The 76ers have too many big men.
With Joel Embiid — who might finally be healthy — Philadelphia has three highly touted young centers. Sliding one to power forward is untenable because that spot is occupied by No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, maybe Dario Saric and the 76ers’ wings capable of playing down.
The situation led to a blunt assessment from Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo when asked whether he’s comfortable starting the season with Noel, Okafor and Embiid on the roster.
Colangelo, via SiriusXM NBA Radio:
But I think what we are comfortable doing is saying we’re not going to make a bad deal just to make a deal. So when I say in a playful way, ‘No, I’m not comfortable,’ I think we could be a better basketball team if we could distribute that talent better and maybe take one of those assets and address other needs on the roster.
But I think, right now, again, it’s best to say we like all of them. We want to see if we can make the most out of each of them in terms of their contributions to this team.
But at the end of the day, the reality says probably one has to go at some point — but only when the deal is right.
This is a good way to put it. Are the 76ers comfortable with all three centers on the roster? No. Are they comfortable selling low on one of them? No.
Philadelphia is probably going to have to make an uncomfortable decision at some point.
The key is making the best of the tough choices available, and that means answering some difficult questions.
Which of the three will become the best player? Noel (22), Okafor (20) and Embiid (22) are still young and developing.
Which of the three can play together? Noel and Okafor struggled mightily together last season, but the 76ers’ weak perimeter players didn’t help. Embiid obviously hasn’t played with either yet.
What will other teams offer for each of the three? Philadelphia’s perceptions aren’t the only ones that matter. Potential trade partners have a big say in this process.
Colangelo might have an idea of the market for each center, but the other questions are impossible to answer definitively. At what point should the 76ers stop gather more information and make a trade? It’s an incredibly fine line. They don’t want to expose shortcomings that lower trade values. And they don’t want to trade before players establish peak value.
Obviously, Colangelo hasn’t heard an offer he likes so far. That might just mean the uncomfortable route of starting the season with Noel, Okafor and Embiid on the roster.
When the alternative is another uncomfortable option, that’s not so bad.