The case for Sixers keeping Nerlens Noel and trading Jahlil Okafor

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Nerlens Noel was called up from the D-league after a brief stint for rehab Thursday, uniting the Sixers trio of high-potential and youthful big men.

Noel will join the currentRookie of the Year front-runner Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, amid a squad that will haveseven players 6-foot-10 or higher on it when Ben Simmons returns from injury.

The assumption is that Noel is on the trading block. He himself admitted it during the preseason, before getting minor surgery that kept him out for the last month, telling media members that there was no way the current roster makeup would continue and something had to give.

“I don’t think the roster’s changed,” Noel said when he got back to the Sixers’ practice facility Thursday.

But the team has changed.

Many expect Noel will be the odd man out, but perhaps not. Okafor and Embiid have alternated playing center with the two avoiding playing at the same time (though that will change sometime soon). Last season Okafor and Noel played together a few times but it was an unsuccessful pairing in the front court.

Okafor proved to be a lackluster defender but natural scorer last season and continues to be a bit of a defensive liability. Noel has been a rim protector and excellent defender, who has average scoring ability.

Embiid— it seems after 12 games of spectacular play in limited minutes — is the full package.

With Dario Sariclooking like a potential starting front court player for years to come and Simmons, who the Sixers assume will pick up a big scoring and facilitating role as a point-forward (or possibly point guard), Noel’s defense could be a welcome addition once the Sixers reach contention.

There also could be some extra chemistry between Embiid and Noel if the two pair up. According to’s Brian Seltzer: “Noel called Joel Embiid one of his best friends. Happy to see him on floor, having success. Can relate to what he went through with injuries.”

Which means Okafor, not Noel, could be the man on the block.

Head coach Brett Brown will continue to tinker with the rosterwith different combinations and see what can work and will not work. The Sixers will be watching every move their big men make as the February trade deadline approaches, and if pulling the trigger helps the team, they’ll do so.

The Kings, Celtics and Lakers have been the main teams with trade buzz related to Philadelphia. Stay tuned as the rumors continue to swirl this winter.

Career stats

Joel Embiid: 12 games, 18.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG (in 22 minutes per game)

Nerlens Noel: 142 games, 10.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG (in 30 minutes per game)

Jahlil Okafor: 70 games, 15.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG (in 28 minutes per game)

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