February 24, 2017
It’s probably safe to say that the Nerlens Noel trade to the Dallas Mavericks on deadline day didn’t go over so hot in Philadelphia. While I would have advocated re-signing Noel in restricted free agency, moving him could have made some sense if the right deal presented itself in my opinion. I just think the Sixers didn’t get enough in return.
I wasn’t the only one. Nationally, Colangelo and the Sixers didn’t receive high marks for the Noel trade from NBA writers. Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney gave the Sixers a D grade and wondered why they didn’t let Nerlens simply hit free agency:
The current trade market for centers is undeniably rough. Yet this is a market Philadelphia played itself into and, in return, will be left with little to show for a clearly talented defender. Noel’s offensive limitations are obvious. Yet he’s broadened his offensive game in each of his three NBA seasons, improved as a finisher, and fits the defense-first mold that many franchises are looking for from their starting centers. Plus, if the market was indeed this depressed for other teams to spring for Noel via trade, what is it exactly that the Sixers were afraid of in Noel’s upcoming restricted free agency?
CBS Sports’ Matt Moore went a little higher, settling on a C. He focused on the seemingly cool trade market for big men:
The Sixers are going to get crushed for this deal. Noel’s advanced analytics are great, he’s young and athletic. There’s a perception that the Sixers should have gotten top value for him. But that was never going to happen. The Sixers had little leverage. They were trying to deal an injury-prone big man with immaturity concerns headed into a contract season in a swollen market when they already have a franchise center.
They were not getting a top-five pick for Noel. They were not getting a top-10 pick for Noel. They were not getting a lottery pick for Noel. If the pick turns into two second-rounders, it’s fine.
On the excellent Vertical trade deadline show, former Nets front office member Bobby Marks was underwhelmed by the “low return” that Colangelo and the Sixers got:
I don’t want to be critical, but I’m not sure that’s the right move. If you’re looking at Nerlens Noel, he would have been a restricted free agent. And you’ve seen teams that have matched offer sheets or have signed players even if the number is high, use that player as an asset eventually to trade them. Now you look at Dallas acquiring a player like Noel, that’s going to be their free agent.
Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale gave the trade a C, but he was more critical than that letter might suggest. Favale focused on Jahlil Okafor, whose name had been in far more trade rumors than Noel:
Taking on another player with sound physical tools and a busted jumper is not, by any means, the ideal return for Noel. This is a package Philly should've tried brokering for Okafor instead. And if this deal results in them yanking him from the chopping block, that's another failure unto itself.
SB Nation’s Tom Ziller touched on a point that I agree with: Justin Anderson has a chance to be a pretty good player, but he’s not the type of player who should be the headliner in a Noel trade:
The second-year Anderson is a rotation player who can be more if he develops a good three-point stroke. On paper, he’s not dissimilar from where Jae Crowder was at this point in his career. But not every could-be Jae Crowder turns into Jae Crowder. He steps into a still-crowded Philly rotation, but there’s a chance he turns into a legit NBA starter somewhere. He’s also cheap for the next two years, which is very Philadelphia. But he’s not so good you trade Nerlens Noel for two seconds!
Washington Post national NBA writer Tim Bontemps called the deal “a weird trade for both teams”:
Philadelphia clearly made moving on from at least one of Jahlil Okafor or Noel a priority before today’s trade deadline, given that the team has its center of the future in Joel Embiid and can’t play all three of them. And, as stated above, the value for Noel was already low (as it is for Okafor, for different reasons) and it was clear to everyone outside of Philadelphia that the Sixers had to do something. The calculus here was likely that because Noel is about to be paid, it is better to get off of that responsibility and give Okafor a chance to rebuild his trade value, given that he still has two years left under contract.
To be fair, not everyone criticized the trade that much. Vice Sports’ Sam Vecenie believes Noel’s value is trickier than many in Philadelphia:
Nothing about this deal is simple. It could extend the Mavs' relevance for another five years. It could also harm the team's cap sheet due to the risk factors involved with Noel, and end with Anderson becoming the best asset in the deal. I slightly prefer the Mavericks' return to the Sixers', but I'm skeptical it's a home run either way.
And over at ESPN Insider, Kevin Pelton gave the Sixers a B- in part because he likes Anderson’s potential as a defender:
As Lowe quickly noted on Twitter, Anderson is exactly the kind of wing prospect who has tended to haunt teams who give such players away as part of larger deals.
The common denominator in the examples Lowe identified is they typically added 3-point accuracy to their defensive ability to become two-way contributors. Anderson has shot just 28.8 percent from long range as an NBA player (30.3 percent this season) but did manage to shoot 45.2 percent as a junior at Virginia after posting percentages similar to his NBA marks his first two seasons. So it's certainly possible Anderson does the same.
Grading trades right away is a pretty ridiculous exercise — Gotta get those page views, son — but we’re all going to continue to do it anyway. It will be interesting to look back on the Noel deal in a few years and see if we all got it right.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann