Somewhere near the bottom of the NBA scoreboard on Feb. 6, 2016, fans saw what appeared to be a no-big-deal game: Sixers 103, Nets 98.
Yeah it was noteworthy because the Sixers actually won a game. It was only their eighth win all year, after all.
But the Nets are and always will be the Nets, and if Philadelphia is gonna beat anyone, it might as well be New Jersey.
Okafor scored 22 points and racked up a career-high 17 boards to go with a very uncharacteristic 3 blocks. Noel had 18 points on 8-11 shooting to go along with 4 boards and 3 blocks.
So why the breakthrough? There have been reports that new sheriff in town Jerry Colangelo has pushed the idea of having Okafor play more power forward, allowing Noel to go back to his natural position at center where he can play rim enforcer.
Another reason is the two big men are simply gelling, thanks to the fact that they’ve now played several games together with a playmaker, Ish Smith, at the helm. A young, inexperienced team without a playmaker is like a car riding on ice with bald tires. It just goes wherever, and more often than not it crashes and burns. With Ish in the fold, both Jah and Noel are getting alley-oops and nice dishes on dribble-drives.
See, it just didn’t work the other way: Moving Noel from the paint to the perimeter negates his ability to block shots and rebound; he also is not so good at driving the ball to the hoop. Okafor, on the other hand, already has an arsenal of moves whether he’s facing up or posting up. He’ll get burned a little more by the stretch-fours of the world, but maybe that’s just a temporary thing. And maybe Okafor’s days as a center ended the second he went pro; maybe he really should be a power forward in the NBA.
We’d really be seeing something if the Sixers had decent perimeter shooters. As in, they would have easily sealed the deal on last night’s brutal home loss in overtime to the Clips if they had anyone who could fire from outside. Instead, Okafor was left out on the wing with the game tied in regulation and ended up bricking a long-range jumper, and Los Angeles went on to take care of bidness in the extra frame. The duo didn’t fare as well (8-9-1 with 4 steals for Noel; 14-9-3 for Okafor) but they played well enough to help the Sixers almost beat one of the league’s better teams.
If the Sixers do indeed move forward with Okafor at the four and Noel at the five, the fantasy implications are tremendous. Yes, the team will continue to lose in real life, quite possibly by larger margins. But both players should perform much better, and more consistently, on both sides of the ball.
Jerami Grant – Was actually the star for the Sixers last night, putting up a 17-11-1 line. He gets minutes, and he deserves to be more than 10 percent owned.
DeAndre Jordan – Typical monster game: 12-21-3 and didn’t have to worry about being hacked in crunch time because, ah, well, Sixer ping pong balls.
Wesley Johnson – Been watching this G/F lately, because he’s been blocking a lot of shots and while also making three’s, a wonderful combo that you just don’t see very often. Johnson also gets you some boards, and he’s starting. Should probably be more than 14 percent owned.
Derrick Favors – As always, Derrick will do you some Favors, and then he’ll leave you high and dry. He amassed 11 blocks and 26 boards over of the span of two games on Feb. 3 and Feb 5, and then vanished with an 11-7 with no blocks Saturday in Phoenix.
Robin Lopez – Has been playing extremely well of late – he was averaging 17.3 ppg and 13 rpg in three games leading up to Sunday’s loss to Denver, aka the nail in the coffin of Derek Fisher’s coaching career in New York. Yes, Lopez stunk up the joint in that game, but he got into foul trouble, and I’d be interested to see how he plays going forward, especially with fellow goofy-looking oddball big man Kurt Rambis taking over.
DeMarcus Cousins – Remember when Cousins was beasting out? And the Kings were actually winning? Welp, them days are gone. SacTown lost its eighth straight last night, a 120-100 blowout to the Cavs, and Boogie could only muster a 14-8-1 on 5-14 shooting. I told you he’d get George Karl fired. I told you to sell when he was blowing up. Did you listen?
Nicholas Batum – My man has been hitting the glass, grabbing 11 boards to go along with 26 points, 9 assists, a block and a steal on Feb. 6 against the Wizards; and then snagging 13 rebounds with 19 points, 8 assists and 2 steals last night in a big blowout win over da Bulls.
Spencer Hawes – Getting’ some run, gettin’ some blocks, averaging 1.6 bpg over his last five games.
Julius Randle – Double-doubles in five of his last six games, and went for 15 points and 19 boards in a tough loss last night in Indiana. As advertised, he is a double-double machine and, as advertised, he don’t block no shots (None in his last six).
Dwight Howard – I’d like to nominate Howard for the first ever LVP. Not because he’s the worst player of all time, but because it clearly doesn’t matter what his line in the box score says. Very often, it has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the game. Case in point: He had 36 points and 26 boards in a tough Jan. 18 loss to the Clippers. In a win last week in Phoenix, he had 16 rebounds, but only 5 points. Then, on Saturday, he had a pretty solid game of 17 points, 14 rebounds and 4 steals … in a 96-79 home blowout loss to Portland. Weird.