ESPN broke news early this week that the Philadelphia 76ers expect to sit first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel for the entire 2013-14 season as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last year at the University of Kentucky. The announcement is in line with the popular sentiment the Sixers plan to tank the season for a better chance at a high draft pick.
After Noel had surgery in March, the six-to-eight month timetable for his recovery figured to give him a chance to return at some point during the season.
Noel, who was drafted sixth overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, was traded to Philadelphia on draft night along with a protected 2014 first-round pick. In return, the Pelicans received guard Jrue Holiday, a 2013 NBA All-Star, and the 42nd pick which they used to draft Pierre Jackson, a guard out of Baylor University.
The move was in line with a clearly rebuilding Philadelphia franchise. Head Coach Doug Collins had resigned in April and was replaced in August when the team hired San Antonio Spurs Assistant coach Brett Brown to take the helm. Holiday, one of the few bright spots on a 2012-13 team which went 34-48, was dealt to facilitate a complete rebuild.
The Sixers continue to feel the effects of the blockbuster trade most notable for sending Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers during the summer of 2012. The trade netted the Sixers Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, while they gave up Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, 2012 All-Star Andre Iguodala and a future first-round pick.
Richardson had season-ending surgery in February. Knee issues which had plagued Bynum in L.A. came with him to Philadelphia, and though the team had hoped he’d return at some point during the season, Bynum opted for season-ending knee surgery in March. This offseason, Bynum’s one-year deal expired and he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With Noel out, this year’s Sixers squad will feature a pedestrian starting lineup.
Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, will get to suffer through growing pains at guard for a team with low expectations. At center, probably the team’s most solidified position, Spencer Hawes is serviceable. Evan Turner, the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft, has yet to come close to meeting the expectations which came with him from college. Some combination of Thaddeus Young, James Anderson, Royce White and a host of other role players will fill in the remaining minutes.
If all goes well for the Sixers, the extended recovery period will give Noel time to develop his skills and return at 100 percent for the 2014-15 season. The Sixers hope players buy into Brown’s system, Carter-Williams can learn to be an NBA point guard and Turner finally plays to the potential he displayed during his years at Ohio State.
Regardless, this season’s iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers will not be very good. They will be among the favorites to land Andrew Wiggins, who will make a cameo at the University of Kansas before entering the 2014 NBA Draft next summer as the consensus top pick. On the eve of the 2013-14 season, the Sixers’ decision to sit Noel makes clear the Wiggins sweepstakes are already well underway.