December 14, 2016
Just one game after making his season debut, Sixers center Nerlens Noel will miss Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors with a sprained left ankle. The injury isn’t expected to keep Noel out long-term, so it sounds like he could possibly return to the floor on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
While we’re on the subject of Noel, Thursday (December 15th) marks the unofficial start of NBA trade season, as many players who signed contracts last summer will then be eligible to get traded. And on his very own podcast, Adrian Wojnarowski (the GOAT) commented on the state of Noel trade talks.
You are likely going to see Nerlens' name pop up in rumors and reports all the way up from now until the NBA trade deadline, if he isn't dealt before then. And according to Woj, things aren’t going so hot:
“The research teams have done on him is not good,” Wojnarowski said. “They don’t get good reports back on their intel, how he’s carried himself there, of his habits. It’s not a great return. There are teams willing to do a deal for him and bring him in but they don’t want to give up much. And so at some point there, Philly has got to make a decision, ‘What’s the best we can get for him?’ I think at some point he probably moves, too.”
Woj’s intel isn’t all that surprising, considering what an awkward start to the season Noel and the Sixers have gotten off to. Remember, the team officially referred to the late-October surgery on his left knee as “elective.” It seems like eons ago, but the 22-year-old center also made a huge splash at media day by honestly assessing the Sixers’ big man glut.
Fast-forward ten weeks, and we’re still waiting on Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Joel Embiid to all be healthy at the same time. At yesterday’s Sixers practice, Noel was asked about Brett Brown’s plan to handle the center position, and if the idea of the best rim protector playing the 5 made sense to him:
“Yeah it does but it doesn’t [make sense] because I think I’ll be able to guard the perimeter better than Jahlil or Joel even though I can still protect the rim," he said. "So I think even if I’m playing with one of them, I’ll still be out on the perimeter which isn’t one of my strengths. Well it is one of my strengths, switching out, but it’s not one of my strengths as opposed to being by the rim. But yeah, I’m more versatile to do certain things and I think when I’m in there with them, I’ll be more on the perimeter.”
Translation: I protect the rim pretty good, and it’s not going to matter.
It’s telling that teams are still willing to trade for Noel, even with a trip into restricted free agency (and possibly a big financial commitment) on the horizon. He has already proven to be a talented rim protector and unique defensive anchor at the 5, and he’s actually a month younger than Embiid.
But it’s probably safe to say that if the Sixers want to move on from Noel, they aren’t dealing from a position of strength.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann