‘Tis the season for NBA trade rumors, and you can add Nerlens Noel to the wish list.
The Philadelphia 76ers big man has become the league’s trade target de jour, and with good reason. After missing the first two-plus months of the season due to a knee injury, Noel returned last week only to find himself the odd man out in Philly’s crowded frontcourt.
That led to Noel’s postgame rant after playing just eight minutes Friday, which led to head coach Brett Brown removing him from the Sixers’ rotation completely. With both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid ahead of him on the depth chart, it sure looks like Noel won’t be in Philly much longer.
So, to which team can the 22-year-old bring tidings of joy? The Boston Celtics reportedly expressed interest in acquiring the Everett, Mass., native this summer, making them an intriguing candidate. With that, let’s break down why trading for Noel would and wouldn’t make sense for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Co.
THE CASE FOR ACQUIRING NOEL
The Celtics are getting killed on the glass this season. They rank 28th in the NBA with 42 rebounds per game, and their -4.0 rebound differential is fourth-worst in the league. Who better to help fill that void than the 6-foot-11 Noel, who averaged 8.1 rebounds per game in his first two NBA seasons (numbers that would make him Boston’s current rebounding leader)?
Noel also has Boston roots and, given his struggles in Philly, could come at a relatively inexpensive price. If the C’s can swap a future Brooklyn Nets first-round pick for a 22-year-old with a solid defensive foundation and high offensive upside, that seems like a pretty darn good deal.
THE CASE AGAINST ACQUIRING NOEL
Noel does come with question marks, most notably involving injuries. He’s already had two surgeries on his left knee in four years, the first of which caused him to miss his entire rookie season in 2013-14, and missed 15 games last season due to various ailments.
He’s also still unpolished offensively — the Celtics could use some interior scoring outside Al Horford — and his latest comments in Philly aren’t a great reflection of his character. Pursuing Noel might not be worth the cost if the Sixers try to raise his asking price.
This is too good of a fit for Boston to pass up. The Celtics need rim protection and rebounding, two of Noel’s biggest strengths. At just 22 years old, he’s worth the cost of a Brooklyn draft pick, which would just be used on another young player with supposed upside.
Noel could benefit from a fresh start, and the Sixers could benefit from another high draft selection, which could have value with a promising draft class on the way. Time for Noel to trade in his Sixer blue for Celtic green and bring some holiday cheer to Boston.
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