BOSTON - With a roster that is ever-changing and a future outlook that is mysterious, to say the least, it is always a good time to revisit the players who are now on the 76ers and who the keepers may be.
Nerlens Noel's recent play and growth throughout the season has been the most pleasant story line. He is proving to be a true defensive presence, has found some comfort at the offensive end and seems to be a very interesting piece when Joel Embiid makes his way into the lineup. The fact that Noel has stayed as healthy as he has all season, having missed just four games, is also a nice surprise.
For much of the season, Noel was paired with or subbed for Henry Sims. Lately, though, Sims has been more of a watcher than participant. At one point, Sims could be seen as a big off the bench when the team improved, maybe supplying 10 to 15 minutes a game. But now with the emergence of newcomer Thomas Robinson, that isn't such a guarantee anymore.
In his 10 games with the Sixers, Robinson has been a rebounding machine. In his last three games, he's totaled 38 rebounds while averaging just a little more than 18 minutes. He seems to be one of those "keepers" to whom coach Brett Brown often refers. That makes Sims sort of an outsider looking in.
Since the departure of Michael Carter-Williams, the backcourt has undergone drastic changes. Remember at the beginning of the season when Tony Wroten and MCW were constantly taking the ball to the basket? Seems a long time ago. Now, with Isaiah Canaan and Ish Smith running the point, for the most part, the Sixers have become three-point enthusiasts. Over the past six games, the team has attempted an astounding 35.7 threes a contest.
Canaan is a good shooter, but at 6-foot, it could be problematic if teams really want to concentrate on stopping him. Smith's quickness with the ball has opened things up on the perimeter for players like Canaan and Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, JaKarr Sampson and Jason Richardson.
It will be interesting to see which player, Canaan or Smith, remains with the team. Regardless, the point guard of the Sixers' future is probably going to be selected in June's draft.
Covington, Grant and Sampson all have improved tremendously during the season and very well could fit into the future plans of the team. Then again, many thought the same about K.J. McDaniels. The favorite of those three to remain would be Covington, as he possesses a true skill set (shooting) that can keep him in the league for many years. Hollis Thompson has struggled much of the season and his spot probably has been secured by Covington.
Luc Mbah a Moute has been Brown's most reliable player all season and the coach would love to have him back. It has become pretty obvious that Furkan Aldemir has a long way to go to become a serviceable player, and it may never happen. He is simply not strong enough to battle with the big boys.
Richardson, a 14-year veteran, wants to play next season, but does he fit here? He is the ultimate pro and someone Brown covets as a mentor to all his young players. Perhaps there is a spot for him here next season, but not if it hinders the playing time of someone the team wants to groom for the future. This one is tricky. There just aren't many great people like him around the NBA. And for a young group that has lost a ton of games, that means a lot.
Of course, next year's team almost certainly will add Embiid, many more draft picks and perhaps a free agent or two. Still, there are some keepers to be had from the current roster.