot as a building block. The two need minutes to prove this, but that may not come in Philadelphia. The debate on who to trade is endless, even with a trade happening. If one is moved, the two will still be lined up side by side.

With every game the two play, there will be a question “how did the other one do?”. The problem with having perfect opposites is they are impossible to compare fully, since they have completely different strengths and weaknesses. You can’t compare Okafor’s offense to Noel’s, it’s a no brainer. Noel’s defense puts Okafor’s defense to pitiful shame.

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You can’t compare the two, it’s all just a guess. The Philadelphia 76ers will have to make the right guess. Okafor and Noel were destined to become fierce competitors since the 2015 NBA Draft, despite becoming teammates. Whether they will continue to do that as teammates or opponents remains to be seen. What is known now is that these two will never be able to escape each others’ names.