Appreciate the long and well thought out response. I can agree with you on some of your points, primarily the defensive challenges that this team may face and perhaps that is a reason to start to shed some of our “talent.”
I do question why you think that Okafor has a limited NBA skillset. We’ve seen 4s and 5s succeed in this league with far worse skillsets than Okafor has (Marcin Gortat, Javale McGee, Elton Brand (2/3 Wizards! Go D.C.)). I hesitate to bring this up because I don’t like comparing rookies to their best case scenario counterpart since this almost never happens…but look at the skillset that Demarcus Cousins has. Their offensive games are strikingly similar. They can both pop out for 10–12 footers. Assuming that Simmons will be running the pick and roll about 95% of our possessions this year, Okafor SHOULD be a pick and roll monster. They’re both somewhat limited defensively. The primary skill that Cousins has which Okafor doesn’t are the quick feet but that’s something that comes with time and development. The reason that I bring up Cousins is that, ignoring the rest of the dysfunctional roster and the fact that they have about 23 centers, is that for most of last year, the problem on the Kings was not their frontcourt. Cousins, more often than not, played along a more traditional center than Embiid would be and they made it work, both offensively and defensively. Now, Cauley-Stein is FAR better defensively than I think Embiid is and covers up for Cousins deficiencies better than Embiid will for Okafor, at least initially. But, give them a year together (blah blah blah health caveat blah blah blah) and see where they’re at. I think that it is entirely possible for two centers to exist on the court at the same time in today’s NBA as long as at least one of them is a rim protector. This works quite well against the small ball rosters which every team in the league is trying to emulate assuming you can make the defense work.
As far as the defensive rebounding rate…I would argue that is primarily a question of effort. I’m trying to find an article (I think it was by Zach Lowe but not 100% sure, may have been on 538) regarding the effect that effort has on defensive rebound percentages. Obviously, there’s no way to quantify this, but by the end (or maybe the middle) of the season, Okafor had turned off. He was on a terrible team that provided him with NOTHING in the way of help. Part of the reason I think it’s impressive that he managed the stats he did. Give him a season with a decent supporting cast around him (Dammit ownership. Side note, One year near-max deal for Steve Blake to reach the salary floor? Go Terps!) and we will see how his rebounding and defensive numbers change. Also, the Jerryd Bayless signing! That earns the Coal Fired Pizza Well-Done, Well-Done award.
As far as the positional defensive issues. From what I’ve seen of Saric so far, I think he’s going to be quicker defensively than what people seem to give him credit for. Granted that’s against far inferior talent. Perhaps as early as next week we will see him play against some decent NBA talent in the Olympics.
Defensively, I think you’re right about Simmons, I think that he’s probably stuck guarding the 3, or a smallball 4 which does make assembling our defense a bit tricky. However, I think it makes sense to use Saric as a 6th man playing 25 minutes a night and just reshuffling the defensive assignments when he comes in.
I guess my biggest issue is that, if Embiid isn’t healthy, then this entire discussion is moot. I’m guessing that you don’t catch a lot of local Sixers sports talk, being in San Diego, but at least from who they air, 90% of this city is in favor of blowing up the team, trading Okafor and/or Noel on the pretense that Embiid is healthy and is still going to be the next Olajuwon. But they also seem delusional about what they can get for him. Most of them were talking, until today, about a straight up deal Okafor for Westbrook (Which I actually would have supported even if it would be a spotty fit for Simmons). But some of them were talking about trading him to Boston for a mid first round (probably) pick which is an AWFUL return for the third pick in the draft just a year ago and something I would think we could get for him at the trade deadline without too much issue.
As for the bit about Okafor or Noel losing value because they’re going to be competing with each other for minutes. I’ve never understood this argument. Per 36 exists for a reason and if the best you can get for Okafor is a mid round (non lottery) pick from Boston…I’m not really sure how much lower the value would get, assuming that he doesn’t blow out his knees or something. Perhaps you’ve heard differently, but from the rumors of offers for Okafor, I’ve yet to hear anything even close to an equitable deal.
As far as the defense from the center position being far more important the offense, you are right…but…if the scenario I laid out with Embiid playing essentially a stretch 4 on offense and an anchor 5 on defense works, then Okafor doesn’t need to have that defense and won’t completely destroy our spacing.
I guess my entire argument seems to hinge on the idea that either Embiid won’t be healthy or that Embiid and Okafor will be able to share the floor. I know I’m in the minority in the second opinion, but I really don’t get how people can be so optimistic about Embiid’s health. Hence, the wait and see approach. If, by the trade deadline, Embiid is still healthy and they haven’t been able to share the floor, ship Okafor out. You can’t tell me that there isn’t a team out there willing to trade a mid-low first rounder and a decent shooting guard (I’m looking at you Houston) for Okafor. Plus, in that scenario we get to see Okafor and Harden “play” “defense” AT THE SAME TIME!
As an interesting side note…If Okafor and Embiid can’t share the floor, then Noel and Embiid sure as hell can’t. So if Embiid is healthy, then both Okafor and Noel need to go, unless Noel will accept an 18 minute a night role from the bench, which he probably would. What do you see as fair value for Okafor (Now, or at the trade deadline)?