Via the Goalkeeper and a h/t to Brad Youtz
As recently as December, Bryan Colangelo insisted the Sixers would not trade one of their centers just for the sake of clearing up the logjam in the club’s frontcourt. “I will not make a bad deal for this organization,” the general manager said.
What changed in the past two months?
On Thursday, Colangelo sent Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for a conditional first-round draft choice that in all likelihood will become a pair of second-round picks; Justin Anderson, a second-year prospect with nowhere near Noel’s upside; and Andrew Bogut, who may never even wear a Sixers uniform (perhaps the best case scenario, in all honesty). This is an objectively bad deal for the Sixers!
Sure, there are numerous explanations for the disappointing return on Noel. The NBA is well aware the Sixers have too many centers, so Colangelo was bargaining from a position of weakness. The Sacramento Kings didn’t do the Sixers any favors, either, by woefully short-changing themselves in the DeMarcus Cousins swap. And Noel will be a restricted free agent come July, creating the kind of uncertainty that tends to hurt value.
Yet none of those excuses justifies Colangelo’s decision, and the reason is very simple. There was absolutely nothing compelling the Sixers to make this move right now.
If Noel wasn’t gone at the trade deadline, then what? They risked losing him in free agency and winding up with nothing in return.
First, to that argument, the return the Sixers did get on Noel feels like nothing. Even a top-18 protected pick isn’t much of an asset to the franchise at this point, while two seconds are essentially meaningless. Bogut is, too, for that matter. Anderson is not without some promise, although his ceiling probably isn’t as high as Noel’s floor.
Nothing the Sixers accomplished here is going to help the team win a championship.
Of course, the fear that Noel would walk away and leave the Sixers with empty pockets is built on something of a faulty premise to begin with. That was only one potential outcome.
One possibility was also to make an actual attempt to re-sign Noel long-term. Another possibility was matching an offer sheet if those efforts ultimately failed. Another outcome still was a tepid market forcing him to accept the Sixers’ one-year qualifying offer.
By doing literally any of those things, the Sixers could have traded Noel at a later date. Even if Colangelo already determined the 22-year-old was not going to be part of the future, he could have waited to see if a better offer would materialize at a later date.
Any number of components would have changed over time. The Sixers could’ve dumped Jhalil Okafor, creating room in their frontcourt and restoring the organization’s bargaining power in the process. The market would’ve had a chance to reset after the disastrous Cousins trade made moving bigs for any semblance of value next to impossible. By merely holding on to Noel, the Sixers could’ve created the perception they just may want to keep him around, allowing the front office to raise the asking price.
An injury to a key player could've driven up Noel's value for a desperate team. His own development might've made him a more attractive piece around the league. Who knows, maybe Colangelo would've come to appreciate Noel's role with the Sixers in the meantime — just saying.
Would there be risks involved with that approach?
Not any greater than the risk of getting fleeced.
There’s little doubt that if Noel went on to sign an offer sheet in July and the Sixers didn’t match, the organization would be facing backlash as a result of that turn of events as well. While it’s a little difficult to accept that could’ve transpired, we can’t pretend the scenario didn’t exist.
Regardless, trading Noel for this package feels like a give-up move on the part of Colangelo. It seems like exactly the thing he promised he wouldn’t do, which was move one of the Sixers’ centers purely because they have too many.
To make matters worse, the timing of all of this suggests Colangelo allowed the trade deadline and Noel’s status as an impending restricted free agent to dictate his decision-making, which is a sin far greater than simply making a bad deal.
That’s the sign of a bad process.
Here are some assorted quotes from Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, after he opened his day-after-trade deadline press conference by announcing Ben Simmons is out for the season.
On Nerlens Noel
"Nerlens was obviously a part of something here over the last several years that has become a tough slog through of a lot of losing and unfortunately a lot of things that brought people to a point where it was about moving forward.
"That's where we are today. Nerlens is a player that contributed a lot to the organization in a lot of ways. A respected teammate. We think that in Dallas he's got an opportunity to achieve what he'd like to achieve, which is a starting role and a commensurate contract."
Draft picks involved in Noel trade
"The value of second-round picks is higher with the use of two-way contracts.
"In terms of the first, not dissimilar to what happened with the OKC pick that's due to us. You never know what's going to happen in this league, you never know how it's going to turn out.
"We're realists, we talk about the true value of the pick as two seconds."
Why not a better return for Noel?
"The market dictates what's there. And interestingly given our situation with multip;le talented bigs, I think its pretty safe to say that people view us as a place to come if they're looking for a big.
"Several bigs were out there and available.
"Trade went down early, Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation obviously with Jahlil early, some advanced discussions.
"The situation with Nerlens, him being a RFA certainly affected how people approached that type of player.
"It was more or less the case that concern with how that contract might look in the future was a concern and (caused) apprehension."
Regret how you handled Joel Embiid's injury status?
"I regret saying day to day when it should have been out indefinitely.
"It was a mistake to put out day to day. It won't happen again.
"Two to three weeks may have been mentioned as a possibility, but to say that publicly might not have been the best thing at the time because I was also told sometimes it's 4 to 6 weeks for a bone bruise to resolve itself.
"Sometimes, taking it a step further, sometimes a bone bruise may stay on a scan for 6 to 8 weeks."
Market for Okafor?
Because Okafor is on a rookie contract with two years left, Colangelo said the market for him was "more broad" and more conducive to a trade, but the right offer did not materialize.
Colangelo said talks could be revisited in the offseason.
Adding Justin Anderson in Noel deal
"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, talent, athleticism.
"We like to describe him as someone who's got that edge. ... Philly fans are gonna love Justin's approach to the game.
"We're excited. He adds something to the mix that we're excited to have."