The700Level

Sixers can't replace Nerlens Noel with Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries

What's better than one Okafor? Two. Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers have hired Jahlil's big brother [photo not found] Emeka Okafor to help him hold down the middle in training camp this season, along with their annoying-but-always-around next-door neighbor growing up, Kris Humphries. (Kris of course would refuse to play Super Smash Bros. with the one slightly gimpy N64 controller, so Emeka and Jahlil would have to trade off so it wouldn't be A Thing, and they always won anyway.) 

Humphries, of course, has not had a relevant NBA moment since 2012, the year he both combined with Deron Williams to torture the playoff-hopeful Sixers in a 97-90 January home loss that still gives me hives a half-decade later AND inspired one of the coldest verses in Kanye West's illustrious frostbitten catalog. That's still probably better than Emeka Okafor, who has not had an NBA moment of any kind since 2013, where a half-decent season for the Wizards ended with his aching bones being shipped as cap filler to the Suns and him essentially never being heard from again. 

To put it callously, these are no longer players of consequence. They have no meaning to this current Philadelphia 76ers roster in any practical or even symbolic capacity. They will not steal a roster spot from Richaun Holmes or Amir Johnson or little bro Jah. They are merely players who are on this team at the moment and someday very soon will no longer be. Talking about how they might fit into the Sixers' roster this season would be like talking about how that free bag of potato chips you forgot was in your bag from weeks ago is going to fit into your dinner at The Continental. 

In fact, the most relevant quality that these two tall men share in Sixers terms is that neither of them is Nerlens Noel. Remember him? He was on the 76ers for about three and a half seasons, until the Colangelim decided that he was a ticking time bomb and decided to cut both the red wire and blue wire by trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew "Nah B" Bogut and a first-round pick only redeemable at out-of-state locations within the first half-hour of purchase. And as we all remember, we had to trade him because he was a restricted free agent that was Definitely Going to Demand a Max Contract in the Off-Season and he was Definitely Going to Get It and we were Definitely Not Going to Be Able to Match. 

Of course, astute NBA offseason headline watchers may also have noticed that the contract Nerlens ultimately signed was merely the qualifying offer with the Dallas Mavericks, for one year and $4 million -- or, roughly $80 million less than most assumed he was bound to get as a free agent. With The Eraser too many millions away with the Mavs to re-sign long term (and without a credible counter-offer to force their hand with), he elected to play out the the string in Big D and hope for a more resounding return next season. Turns out, the market was pretty soft for raw, defensive-minded, athletic big men with proven potential but not a long track record of on-court success. 

But there is at least one team that out there that could really still use such a player: The Philadelphia 76ers! Despite the presence of these two new bigs, and all the other dudes on our roster who have to crouch when they get on the subway, there's still nobody who can credibly anchor a defense when Joel Embiid isn't playing. And despite his many tremendous on-court skills, not playing is still what Joel Embiid does best: With the Sixers' home opener less than a month away, there's not even a timetable for JoJo playing 5-on-5, and Embiid has himself laughed off the possibility playing 82 games this season -- as if it would mark a Ripkenesque streak of endurance and perseverance. Because it would. (Bryan Colangelo says he believes Embiid will be ready for the season opener, which is better than him saying he believes he won't be, I suppose.) 

In a world where Embiid misses a bunch of games over the course of the season and can't play that many minutes even when he's active -- that's this world, btw -- it's almost invaluable to have a backup who can do a bunch of the most important things JoJo does, helps maintain roster continuity and still has the chance to unlock worlds of possibility within his own potential. Would it be worth $4 million for one year -- roughly 1/3 of what we're paying Amir Johnson, for the exact same contract length? I'd reckon. 

It may seem petty to continue beating this drum like a one-armed Keith Moon while so many other 76ers things seem to give cause for optimism -- from a reduced Sauce Castillo to Markelle Fultz living in the gym (like Worm in Rounders!) to J.J. Redick pander-trolling his way into the cholesterol-laden hearts of Philly fans worldwide. When will it be time to finally let this go? Well, when I run into Bryan Colangelo at the 76ers' championship victory parade in 2019, we can begin to have that discussion. Until then, Nerlens Noel Was Traded for a Fake Draft Pick and no Sixers moment will be sweet enough for me to get over my saltiness.