Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
It was never going to be easy.
Everyone knew eventually one of the three Sixers centers was going to get traded, but you didn’t know which one, when, or for how much. But with each passing day, it seems more and more likely that the Sixers will move Nerlens Noel before the end of the season, when he hits restricted free agency.
Noel’s rookie contract is nearing conclusion, no extension talks have been discussed, and he will already miss the first month of the season because of knee surgery. He has spoken publicly about his disdain of the current situation, which is all very understandable. The man wants to make life-changing money so that he won’t have to work another day in his life, all very fair. The writing is on the wall and I’d suspect that Bryan Colangelo is ready to make calls to other GMs seeing how much he can salvage for the 22-year old center.
I have gone through the rosters of the other 29 teams in the NBA to see who were ideal landing spots for the rim-protecting center from Kentucky. I have found eight possible destinations, which to various degrees would have interest in Nerlens Noel.
Some of these teams aren’t realistic options at this time, but depending on what happens during the course of the season (injuries, win/loss records, playing time allocation, statistics), each of the eight could trade for Noel.
Keep in mind; the Sixers will not get the appropriate value for Noel because other teams already know that he is a distressed asset looking for a new contract. The Sixers will be lucky to get half of his value in the trade market, so don’t get too discouraged if some of these proposals aren’t that appealing. It’s just the situation the team is in right now with the emergence of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor’s cheap rookie contract. Here is Nerlens’ current salary and cap hold in the offseason:
Nerlens Noel Salary: $4,384,490
Nerlens Noel Offseason Cap Hold: $10,961,225
Without further ado, here are my eight Nerlens Noel trade destinations (in no particular order):
1) Golden State Warriors
– Right off the bat, any trade with Golden State would be very difficult to consummate because of the salary implications for the Warriors. A deal that sends Noel to the Bay Area would mean that the Warriors are in desperate need of rim protection because 32-year old Zaza Pachulia isn’t cutting it for them on the defensive end of the floor, while the new “Death Lineup” isn’t good enough to defend in tight games against good teams.
Besides Pachulia, the Warriors are relying on 36-year old David West, 34-year old Anderson Varejao, Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP JaVale McGee, and injured rookie Damian Jones as the team’s backup big men. Everyone but Jones have contracts that expire at the end of this season.
This would be an all-in move for the Warriors for a chance at the title this year because it would most likely mean the end of Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston’s careers in Golden State. This is the case because of Noel’s $10.9 million cap hold in the offseason so they choose to resign him with Bird Rights. Let me clarify:
According to multiple reports, next year’s salary cap figure will decrease a small amount to about $102 million, meaning in order to resign Kevin Durant, who won’t have Bird Rights if he opts out of his deal, the Warriors’ cap figure needs to be under Durant’s cap hold of $31.8 million in order to resign him. Here’s the breakdown:
Stephen Curry Cap Hold: $18,168,539
Klay Thompson Salary: $17,826,150
Draymond Green Salary: $16,400,000
Damian Jones Salary: $1,224,240
Nerlens Noel Cap Hold: $10,961,225
*All Other Free Agent Cap Holds are renounced
Add Kevin Durant’s cap hold: $31,848,120
New Total: $96,428,274
By adding Noel’s cap hold of $10.9 million, the Warriors will not be able to maintain the Bird Rights of Iguodala and Livingston, because their cap holds ($18.1 million & $10.9 million) exceed the remaining room in the salary cap. So unless both are willing to take major pay cuts after this season and lose their Bird Rights, the Warriors can’t afford them if they acquire Noel.
*Note: I didn’t include the salaries of Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw because they would be involved in my trade proposal
So while Noel would fit in very well with the Warriors, the logistics would be very difficult for the Warriors because they would mostly likely lose their top two bench players in free agency. Regardless, this would be my proposal if were the Sixers:
Warriors receive: Nerlens Noel
76ers receive: Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee, and 2019 GSW unprotected 1st Round Pick
Rationale: McCaw and Looney are both cheap, young, and talented players that could grow with the Sixers current core filling much needed depth on the perimeter, while McGee would return to Philly in order to match salaries. The Warriors owe its 2017 first round pick to the Jazz so the Warriors would have to send its 2019 first round pick unprotected to Philly.
