Breaking Down The Trade That Sent Nerlens Noel To Dallas

As I sit here and write this I glance out my window. The sun is out and it’s 73 degrees in February. Yet for some reason morale isn’t as high as it should be. It’s like there is this ominous, imaginary cloud looming over Philadelphia. This is because for the umpteenth time in this new era of Sixers basketball, it appears they have taken a step backward. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia may be the name of a popular TV show but ask any Sixers fan and I’ll bet they beg to differ.

Yesterday was the NBA trade deadline. Let me first rewind a couple weeks back to what the general consensus was regarding what the Sixers would do. Joel Embiid looks great when he’s healthy, he’s hurt now but we’re definitely keeping him. A stud in the making, he’s not going anywhere. Nerlens Noel might not be the best rebounder and he certainly doesn’t intimidate on offense, but at 22 he’s an elite defender and has shown great improvement as someone who can be a defensive stalwart for a long time, health considered as always. Plus, he’s been here for four years and while he’s had his moments of immaturity (what 22 year old hasn’t?) he’s handled the losing situation as well as anyone could and actually seemed like he enjoyed and embraced playing in Philadelphia, especially as of late. Jahlil Okafor hasn’t played as well as the other two bigs. He doesn’t defend well and his effort and passion is questioned at times. Yes he can be a potential 20 point scorer but with a big man logjam he appears to be the odd man out. That’s not to say Jahlil can’t be a valuable NBA player though. He’s only 21 and was a third overall pick. Maybe a change of scenery would be best for all parties involved. No hard feelings, no harm no foul. Despite his underwhelming play, his attractive contract situation and age and potential should still make him quite valuable to other NBA teams. Or so one would think. Best of luck Jahlil, but you’re going to be traded.

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Nerlens seemed to enjoy representing Philly basketball…

And what actually happens? They keep Okafor, trade Noel…DUH! Not only did they trade Noel, they traded him to the Mavericks for a lottery protected, first round pick. That pick is all but certain to end up not even being a first round pick but instead dissolve into two second round picks. They did however get a player too, Justin Anderson. Anderson is a 6’6 wing player who is known for his length (7 foot wingspan) and defense as he’s able to D up other big bodies on the wing. But 20 teams passed on Anderson in the 2015 draft. And he couldn’t crack the Mavs rotation… and Dallas is 22-34. Quite like Jahlil Okafor, league insiders believe that Anderson just needed a change of scenery, which he was given with being traded to the Sixers.

Honestly, I’m not even mad the Sixers traded Noel. He figures to ask for and receive close to, if not a maximum contract. If the Sixers didn’t think he would be an essential part of a championship contending team then I can live with that. Plus, if they plan on having Embiid be their center long term then they just aren’t going to pay big money to two centers. Wasn’t going to happen. I like Nerlens too and am a fan of his but at the end of the day I just want the Sixers to be a winner and if they think they have to get rid of certain players to get there then I’m fine with that. What ENRAGES me however is the compensation they received for Noel. Two second round picks? I’d rather have two sides of cheese for my bucket of crab fries. Justin Anderson can be a solid player, heck maybe he can be elite for all I know. But he was drafted 21st overall and as previously mentioned couldn’t get playing time on a crappy team. Nerlens would have been the de facto number 1 pick in his draft had he not get injured prior. It’s not that I’m down on Anderson but it’s just impossible and straight up foolish to say his value equals anything close to Nerlens Noel. I get it, the Sixers had to move him if they weren’t going to pay him instead of getting nothing, but they should have figured this out and acted on it sooner. Also, here’s a thought, why not just pay him? If they gave him a near max or max deal as long as he plays how he’s playing he would still be trade-able in the future. You don’t think a team would take on his contract if they thought he was an important fit? The fact that he was a restricted free agent is what hurt his value because he could leave after the season but why inflict pain on yourself for another teams problem? ALSO, Joel Embiid missed TWO whole seasons before playing this year. He STILL  hasn’t proven he can stay on the court with a minute restriction, let alone for a full NBA season. AM I TAKING CRAZY PILLS? I love the dude, I really love Embiid but let’s be honest he’s injury prone. Knowing this and trading Nerlens Noel for what they did is just stunning to me. It’s baffling how these near max contract guys can be moved for such low returns. Demarcus Cousins potentially could have signed a contract worth 209 million dollars and gets traded for what many believe to be a low return. Nerlens Noel expects to sign a huge deal and gets traded for a couple second round picks and a dude drafted 21st overall. But then again I’m just a dude who blogs so what do I know? Bryan Colangelo was hired because he’s a “basketball guy” with better connections and relations with teams than Sam Hinkie and thus would be better suited to work out favorable deals. What happened to that?

As I sit here and finish this up today, not only is Nerlens Noel gone, word is that Joel Embiid will be out “indefinitely”. Ben Simmons will also be shut down for the rest of the year. Out of their last four top picks only Jahlil Okafor is currently playing on a regular basis. I’m not here to compare Sam Hinkie and Bryan Colangelo but I’ll say that with Hinkie even if we stunk at least there seemed to be a plan in place that would inevitably be fruitful to us in the future. Where we stand now, I’m not so sure if there’s even a plan. If there is it’s not very transparent and keeping  fans in the dark after this many seasons of intentional losing is disgraceful. It’s so frustrating because the Sixers tried to be bad these past few years so they can get these “assets”. Assets have turned to suspects. The Sixers suck at sucking. And that sucks.

Early Thoughts: Joel Embiid Looks Special

The Sixers may have only played two games (and lost both) but watching them this year has been wholeheartedly more exciting, mainly due to rookie Joel Embiid. Simply put I cannot stress how impressed I’ve been with the former number three overall pick thus far in the early 2016 season.

What about Embiid makes me gush? Well, there’s a lot. But the most striking thing to me isn’t really something tangible, instead it’s how natural and polished he looks as a basketball player, a rookie one at that. He has this confidence about him with the ball in his hands and looks like someone with years of experience despite playing just 44 total minutes. He looks unprecedentedly polished with his handles and moves. Actually, his whole career thus far has been unprecedented. Embiid was considered to be the number one overall prospect after only 28 games at Kansas but a surgery to his right foot following the season caused him to slide down and be selected third. He missed his entire rookie year. And the year after that. Not to mention he missed the NCAA tournament while he was still in college. So in his first real NBA games there would surely be some rust right? Not hardly. So far Embiid has put on display all the elements of his game that scouts believed could make him elite. He can step back and shoot, threes even. He has shown flashes of being a formidable defender with highlight reel rejections, including one on veteran Dwight Howard no less.

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Additionally, another reason i love watching the kid is because his game is plain old refreshing. With so many guard oriented attacks now, it’s cool to see a seven footer handle the rock and lead an offense. He doesn’t look awkward or clumsy like many players his size so often do. He plays like a guard or forward in a centers body.

I must admit that out of all the Sixers young “assets” (remember that word?), I was the most skeptical about Embiid, mainly because of his history of injuries. I still am skeptical to a degree about his body going forward. But thus far, saying he looks impressive would be an understatement. Has he only played two games? Yes. Is he going to make some bad, ugly rookie mistakes this season? Yes, of course. But from this small sample size it’s hard not to get amped about what this guy can do for a success starved franchise in the years to come.