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Sixers' future could be bright

Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel show promise, and the team would only get better if it ends up drafting Duke's Jahlil Okafor.

Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) warms up prior to a game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena. (Rob Kinnan/USA Today)
Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) warms up prior to a game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena. (Rob Kinnan/USA Today)Read more

NEW ORLEANS - The halfway point of the season recently passed and many are already looking toward the year (or years) ahead for the 76ers.

Joel Embiid has been more visible of late, having long shooting sessions before games, showing a fluid touch from as far as 18 feet out and sometimes beyond. So many are wondering: If he and Nerlens Noel are paired in the frontcourt together next season, who plays where? And what if the team lands the first overall pick and decides to take Duke's Jahlil Okafor, the 6-11, 270-pounder who appears to be the slam-dunk top pick?

If you think about that for a second, is it really a problem? Think if the Sixers land Okafor, Embiid comes back healthy and Noel is also still here. That's not a bad problem to have and lends the kind of excitement to the program that hasn't existed in quite some time.

Let's start with Embiid and Noel. If they are paired next season, it will be interesting. Though the team has worked hard on Noel's shooting, it's quite obvious that his offense is going to come from 6 feet and in. His scoring should mainly come from put-backs, alley-oops and strong, one-dribble drives to the basket. Thinking he can step out and add anything isn't smart.

The athleticism Embiid shows while simply shooting jumpers is impressive. The guy is a natural athlete at 6-11 and a playing weight he hopes to be about 260 pounds. He has the body of an NBA big man, so being able to score down low shouldn't be a problem. But he also has a very smooth mid-range game.

Perhaps it plays out like this: Embiid plays the five on the defensive end, while Noel uses his quickness of feet and hands to cover power forwards. That would also enable him to come off the ball and do what he does best, block shots.

On the offensive end, Embiid would be able to step out from the basket at times, opening things up for Noel to do some things in the paint. And what if you add Okafor to the mix? Is that really a problem? If so, again, it's a pretty good one to have.

MCW sidelined

The upper-respiratory infection that has made its way around the team has stricken Michael Carter-Williams. He sat out last night's game against the Pelicans.

Hollis Thompson missed 11 games and nearly a month earlier this season due to the infection and other players have battled it over the past couple of weeks.

Change in plans

The original travel plans for the Sixers had them taking a charter flight home after the game in New Orleans last night. But the snowstorm changed all that, and the team wound up staying an extra day in New Orleans. The Sixers may try to get on a court somewhere in New Orleans today before getting a flight home. They face the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center tomorrow night.

Drew II staying

The Sixers announced yesterday that they have signed point guard Larry Drew II to a second 10-day contract. Drew started at that spot last night as usual starter Michael Carter-Williams was sidelined.

Going into last night, Drew was averaging 4.7 points and 4.3 assists in 18.7 minutes in his six games with the Sixers. With Tony Wroten most likely out for the season due to a torn ACL, Drew may stick around for quite some time if he continues to impress coach Brett Brown with his play.