Overall: A decent return for the Sixers, adding two young developing wings and an extra first round pick while the Warriors pick up a young rim protector that can help propel them to a second title in three years.
2) Dallas Mavericks
– A deal with Dallas would be contingent on the play and health of Andrew Bogut. Bogut is a free agent after this season and if he can’t hold up physically, Dallas would want add the rim protection that it has so heavily desired since Tyson Chandler left in free agency in 2011. Enter Nerlens Noel. If Bogut can’t stay healthy, a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Wes Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, and Noel would be very solid. So this would be my proposal:
Mavericks receive: Nerlens Noel
76ers receive: Justin Anderson, Devin Harris, & top-10 protected 2018 1st round pick
Rationale: This deal would net second year wing Justin Anderson to and a protected 2018 1st round pick (Dallas owed Boston in 2016) for Noel. To make the trade work, Dallas would also have to send Devin Harris as salary filler in the deal. He makes $4.2 million this season but a non-guaranteed salary for next season, but is a quality veteran the Sixers can keep around for another year if they so choose.
Overall: Anderson can be a solid wing option for the Sixers in the future (two more years of rookie salary) and the Sixers pick up another future first rounder.
3) Phoenix Suns
– The Suns are the one team that is in a similar position as the Sixers by having too much depth at one position. Between Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Leandro Barbosa, and Tyler Ulis, the Suns have too many guards. So many, in fact that they had to cut former first round pick Archie Goodwin.
Meanwhile, the Suns frontcourt has a lot of youth but not a lot of direction. 34-year old Tyson Chandler is breaking down and Alex Len has yet to live up to expectations as the fifth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Suns have added some talent at the four spot, between first round picks Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, as well as veteran Jared Dudley. Their issue, overall, is rim protection, so this would be my trade proposal:
Suns receive: Nerlens Noel
76ers receive: Brandon Knight
Rationale: A simple 1-for-1 deal where both teams would benefit. Noel becomes the defensive anchor for the Suns as Chandler continues to regress and the Sixers unclog their frontline and add a quality guard in Knight. There are two things I like most about Knight:
1) Team-Friendly Contract: Knight signed a five-year $70 million extension with the Suns in July 2015, so his contract runs for three more seasons at an annual value of $14.6 million, which is very good in today’s market.
2) Ability to Play Off Ball: Whether with Rodney Stuckey or Jose Calderon in Detroit, Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, or Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix, Knight has played a fair share of his NBA minutes as an off-ball guard. At 6’3, 190lbs, Knight has the size of a point guard but the skillset of a shooting guard. He’s a career 36% three-point shooter, yet he also has the ability to handle the ball in the half court setting. I think Knight would be a great fit next to Simmons over the next three years in the starting lineup.
Overall: Suns get their rim protector and the Sixers get a good compliment to Simmons. Everyone wins!
4) San Antonio Spurs
– A trade with San Antonio represents an opportunity for the Spurs to get a young defensive talent to match with Kawhi Leonard as the Spurs move into their next phase as a franchise.
All of the Spurs’ bigs can be off the team within the next two seasons. Pau Gasol, David Lee, and Dewayne Dedmon all have player options following the 2016-2017 season, and LaMarcus Aldridge can opt of his deal after the 2017-2018 season. Without Tim Duncan, who even at age 40, was a top tier defender, I expect the Spurs’ interior defense to fall off some this season, so I think adding Noel would be a welcoming addition for the Spurs. This would be my proposal:
Spurs receive: Nerlens Noel
Sixers receive: Danny Green & 2017 1st Round Pick
Rationale: Danny Green is under contract for another season and then has a player option for 2017-2018, but I think he would be a good addition as a floor spacer for the Sixers. Green is coming off his worst season with the Spurs, shooting just 33% from deep last season, after shooting 43% from three over the previous four seasons, but he has dramatically improved as a defender during his time in San Antonio. He would immediately be inserted as the team’s starting shooting guard.
The Spurs aren’t known for trading first round picks, but Noel is a good enough talent to warrant trading one away.
Overall: Sixers gain a solid starter on a good deal and a first round pick while Noel and Leonard dominate on the defensive side of the floor.
5) Houston Rockets
– Many national pundits expect the Rockets defense to be a bottom five unit this season, largely due to the three negative defenders in Houston’s starting lineup. With James Harden, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson starting and Mike D’Antoni’s traditional offensive-based scheme, there is a lot of pressure on 22-year old Clint Capela to effectively defend the paint. Depending on how the young Swiss center performs in his new role, the Rockets could be in the market for a true rim protector. D’Antoni is already familiar with Noel from their time together last season and with just aging Nene and rookie Chinanu Onuaku backing up Capela on the roster, Noel would provide Houston with a good long-term option at center.
Rockets receive: Nerlens Noel
76ers receive: Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, 2017 lottery-protected 1st Round Pick, and 2019 lottery-protected 1st Round Pick
Rationale: I have long been a fan of Beverley and I think he compliments Ben Simmons very well in the starting lineup. Beverley defends opposing team’s point guards but has played off-ball while with James Harden in Houston, shooting a career high 40% from deep last season. There is some health concerns with Beverley, as he will miss the first three weeks of this season recovering from a knee injury, but for a starting-caliber point guard who is making just $10 million over the next two seasons is an absolute steal.
The Sixers would be doing Houston a favor by taking on Corey Brewer’s contract that expires after next season, when he is due $7.6 million. By taking on the last year of Brewer’s contract, I believe they will receive an extra first rounder in 2019 to go along with a lottery-protected pick in this upcoming year’s draft.
Overall: Sixers add a good point guard compliment for Simmons, while also adding two first round picks. The Rockets get the rim-protector they need, while creating some extra cap space for next season by ridding themselves of the Corey Brewer contract.
6) Toronto Raptors
– No one can doubt the impact that Bismack Biyombo had for the Raptors in the playoffs last season as their rim protector and a true inside force. But since he has since walked in free agency, the Raptors have to fill that void once again. It is very difficult for the Raptors to add young talent to their aging roster because of the lack of cap space but Nerlens would be a dynamic addition to an already pretty good team.
The Raptors are an interesting trade destination for Noel because of their lack of a true defensive piece for the future. Even though Jonas Valanciunas signed a long-term contract last season, there is still some doubt to whether he can ever really reach his potential. Patrick Patterson and Jared Sullinger are free agents after this season and the trio of Lucas Nogueria, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam don’t have nearly the potential and talent as Noel. This would be my proposal to Toronto:
Raptors receive: Nerlens Noel
76ers receive: Terrence Ross and two 2017 first round picks (TOR & LAC)
Rationale: Just as I have said before, the Sixers need to add quality wing players to compliment Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Terrence Ross fits that profile. Ross has had a very up-and-down NBA career but he has the high-quality upside that could make him a key wing player for the Sixers in years to come. He is under contract for the next two seasons at $10.5 million and has the chance to break out in Philadelphia. The Raptors already have five late first rounders on their roster and they need all the extra cap room and roster space as they possibly can moving forward, so moving those two firsts to acquire a defensive talent like Noel would be adequate enough for them.
Overall: Sixers add a young wing player, along with two extra first round picks while the Raptors cash in on the rare chance to acquire a young, emerging player while in their current cap situation.
7 & 8) Minnesota Timberwolves & Boston Celtics
– I included both of these teams because having Nerlens Noel next to Karl Anthony-Towns in Minnesota or Al Horford in Boston improves both teams substantially and fills a clear need. The problem is that it is way too early to know what kind of deal could be made between either team.
Minnesota has young players who the Sixers could be interested in, like Kris Dunn, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, or Tyus Jones, but it’s unclear who will be made expendable by Tom Thibodeau as the season progresses.
Boston has plenty of draft assets, as well as some talented guards, but it will always be difficult to make a trade with your most hated rival, regardless of the return.
Keep both teams in mind moving forward as the season progresses to see if a possible deal can be made later in the year.
Let me know what you guys think of these trade proposals.
As always, #TrustTheProcess.