Mar 25, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) battles Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4) for position during the second half at Pepsi Center. The 76ers won 99-85. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
With rumors of Nerlens Noel leaving the Philadelphia 76ers re-emerging, Nuggets fans must wonder if Denver should take a run at the young PF.
Knee-jerk reactions are likely against the idea of the Nuggets targeting Noel. Denver’s front-court is primed, loaded, and ready to fire, with Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and rookie Juan Hernangomez each in positions to compete for playing time.
But when you look at the weapons that Noel brings to the table, a reasonable argument for his acquisition emerges.
Adding Noel into this mix would overcrowd the roster with front-court players. This means that acquiring Noel would most likely send one of these players to Philadelphia. The Nuggets would be forced to take a risk.
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Each of the aforementioned players brings a specific value to the team, in either production or potential. But when put side-by-side, one player emerges as the most expendable of the Nuggets’ front-court assets.
Kenneth Faried, while arguably the best front-court player on the Nuggets, would make for the most sound trade-option when considering the potential acquisition of Nerlens Noel.
Feb 4, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried (35) reacts after a basket during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. The Boston Celtics won 104-100. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Statistically, Kenneth Faried is, the best front-court player on the Nuggets.
Last season, he led the entire team in FG% (55.8%), rebounds per-game (8.7) , and blocks per-game (0.9). He also led all front-court players in points per-game (12.5). Faried is also great supplier of highlight dunks and athletic plays.
This has earned him the appropriate nickname of “The Manimal”, along with a widespread fan-base.
The Nuggets don’t have very much reason to trade Faried. He has contributed well during his minutes on the court, and has a couple of huge games scattered throughout each season. Yet, some have complained of his inconsistency and seemingly stagnant season averages.
With a salary over $12 million a year, coaches’ and fans’ expectations for Faried seem to be higher than what he has been able to deliver.
Giving up Faried would be a tough call. He is a team leader in many ways, and fits in well with Denver’s preferred fast-pace.
But still, the pros of Nerlens Noel’s game have the potential to outweigh the cons of giving up Faried.
Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel celebrates with fans in the crowd following the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The 76ers defeated the Suns 111-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In a simplistic evaluation, four major weapons Noel’s game emerge opposite to two considerable weaknesses.
The good news is obvious; the pros outweigh the cons. The better news is that Noel’s issues are some of the easiest to fix.
Well, they are easy to fix in the sense that practice and composure are all that you would need. Last season,Noel struggled with turning over the ball (2.4 per-game), and making free throws consistently (at just 59%).
Going into only his third year in the NBA, Nerlens Noel has averaged 2.1 turnovers per-game. This stat saw a jump in his second season, which is concerning. One would hope that a second-year player improves upon the turnover averages of their rookie year. Averaging over two turnovers per-game is rather high for a front-court player.
Shooting nearly 60% from the line is not nearly as concerning. Additionally, Kenneth Faried has struggled from the line as well. Acquiring this weakness of Noel’s would not be likely to harm the Nuggets’ numbers from the line.
Working on securing he ball, making smart passes, and upping the on-court IQ of Noel would have to be the Nuggets’ first priority, if they were to wind up acquiring him. While they did, 4 weapons would be added to the team, that make him a potentially better fit than Kenneth Faried.
Nov 19, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) smiles against the Boston Celtics during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics won 101-90. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Youth is still a weapon in Nerlens Noel’s repertoire.
Noel is young.
Simply put, his youth makes every weakness more fixable, and every strength more evolve-able. Being only 22 years old would also put Noel right in the middle of the Nuggets’ currently typical age-range.
Giving Noel the chance to mature with several other young talented players could help yield the sort of chemistry-bound power-team that the Nuggets seem to aiming for.
Noel could add even more youth and depth to an already asset-rich team.
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Faried is not old, but he is about to turn 27 (on November 19th) which puts him on the fringe of being one basketball-generation ahead of the young Nuggets’ core.
Mar 17, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) and Washington Wizards forward Marcus Thornton (15) battle for a rebound during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Noel’s height alone gives him an advantage over Kenneth Faried at the PF position.
Noel also has size to his advantage. At 6’11” and 228lbs, Noel could alleviate the defensive weaknesses derived from Faried’s disadvantage as an undersized PF.
Faried does have the wingspan and vertical to hold his own in shot blocking. But at only 6′ 8″, he is often the target of size-based mismatches. Noel could help put this to rest.
His near seven-foot frame makes him viable at the center position as well. With Noel in the paint instead of Faried, the Nuggets would shed one typically exploited mismatch.
Apr 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) shoots against New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Nerlens Noel can shoot the two from just about anywhere.
Given enough time, he may evolve into a three-point threat as well. He did hit one three-pointer last season.
This is simply not a possibility for Faried. And given the value of a reliable stretch-four in today’s NBA, this weapon of Noel’s should be the driving before behind any potential acquisition.
Take a look at his 2015-16 shot chart. Noel is certainly no dead-eye, but does have the ability to make a shot from practically anywhere within the three-point arch. Shooting is one of the easier elements to improve with practice.
Given Noel’s current shooting abilities, he could make for an instantly diversifying option for the Nuggets’ offense. Plus, he might even be improved already, after another year of off-season work.
Noel managed to increase his FG percentage significantly over just one season, averaging 46.2% in his rookie season, and then 52.1% last year. If he can keep up that sort of improvement, his efficiency could jump up past 60% in no time.
Mar 25, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) looks to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4) during the first half at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
All in all, it seems like a Faried-for-Noel trade would be worth considering.
Both teams have plenty of cap-space, so the difference in salary wouldn’t be an issue. The Nuggets might actually be able to squeeze another player or a future draft pick out of the Sixers as well. Noel’s Salary is under $5 million a year, but his current contract will expire after one year.
After that, his salary would likely jump to something similar to Faried’s, making the current difference all the more forgettable.
At then end of the day, the Nuggets seem streamlined for a program budded from youth and chemistry. They invested in Faried, and have seen some payoff. But with their eyes looking ahead, investing again, in a younger starting PF, could be a wise move for Denver.