Depending on where you get your betting information, the fourth or fifth player most likely to earn the 2015 Rookie Of The Year award will be someone who wasn’t in Brooklyn on the day of the NBA Draft. He didn’t step on stage, didn’t shake Adam Silver’s hand, and hasn’t even played a legitimate game of basketball since February 12, 2013.
That player is Sixers center Nerlens Noel. And he’s been waiting for this moment all year.
Philadelphia opens the first of their two summer leagues this afternoon in Orlando, and given the number of barely-viable NBA options they gave real minutes to during real regular-season NBA games, there are more than a few eyes on the Sixers’ strategy when it comes to rounding out a roster for games that don’t matter. Do they force all four of their eligible 2014 rookies onto the court simultaneously? Do they monitor the minutes of Nerlens Noel as not to risk any injury to the bouncy center’s recently repaired left knee? Or does “Tankadelphia” simply sit back and scout for D-League talent to use during next year’s race to the bottom of the Atlantic Division?
If 2013 was any indication, we’re probably in for the latter.
Unlike many teams who at this time of year are hoping to find hidden gems to round out their rosters in hopes of a playoff run (such fools), Philadelphia has made no qualms about who they are and what they’re doing. They’re in it to lose it…at least for the next couple of years. That’s why they can happily draft Joel Embiid and Dario Saric with their top two picks, since having them sit out one and two years respectively is right in line with their short-term manta: Just Lose, Baby.
Hell, the team’s not even particularly trying to get its younger players familiar with one another, opting to split the 2014 draftees among the two summer league teams presumably to make the rosters more balanced for their D-League players.
When you look at the roster and see names like Ronald Roberts, Jr, Isaiah Sykes, Jakarr Sampson, Edward Daniel, and Jamelle Hagins, it’s hard to get but so excited for games. And while there are interesting players like Travis Bader — the NCAA’s all-time leader in 3 pointers made and attempted — it’s hard to imagine someone like Pierre Jackson who busted his ass in the D-League and actually owns the NBDL points record (with 58) getting hyped about multiple summer leagues with these guys.
But at least there’s Noel. And Casper Ware, the scrappy Sixers guard who turned a 10-day contract into a roster spot by season’s end. And recent draftees K.J. McDaniels and Jerami Grant, both of whom had first-round grades. So there’s at least something brewing with the 76ers. It might not equal actual wins, and it might not at all times be pretty, but at least in GM Sam Hinkie’s second year we’re beginning to see a few of the pieces he hopes to fit into the Sixers’ future championship puzzle.