Nerlens Noel thinks it’s silly, the Philadelphia 76ers’ surplus of centers. He said he figured one of them — them being Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Noel himself — would have been traded this summer. That wasn’t the case, though, as the 76ers seem poised to embark on a season with three starting-caliber centers on the roster. “I think something needs to happen,” he said at Media Day.
That’s a bold move, Cotton, to announce on Media Day that you think there needs to be a trade. You know, Media Day, that day when teams spin canned messages of positivity and hope. Media Day isn’t the place where players decide the team needs to trade one of the dudes playfully posing with a basketball for a photo shoot on the other side of the room. The Sixers’ PR staff must have face-palmed so hard that their faces literally turned into the palms on their hands.
Anyway, this is the rest of what Noel had to say, via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it’s just not going to work to anybody’s advantage having that on the same team. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated.”
Maybe Noel is right. Wait, actually, no, he definitely is right. Too many centers, dog. They should trade one. But which one? Well, the one who screws up Media Day, obviously. At best, Noel is Embiid’s backup and he didn’t play well next to Okafor last season. Noel on his own has the potential to be a dominant rim protector, as FanSided’s Ian Levy points out:
“By the rim protection metrics at Nylon Calculus, Noel also rated out as one of the better interior defenders in the league last season — about the same as Karl-Anthony Towns. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Noel would appear to be the ideal defensive prospect. He is long and strong enough to hold his own in the paint, nimble enough to defend in space. He has shown that he can be incredibly disruptive in ending opponents’ possessions with steals or blocks.”
Noel has one year left on his contract, but then he becomes a restricted free agent. Any team that has him at the end of the season will have the option to retain him.
So who could use someone like this? Who should trade for Noel? Who should un-silly the Sixers?
The Toronto Raptors don’t have Bismack Biyombo anymore, meaning they don’t have an alternate center to Jonas Valanciunas who can protect the rim. Seeing how that worked so well for them last season, they should try to acquire Noel to replace said lost rim protector.
The Raptors drafted point guard Delon Wright last year, but still have Cory Joseph as the primary backup behind Kyle Lowry. Joseph was a great addition for the Raptors last season — at times he looked like the team’s best guard — but with the LeBron and Kyrie-led Cavaliers dominating the East, they need more rim protection up in The 6.
Joseph is just 25 and would give the 76ers a promising young point guard with oodles of playoff experience to lead the offense. A Joseph-for-Noel swap makes sense as both teams trade away some depth for an area of need.
A classic takesy-backsy. The New Orleans Pelicans traded Noel to the 76ers on draft night in 2013 for Jrue Holiday (among other pieces). Meanwhile, neither team has filled the void left by that trade because (a) Omer Asik and (b) Michael Carter-Williams. Swap them again, and both teams fill a need.
The Pelicans get an athletic rim protector to pair with the franchise Anthony Davis, not to mention reuniting two Kentucky players in the process. The 76ers get the point guard they’ve been missing since they traded Holiday, who by the way is still somehow just 26 years old.
Oh, yeah. We went here.
The San Antonio Spurs replaced Tim Duncan with Pau Gasol, and while Gasol certainly helps replace Duncan’s age, he doesn’t replace his defense. Noel isn’t the disciplined defender Duncan was, but as Levy pointed out, he’s pretty darn good.
The Spurs are heading into a new era, and could use another young player to build around in addition to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. They may as well take a shot on Noel.
To do it, they could trade rookie point guard Dejounte Murray and veteran shooting guard Danny Green. The 76ers would probably have to throw another player in like Robert Covington or Hollis Thompson to sweeten the deal.
The Spurs would have to admit to themselves that they are building toward the future since, even though Green is far from a franchise player, San Antonio’s perimeter defense is built around Leonard and Green’s stifling ball stopping. But this is the kind of shrewd move that has kept the Spurs competitive for the last 20 years. Trading Green may be an immediate step back, but in the process they would be getting an undervalued, former No. 6 overall pick who has yet to reach his ceiling to add to a still very good team.