If you read past the ESPN headlines about Dwight Howard buying breakfast for people, and Kobe unfollowing former teammates on Instagram, you may find some interesting offseason news for former Wildcat big men. While they’ve moved very little, the NBA is swirling around Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis. Whether that’s good or bad, only time will tell. But if you read between the lines you may pick up on a certain intricacy: the NBA seems to be paying Nerlens with development time it borrowed from Anthony.
Nerlens starts out by getting a little love from a couple of guys who called the Nerlens/Holiday trade the “Best Offseason Move in the East” for the 76ers. Both guys focus more on the picks than on Nerlens, probably because next year’s draft class is so loaded, but neither thinks that Noel will be a liability any further than his injury will make him this season. And in the context of those picks, that might end up being a pretty big asset:
Jonathan Santiago, Cowbell Kingdom:Nerlens Noel to the 76ers. In the short term, this doesn’t add up, as Noel won’t be ready until December at the earliest. But in the long term, the Sixers have positioned themselves quite nicely. If the Sixers wind up with a top 5-7 pick in the 2014 draft, they’ll probably be assured a franchise prospect to pair with this year’s first-round selection.
Tom Sunnergren, Hoop76: The 76ers’ trade of Jrue Holiday for Noel and a protected 2014 first-round pick. In one fell swoop, new GM Sam Hinkie transformed a funereally depressing Philadelphia team — rooted in mediocrity like an old oak tree — into a young, cheap, talented upstart that’s looking at two lottery picks in the most stacked draft class in a decade. Hinkie is an alchemist.
And, with several UK players slotted in that “1-7” range in the draft next year, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to see some of them paired up with Nerlens in Philly. Julius Randle? Andrew Harrison? Either of those guys, and the 76ers will be shipping a lot more jerseys to Kentucky. However the situation works out, it’s pretty clear that Philadelphia is planning for the future, and won’t have a problem giving Noel some time to rehab.
But where the Holiday trade is great for Nerlens, it might not be so great for the guy he’s most often compared to. Anthony Davis and the Pelicans might be in over their heads, now.
Off the bat, Holiday makes the Pelicans better. There’s almost no arguing that, even though some of you will try to. New Orleans replaced a slow, defensively-inept Greivis Vasquez with a 23 year-old All Star. And Tyreke Evans will probably make the team better, too, albeit a bit more difficult to coach in the early goings. So if everything’s getting better, why is that bad for Davis? Well, they might be asking too much of him too soon.
There’s still an almost unanimous belief that Anthony will be one of the better big men in the league, and a probable multi-year All Star. But like any rookie, he needs time to develop. Zach Lowe of Grantland is worried that maybe the Pelicans, by accelerating their team development, are abandoning Davis’:
And opponents were able to get by Davis last season. He improved toward the end, after suffering several injuries that interrupted his progress, but Davis was out of control for much of last season. That’s understandable; he’s only 20, learning in the world’s hardest league after a single year of college.
But the Pelicans need progress now, and it’s unclear if Davis will be ready. Davis looked like he was playing defense on ice for much of last season. He’d jump into help position a beat too early, or too late, with too much bounciness in his legs, which would result in him stumbling an extra half-step or so out of position. That made it difficult to recover toward the rim, where Davis’s length and shot-blocking are game-changing assets. He had particular trouble deciding what to do, and when to do it, against side pick-and-rolls.
All these acquisitions must be making Anthony feel like you did that time you threw a party when your parents were out of town, and then they called to tell you they were coming back early. You had a plan, and everything was going to be fine, but now you’re not sure you’ll have the time to clean up all the things you’ll need to before the moment of truth. And I deliberately said you were the one throwing the party, not me, because I was never a good party planner.
But Davis is going to be asked to grow faster than he expected, because his team is making it clear that they’d like to win some games. You know… Now. Will it work?
I bet if you took Austin Rivers out of that “Core Group” you’d have a little more red. Just saying. But Anthony has to make do with what he has now, and that’s a team that would prefer to cook with the Free Agency microwave than let things simmer for a while in the draft.
No doubt he’ll be fine, he’s just gotta go through some growing pains, first. And those are something he’s used to by now.