How much of a contribution can we expect from Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams?
When we all look back at the era of 76ers basketball that will begin on October 30th when the team opens the season against the Miami Heat, some will realize that the real start of this new era was on draft night last June. Because that was the night Sam Hinkie sent the Sixers only real All-Star Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans (really, who came up with that name?) in exchange for Nerlens Noel and then used the 11th pick of the draft to take Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse.
The two are expected to be the foundation of what Hinkie is trying to build here in Philadelphia; a young team with raw talent that can grow together and make the Sixers competitive again in the NBA.
But that may be a ways down the road. For now the two just need to somehow survive their rookie season, which according to most analysts is going to be filled with a lot of loses, growing pains and developing their skills on the court through hard work. For Noel, there is the added hurdle of coming back from the ACL tear in his left knee that has sidelined him since February. He isn’t even expected to play until Christmas, possibly until next year.
So how much can we realistically expect from our two first round picks during the 2013-14 season? How much can, or should they contribute to what is sure to be a losing season that most fans hope sets us up for a shot at Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 NBA Draft?
When it comes to Noel, the answer is “not much”. I would much rather see him sit out the entire year than to rush back trying to prove something and get hurt again. If ever there was a year to take it easy and take your time coming back from something as serious an ACL tear, this is the season to do it.
But as far as Carter-Williams, while I don’t expect him to put up Jrue Holiday like numbers or step up as a leader, I do expect him to grow and improve, especially where his offensive game is concerned. If you watched him during the NBA Summer League in Orlando, it’s painfully obvious he needs to work on his ability to put points on the board. His height (he’s listed at 6’6) is a definite advantage for a point guard and one he could learn to use with Brett Brown helping to develop his skills.
If Carter-Williams is smart, he will use his rookie season to work on his game, learn from the coaching staff and grow as a player. There are no expectation on him this year, something that is rare for a first round pick (just ask Evan Turner) and you won’t be able to say that next season.
The bottom line is that the only expectations I have for Noel and Carter-Williams this season is for them both to learn, grow and get better. The days when we expect them to win games and lead the Sixers to victory will come later.
Both Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel and the first pieces of the Sixers team Sam Hinkie has envisioned in his mind since he took the job of GM. They are the first building blocks of the rebuilding process that could take years to finish.
I think we can all cut them some slack and just enjoy watching two young guys play out their rookie year in the NBA. There will be more than enough time to heap expectations on their shoulders in years to come.