The Philadelphia 76ers have continued to add to their stable of forwards and centers through recent drafts. At some point, Philly may look to supplant other areas of the roster by trading some of their former top picks, including Nerlens Noel.
Nerlens Noel’s name floating around in trade rumors is not a new development. Noel’s name has come up multiple times over the offseason, with several different teams being mentioned. The Boston Celtics have consistently been one of the teams mentioned in connection to Noel. However, he would make sense for a number of other teams as well.
One of those teams would be the Brooklyn Nets.
If Philadelphia does entertain the possibility of trading Noel, the Nets should absolutely have interest. Noel would be an intriguing addition for Sean Marks, as he is still quite young and has his prime ahead of him.
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Philadelphia has somewhat of a logjam in their front court. Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Noel are all currently on the roster. So is point-forward Dario Šarić, who Sixers fans have wanted to see for a long time.
The Sixers certainly have talent in the front court, but their roster as a whole lacks balance. Philadelphia has taken the best-player-available approach when it comes to the draft, and in each case they have deemed it to be a big man. But as a result, there is a glut of forwards in the front court.
Noel, the sixth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, is a logical piece for the Sixers to trade because he will be a restricted free agent after this season. If the Sixers keep Noel instead of trading him, he can hit restricted free agency and the Philly would have the right to match an offer sheet that he signs in 2017. Or, they could opt to trade him before that, recoup some assets in the process, and create less of a logjam in the front court.
Noel’s impending free agency makes him an interesting case to examine. On one hand, the Nets could theoretically wait until he hits free agency. Then, they can sign him to an offer sheet with the hopes that Philadelphia declines to match. But the Nets got burned twice this offseason, as they lost out on both Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson as their offer sheets were matched. This may leave Brooklyn slightly hesitant to go down that road again.
By acquiring Noel via trade, the Nets would then have his rights, and would control his future through the right to match an offer sheet.
Each of Noel’s 133 starts in the NBA have come at center, but as long as Brook Lopez is on the roster, the center spot will be occupied. However, Noel is athletic enough that he could slide over to power forward for the Nets.
Noel, 22, averaged 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season for Philadelphia. He is set to earn $4.3 million this season, in his final year before restricted free agency.