NBA Rumors: Philadelphia 76ers Nerlens Noel For Nikola Mirotic?

With Philadelphia 76ers’ Nerlens Noel Rehabbing With Delaware 87ers, Forbes writer Brian Mazique Sees Value Trading For Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic

Until the Philadelphia 76ers re-sign center/power forward Nerlens Noel to a multi-year contract, deal him to another team, or allow him to walk away unfettered in free agency, trade rumors will persist. Until then, everyone and anyone who writes about basketball has weighed in on the future of Noel.

And why not? Speculation is wild. All you need to do is drop Noel’s name into the narrative, plop a name of another NBA team, mix in an underperforming player’s name, and “VOILA!”… instant NBA rumor.

But while it’s easy to “poo poo” the rumors, it’s naive to ignore the signs. Nerlens Noel became injured just as the regular season approached.  At a time where he could shine, he couldn’t answer the bell.

Nerlens Noel elected to have arthroscopic surgery as the season opened, essentially eliminating his opportunity to play for the Philadelphia 76ers while the team scrambled to manage minutes for both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid.

Secondly, the team extended both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, but has remained ominously silent on the matter of any contract negotiations with Noel.   In fact, a recent article of Josh Wilson of Sixer Sense (a must read, by the way) revealed that Noel’s situation has deteriorated to the point where he is the center most likely to be dealt via trade.

Before sentiments take sides on the issue, Noel created this fissure by calling out the front office publicly.  From that point forward, his fate has been sealed. All that is left is to find a deal that works for two NBA teams that gives Noel a new home.

Sep 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) dribbles the ball during media day at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

New Deal Rumors

And so, in the vacuum of knowledge comes speculation.  Amidst plenty of whispers, scenarios, and speculations, the latest appears to be a speculation of “fit” from the GM drawing board of Forbes writer Brian Mazique.

THE DEAL:

Philadelphia 76ers get : Chicago Bulls power forward Nickola Mirotic.  Mirotic is a 6-foot-10 238 pound 25 year old power forward who was drafted 23rd in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets.  This season, he is earning $5,782,450 and is in his final year. Mirotic is playing in his third NBA season, and averages 22.4 minutes, 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .7 blocks and .7 steals per game. He averages 40.6 percent shooting from the floor, and 35.1 percent from three point range.  He is a true power forward who is young enough to carry minutes for the team while having true potential for upside.  To sweeten the deal, the Bulls could toss in the lesser of either their own first round draft pick, or that of the Sacramento Kings (top 10 protected) in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Chicago Bulls get: Philadelphia 76ers center/power forward Nerlens Noel.  Noel is a 6-foot-11 228 pound  center/power forward who was drafted sixth in the 2013 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.  This season, Noel is earning $4,384,490 and has not been extended a qualifying offer by the Philadelphia 76ers.   Noel has yet to play in his third season, opting to undergo surgery for his knee and currently assigned to rehab with the Delaware 87ers.  He averages 30.1 minutes, 10.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.8 steals per game.  In fact, his defense is one of the best in the NBA. While not exhibiting much in the way of making his own shots, he has averaged 49.0 percent accuracy from the floor, and has shot 50 percent (1 of 2) from three point range.  The Bulls would likely use Noel off the bench this year, and if he demonstrates enough “oomph”, could use him in front court rotation next season.

Apr 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) and Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) attempt to get a loose ball during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Why And Why Not?

WHY THIS DEAL COULD WORK:

It creates a change of scenery to both players. Noel would get a chance to play behind and learn from Brook Lopez.  Mirotic would get a chance to develop under the mentoring of head coach Brett Brown.  In either case, both players are on the last year of expiring contracts, and neither seems destined to garner much interest from their respective teams. This deal gives both a fresh start, albeit for the remainder of this season.  Mirotic could be the bridge between rookies Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, and act like an insurance policy if Robert Covington continues to score sporadically this season.  Noel’s versatility would flourish on the Bull’s roster, and if he entices their front office, could lend himself as a major cog to the team’s playoff hopes for years to come.

WHY THIS DEAL WON’T WORK

Mirotic would be another power forward in a rapidly increasing number of front court power forwards.  At this moment, the Philadelphia 76ers boast Dario Saric, Ersan Ilyasova, Robert Covington, Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes, and of course Nerlens Noel. If the goal of this trade is to break a logjam at center, all this would do is muddy the rotation at power forward.  Even in the chance that Holmes continues to back up at center, and the 76ers fast track Simmons to point guard, this hinders the team’s ability to get quality minutes for promising rooking Dario Saric, and dilutes the impact of veteran Ilyasova.

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

Brett Brown Needs Versatility

Head coach Brett Brown is emphasizing defense this year. Mirotic, even by Mazique’s own admission, offers next to nothing on the defensive side of the court:

“Mirotic is a streaky scorer with below average defense and hit-and-miss rebounding. I can see him developing into a more consistent scorer, but never much more than that over the course of his career.” – Brian Mazique’s Nerlens Noel For Nikola Mirotic Makes Sense For Chicago Bulls And Philadelphia 76ers

Finally, the team is seeking shooters. Mirotic is not the stretch four sought by the 76ers. Perhaps if another team enters the mix, this may develop some traction.  For now, it merely looks like a trade that gets a thumbs up on an NBA GM simulation

CONCLUSION

In the end, it’s a deal that theoretically could occur, but does little to improve the Philadelphia 76ers long term.  Exchanging Noel for Mirotic simply compounds the 76ers stack of quality players at power forward, and does nothing to yield a versatile player who could stretch the floor, score from the perimeter, or enhance the pace, space or pass offense Brown holds dear.

Brett Brown is finally getting the pieces to build a championship team around, but cannot succeed by recycling project players cast off from another team. Nikola Mirotic is a solid traditional power forward who could contribute to the right team.  But I fail to see a significant contribution to this 76ers team as they are currently being constructed.

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