A Nerlens Noel Trade is Still Possible, But Will it Happen?

Apr 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) and head coach Brett Brown talks during the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) and head coach Brett Brown talks during the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

A Nerlens Noel trade could still happen, but how likely is it?

The trade rumors surrounding the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will not go away. Prior to the draft it made a lot of sense for the Celtics and 76ers to strike a deal. The 76ers were expected, and did, draft power forward Ben Simmons with the top pick and were expecting, and now know, that Joel Embiid and Dario Saric will suit up for the team in 2016-17.

With Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor already on the roster, there is quite the logjam of young big men with a lot of potential on Philadelphia. Yet, they still lack a point guard. That made Boston the perfect trade partner back in June when Boston could have included the third pick in the draft into a deal with Philadelphia, so the 76ers could select star point guard Kris Dunn.

Whether it was due to the Celtics stubbornness or the 76ers overvaluing Okafor and Noel, no trade took place. Instead, both teams stayed put and now own crowded rosters. Despite the trade rumors between these two teams dying down a little over the past month, they have started picking back up once again.

CSN New England reports that the Celtics wouldn’t oppose a deal for Nerlens Noel. That shouldn’t as come much of a surprise as Boston has tried to land another difference maker all offseason. Even after the draft and free agency passed, Danny Ainge was reluctant to admitting that the Celtics were done for the summer.

Boston is probably still interested in plenty of marquee players, trying to convince a team to make a deal without giving up one of the Brooklyn picks is the hard part. The problem is every team wants at least one of the Nets picks if they trade one of their centerpieces.

With Ainge not budging when it comes to those luxurious picks, it seems like a deal won’t happen. If Boston wanted to strike up a deal with the 76ers the right time would have been before the draft. This was one of the least valuable third picks in recent memory and they would have added a center who would have instantly made their front court significantly better.

Now that Al Horford signed with the Celtics, Boston is likely kicking themselves for not making a deal for Noel or Okafor. Noel played 35 percent of his minutes as a power forward last season, making him a perfect fit alongside Horford.

For one, Noel would add the rim protector the Celtics failed to land this summer. Sure, Horford’s 1.5 blocks per game would have led the team last season, although it’s a stretch to consider him a true rim protector. Although, Noel averaged 1.9 blocks as a rookie and 1.5 last season. His athleticism and leaping ability sets him apart from other big men, giving him the potential to become one of the most dominating shot blockers in the league very soon.

Offensively, Noel needs some work. He’s not a jump shooter, can’t play with his back to the basket and isn’t an extraordinary pick-and-roll player, but that’s probably perfect for the Celtics. With Isaiah Thomas running the show and Al Horford providing Boston with a passing big man, the Celtics don’t have a lot of touches to go around.

Their roster is filled with shooters and a couple of players who can make a highlight dunk, although letting Noel focus on grabbing offensive rebounds and cleaning up down low would help his game. Besides, his 2.3 offensive rebounds per game ranked 23rd in the league last season.

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It’s been noted before that Noel would provide a defensive anchor in the paint, while his interior-oriented offensive game meshes well with Horford and the Celtics three-point-happy offense. Although, just because the Celtics want Noel doesn’t mean it will happen.

Like previously noted, the Celtics would have been better off trading the third pick in the draft and packaging it with a couple of their young back court players. This still would have been an option if Boston drafted Kris Dunn, however the selection of Jaylen Brown essentially blocked any trade that could have occurred with the 2016 third pick.

With only one empty roster spot, the Celtics do have the option of trading some of their younger guards. R.J. Hunter, James Young and Abdel Nader are all wing players bidding for the final roster spot. Although, it would take some sort of combination that also included Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley to add the third-year center out of Kentucky to Boston’s roster.

While possible trade scenarios and the Celtics interest might mean nothing, Nerlens Noel Twitter page did have a couple of odd things happen today. Noel was born in Malden, Massachusetts, just a 34 minute drive from Boston. While there is no doubt Noel is very fond of the city, he has never really made that a point of emphasis.

Although, today, he tweeted out, “I’m blessed to be from Boston. Love my city.”

Plus, Noel also changed his Twitter avatar and background. His avatar is now plain black and he removed the Philadelphia skyline from his background and now has nothing on it. For all you conspiracy theorists, you must be really enjoying yourselves following Noel’s busy Twitter day.

This obviously could mean nothing. Other than Boston reportedly being interested in the big man, there is nothing to suggest that a deal will actually get done anytime soon. Both sides disagree on what the centerpiece of the deal should be, therefore it makes it extraordinarily hard to agree on a deal if you can’t agree with the basic framework.

Although, if the Celtics were able to make a package that was appetizing enough for the 76ers, they should jump on that opportunity right away. It would turn their front court from mediocre to one of the best in the league, doing so in just one offseason.

Nerlens Noel isn’t the star player that will lead the Celtics past the Cleveland Cavaliers, but rim protection is clearly important in the playoffs as the Cavaliers were able to come back down 3-1 in the Finals led by their front court, and the Celtics’ offense went stagnant due to Horford’s rim protection in the first round.

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For a time where rumors are starting to die down, Noel’s Twitter page was enough to give Boston fans hope that they’d be able to add to already one of the best starting lineups in the league.