February 24, 2017
It's rare that you find yourself with even more questions following a press conference lasting nearly an hour. But that's exactly how I felt after hearing Bryan Colangelo speak to the assembled media at the Sixers practice facility in Camden.
They aren't the kind of specific questions the team's president of basketball operations was asked on Friday. No, they were the broader, more overarching questions one can muster only in the most confusing and frustrating of times.
How did we get here? What happens next? Is this even real life?
Perhaps in an effort to disorient the reporters in attendance, Colangelo, who was there to answer questions about the pair of underwhelming moves he made prior to the NBA Trade Deadline, didn't start by talking about either of those moves. Instead, he provided medical updates on the team's most valuable players, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
While the Embiid news wasn't much of a surprise – he'll miss at least the next four games – the Simmons announcement was quite the bombshell.
Simmons, who has yet to play this season after breaking suffering a Jones fracture in his foot back on Sept. 30, has been shut down for the season.
And that was just the beginning.
Here's a look at some of the main topics of discussion from Friday's presser, along with Colangelo's explanation and our take on what he had to say.
BRYAN COLANGELO: "Nerlens was obviously a part of something here over the last several years that has become a tough slog through a lot of losing and unfortunately a lot of things that brought people to a point where it was all about building forward and moving forward. And that's where we are today. Nerlens is a player that contributed a lot to the organization in a lot of ways. He was a respected teammate, and we think that in Dallas he's got an opportunity to achieve what he would really like to achieve, which is a starting role and a commensurate contract that will work well for him.
"I think that given the circumstances with restricted free agency on the horizon, and our commitment to a young player named Joel Embiid and a few others, including some contract-planning that needs to go into our roster-building plan, it didn't make sense to go forward and go through that process with restricted free agency. So, we moved on it. We think it's the right move for the organization at this time and we will be very happy to welcome Justin Anderson and any future players that are a result of this trade to the fold."
What it really means: In short, we weren't going to pay him after the season and decided to cut our losses and at least get something in return. It's spun as though the Sixers are doing him a favor, but that's hardly the case. Colangelo doesn't really explain here why the team didn't want to take Noel into restricted free agency but don't worry, we'll get to that.
"Justin Anderson is a young wing that we think is going to add something to this team in the way of a defensive-minded approach, toughness, talent, athleticism. We like to describe him as someone who's got some of that 'edge' we talk about all the time. I think Philly fans are going to love Justin's approach to the game. I think the coaches here have talked about what he's capable of doing and are excited to bring that kind of a wing in. But in the meantime, bringing Justin into this situation, again, it was another chance to bring in a young player, a wing that's potentially going to add something to this team. We're excited, he's a former first-round draft pick out of Virginia. You've all seen his bio. But he adds something to the mix that we're excited to have.
"The draft considerations. A heavily-protected first-round pick, which is obviously very likely to be two seconds. It's, again, something that adds to the kitty, so to speak. We have a number of draft assets and future considerations that are going to benefit this organization as we go through this building process, whether used in trades or to acquire players going forward. We think that the use of second-round picks has become even more important with the new two-way contracts of the CBA ..."
What it really means: "Draft considerations?" Really? It's funny how, after three years of stockpiling second-round picks like an NBA Draft doomsday-prepper under Sam Hinkie, the regime that essentially forced him out – in part because he continued to acquire picks without turning them into contributing players (yet) – is now pointing to very similar "draft considerations" as a reason fans should be excited over this deal. At least when Hinkie did it he wasn't trading away guys like Noel.
As for Justin Anderson, have you all seen his bio? Because before yesterday, I had pretty much no idea who he was.
And, wait, didn't the Sixers get something else back in this deal? Colangelo's failure to mention Andrew Bogut (at all) is a pretty clear indication of how long he'll be in Philly.
"The market dictates what's there. And, interestingly, given our situation with multiple talented bigs, it's safe to say that people view us as a place to come if they're looking for a big. Several were out there and available and on the market. A trade went down early – [Jusuf] Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation obviously with Jahlil [Okafor] early, some advanced discussion, even to the point where we took him out a game situation, just because there was so much at stake given the terms of a proposed transaction.
"The situation with Nerlens, him being a restricted free agent, certainly affected how people approach that type of player. And it was more or less the case with every conversation I had, that concern about what that contract might look like in the future was certainly a factor in people's apprehension to move forward. You know, I've often said I wouldn't make a bad deal, but yesterday I made the best deal that was available to us. And it was the right deal for this organization."
What it really means: Shocker. It's the same reason the Sixers were willing to deal Noel that caused teams to make less than ideal offers. But where this one really goes off the rails is in the last two sentences. Just because it was the "best deal available" doesn't mean it was the right deal. And certainly, doesn't make it a good deal.
Let's see if we can spell this out a little more simply: You're selling a house and get three offers. The first one is $1.25 and three empty glass bottles. The second is a little better: $1.75 and three half-empty bottles. But the third offer blows the others out of the water. Get this – they're willing to give you $3.25 and six half-full bottles. What do you do? You take the third offer, right?
No, you idiot. Those are all terrible offers. You keep the house and fire your real estate agent.
“The only opportunities that may have come up this summer with dealing Nerlens in any kind of a free-agent scenario would’ve been a potential sign-and-trade scenario. But those are much more difficult given the fact that these teams may have thought, ‘Hey, he’s a target. They’ve got Joel Embiid. They’ve got a huge commitment to him on the horizon, arguably. There’s not a chance that they would match a contract offer.’ So why would they give us anything when they can just go get him [next offseason]?
"Generally, that does result in an overpayment. You saw it last year with multiple free agents on the market, some restricted free agents. And those teams that matched those contracts are now dealing with the consequences of those contracts. So, one reason we try to avoid all those things we talked about is because what may happen to us, and how restrictive that may have been for some of the other things we hope to do and hope to accomplish."
What it really means: OK. This part at least makes sense. You don't have to think Colangelo got fair value for Noel to understand why it at least made sense to try to move him. If this was really going to be the best offer you'd ever get for him, then I guess the something-better-than-nothing argument has some merit. To be fair, the logjam at the center position wasn't created by Colangelo, even though it's apparently being used against him in negotiations. That being said, the team hasn't done a great job at maximizing Okafor's and Noel's value with how they'd been using (or not using) them on the court.
“With respect to the interest in Jahlil, because of his rookie scale contract, because of the value of having two more years versus being a restricted free agent, the market for him was much more broad and arguably much more conducive to doing something. But the right deal did not present itself, so we did not make that deal. A number of people are planning for the summer, looking at different opportunities. They’ve talk to me about maybe revisiting it. There’s interest in Jahlil, and rightfully so. He’s a talented player and we’re happy to have him her and part of our organization.
“But, again, the value proposition of having a rookie scale contract and having two years left is really what drives that. So once the deal was there for Nerlens, it made it a little more difficult to make a transition to trading Jahlil. But the right deal never presented itself regardless. Had it come, would we have done it? Likely so. Jahlil and his agent, Bill Duffy, who I have a great relationship with, we’ve talked about positive solutions or possible solutions. It’s what you do with players that want to get to a situation that could fit them better. There was a lot of behind the scenes discussions and talk about finding an amicable solution because, quite frankly, Jahlil’s got the same issue Nerlens has. He wants to play somewhere, he wants to start, he wants to see an opportunity that that exists. And at the end of the day, I’m hopeful he can find that and that we can find that. But right now, he’s a valuable part of what we’re doing. He’s a nice, talented player that was brought in here for a reason. He was a high draft pick, and he retains a market as a contributing NBA player.”
What it really means: So the market was better, but the offers weren't? I'm confused. The only way to make sense of the first part of this answer is to assume that he means there were more offers for Okafor, but none that he felt were quite good enough to pull the trigger. Colangelo likely wanted more in return for Okafor given the extra year he has on his contract, but therein lies the problem.
In a year from now, should Okafor still be on the roster, Colangelo is going to find himself in the same position he was at this deadline when trying to move Noel. While he may see more minutes without Noel and will remain "a contributing NBA player," the offers aren't going to get any better as the amount of time remaining on his rookie deal continues to diminish.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin