MCW: Greatest pressure will be on Nerlens Noel

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MCW: Greatest pressure will be on Nerlens Noel

When the Sixers return next season they will have the reigning Rookie of the Year, a healthy No. 6 overall pick from 2013 and a top-five selection from the upcoming draft.

It is exciting to think of the potential in that lineup, but with potential comes expectations and the pressure to live up to them.

Who has the greatest pressure? Is it on Michael Carter-Williams to back up the numbers he averaged this past season? Perhaps it's on Nerlens Noel to be the rim protector he has been touted to be by so many around the league? Or does the pressure sit with the to-be-determined top-five pick in a draft praised for its deep talent?

Carter-Williams thinks the answer is Noel.

“There is a lot of expectations and pressure, but I think the fans are really eager to see what Nerlens brings to the table,” Carter-Williams said Monday after being named Rookie of the Year and prior to having shoulder surgery. “That is pressure, but he is going to have more help. A lot of his help comes from me and I am going to be there to support him.

“I am going to work things out with him when things aren’t going his way. I am going to stay on him and just for him to do all the right things on the court.”

Noel will have the advantage of being one year into his relationship with head coach Brett Brown.

Early on, Brown made the decision that Noel would be part of all team functions from film sessions to travel to pregame activities.

The only part of being an NBA rookie Noel did not experience was playing.

The pressure on MCW will be different than Noel’s because he is now a known quantity. Carter-Williams led his rookie peers in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes per game this season all while growing into a true team leader.

Just as first-year players often hit the rookie wall, a sophomore slump is not unusual. Carter-Williams' maturity and supporting cast will help him navigate the challenges of his second NBA season just as they did his rookie year.

“I think that helped me a lot. Staying grounded is your ability to appreciate the game and work hard on and off the court," he said. "Without being grounded and staying level-headed, I wouldn’t have gotten Rookie of the Year.”

And like Noel, MCW knows what Brown wants and expects from him.

The high draft pick will be in an interesting situation. His rookie performance could be overshadowed by the play of Noel and Carter-Williams and not scrutinized to the same degree.

But fans are expecting the Sixers' draft selection, which will be no lower than No. 5, to be in the starting lineup and contributing at both ends of the floor.

The Sixers did not end up in that situation when they selected Evan Turner second overall in 2010. The Cavaliers certainly did not get that with Anthony Bennett this past season following his No. 1 overall selection.

Turner was the 2010 national college player of the year at Ohio State, where he averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game.

Those numbers did not follow him to the pros. Turner averaged 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds as a rookie. People wanted so much more from the No. 2 pick.

Bennett’s experience in Cleveland was worse -- he played in just 52 games and averaged 12.8 minutes coming off the bench with 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds.

With the right pick, the pressure to be better in the 2014-15 season can be shared by all three young Sixers.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.