Nerlens Noel: A Top 25 Player By 2017?

Nerlens Noel: A Top 25 Player By 2017?

The good folks over at SB Nation recently assembled a team of heavy hitters to make some projections about the NBA landscape four years from now, compiling their predicted list of the Top 100 Players in the NBA for the year 2017. Such an exercise is obviously short on empirical study and long on intuitive speculation, but it's an interesting exercise worth reading through--especially for hoops junkies desperate for something, anything to debate in the dog days of the off-season.

The part of the list that will be of particular interest to Sixers fans comes in the 20s of the list, where they get to the highest-ranked Sixer: Rookie-to-be Nerlens Noel. Despite undergoing ACL surgery, slipping to #6 in the draft and likely missing much (if not all) of his upcoming debut season, The Eraser clocked in at a hearty #25 on their projected list, ahead of such 2013 superstars as Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant. Sez SB Nation's Conrad Kaczmarek:

Rim protection, rim protection, rim protection. During his time at Kentucky, Noel was one of the most athletic and agile 7-footers I've ever seen. Yes, he's raw offensively, but if he works as hard as he claims he'll work, he'll have improved substantially by the time 2017 rolls around.

I think a lot of teams passed on Noel in the 2013 Draft due to his recovery from a torn ACL and the fact that he's a long-term project. Since you're letting me fast-forward four years into the future, Noel could be a beast by then.

Not everyone on the panel agrees with Kaczmarek's projection--Tom Ziller and Mike Prada both have misgivings related to his slipping in the draft, which is understandable for a guy so many considered pre-draft to be the obvious top pick--but it certainly seems possible that if Noel recovers and lives up to most of his pre-draft hype, #25 will be a more than fair ranking. (For the record, as the Nation's expert consultant on Noel, our old friend Michael Levin calls the ranking "happily generous" and says it suggests a "more versatile Tyson Chandler.")

Two other items of minor interest for Sixer fans from the list: Thaddeus Young is the only other Baller to make an appearance on the list, finishing at #66 (the Nation staff expresses great sympathy for the fine player stuck on the rebuilding Sixers), and the recently departed Jrue Holiday comes in at even higher than Noel, the man he was essentially traded for, at #23. Much as I love the Damaja, I'm not sure he's ever going to be one of the 25 best players in the league, though if he did I wouldn't be horribly surprised--and I'd certainly be pleased as punch for Jrue's sake.

Of course, the real prize for the Holiday trade may still be to come, as the Sixers expect to be bad enough next year to land one of the biggest draft prospects, including Jabari Parker (one below Noel at #26 on the list), Julius Randle (#14) and Andrew Wiggins (#8). Having two of these guys on our roster in time for could be a real nice start towards the Sixers getting to play with the big boys again.

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

MONTREAL — Wayne Simmonds didn’t feel as though he did anything wrong. Or that he even touched Andrei Markov.
Thing is, however, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety may have a different view of it come Tuesday morning.
Early during first-period play Monday night, the Flyers' winger came out of the penalty box after serving a minor for holding and cross-checked Markov from behind.
The Canadiens' defenseman went face-first into the boards and fell to the ice, where he appeared to try and sell a penalty. Nothing came of it, but the hit will likely be reviewed anyway.
“I barely touched him,” Simmonds. “When you got a bunch of guys diving all over the place, what are you going to do? Stand on your feet.”

There were a number of tough hits from both sides in the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Canadiens (see game recap). It was evenly played and the Flyers deserved a point.
“We played a solid game,” Simmonds said. “Obviously, we lost and it’s not what we wanted but we have four more games this week.
“We go home and we've got to be focused on the positive things that we did and carry it over the rest of the week.”
Gudas eligible
Radko Gudas has yet to play a real game this season.
The Flyers' bruising defenseman has been serving a six-game suspension for a careless hit in Boston that closed out exhibition play earlier this month.
Tuesday night, the Flyers will play the back end of a back-to-back against Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center and Gudas likely will return to the lineup now that his suspension has ended.
“It seems like forever,” Gudas said. “I could use more games behind me. I think I’m ready with my conditioning and skill level, so I can’t wait to get back in there.”
The decision as to who comes out will be difficult. A good guess right now would be Nick Schultz.
“We've got the information at this point,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It will be a tough decision, no question, if we are healthy.”
At some point — Nov. 5 — Michael Del Zotto will be eligible to come off LTIR. That means another veteran blueliner would become available and an even bigger problem will arise because Del Zotto carries a $3.875 million cap hit.
Barring injury or trade, when Del Zotto returns, the Flyers will have to move two players off their roster entirely just to be cap compliant.
For now, following Monday’s loss, Hakstol has to decide whether to stick with his current defense or put Gudas back in. Given the Flyers have missed Gudas’ physical presence — teams have taken liberties on smallish rookie Travis Konecny — it makes sense to reinsert Gudas.
“Obviously, teams are going to take advantage of smaller guys,” Gudas said. “I would love to be out there if anything happened. All the guys here are responsible and I think they did a pretty good job defending that. It’s not happening a lot.”
No, but it’s happened enough that the Flyers should take note of it.
Hakstol said his decision does not have to come until Tuesday.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at things and thought about the [issue], but that decision comes after tonight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gudas finally has come to the conclusion that the NHL is watching his every hit.
“They’re looking at me since Day 1 I got here,” he said. “The guys made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
Maybe he should change his ringtone to say, “Player Safety calling.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds and Matt Read saw their four-game goal-scoring streaks come to an end. ... The Flyers were credited with 39 hits, the most they’ve had since 41 in a home game against Montreal on Jan. 5, 2016. Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Schultz were credited with five apiece. ... Ice-time leaders: Ivan Provorov (21:31), Shayne Gostisbehere (21:27) and Brandon Manning (20:36). … Boyd Gordon was 10 for 12 (83 percent) on faceoffs. ... Jakub Voracek had five shots, giving him 21 overall, which ties him for 10th in the league. His goal gave him eight points and ties him with five other players for fourth in the NHL.

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

Halapoulivaati Vaitai wasn’t Lane Johnson on Sunday against the Vikings.

But he didn’t look like Halapoulivaati Vaitai either ... at least the version that was a revolving door last week in Washington.

In his NFL debut last week, Big V gave up two sacks, a quarterback hit and a hurry. Against the Vikings, he gave up just one QB hurry.

What led to the change?

“I just think learning from the week before, quite honestly,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. “He really, again, detailed his work during the week. He practiced extremely well. He used his hands better.

“He was able to calm the storm, so to speak, and played a fine football game. He played the type that we saw [in] him and he’s capable of doing. Now it’s something that he can continue to build on.”

While it seemed like Pederson curtailed his offense some to counteract what could be a shaky offensive line, he said it was more about utilizing his team’s strengths. Still, Carson Wentz attempted just four passes that traveled over 20 yards on Sunday and didn’t complete a pass that went more than nine yards in the air.

Despite Vaitai’s scary performance in his debut, Pederson decided to stick to his plan and leave him at right tackle instead of shuffling the offensive line by moving Allen Barbre to tackle and replacing him with Stefen Wisniewski.

The jury is still out on the decision, but the Eagles probably have more confidence in their offensive line for the next eight games of Johnson’s suspension than they did before playing the Vikings.

The Eagles' O-line didn’t give up a sack to the Vikings after giving up five the previous week.

“I thought our guys [Sunday] did a great job of no sacks against a team that had 19 coming in,” Pederson said. “Protected [Wentz], kept him clean and it just gives him confidence now and gives our whole unit confidence moving forward and coming away.”