The Philadelphia 76ers ruined their process by trading Nerlens Noel

The 2017 NBA trade deadline must be the season for fleecing your opponents.

Although the Dallas Mavericks didn’t quite pull off the same kind of heist the New Orleans Pelicans did in acquiring DeMarcus Cousins earlier in the week, owner Mark Cuban should be very, very happy after his team traded Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18-protected first-round pick for Nerlens Noel on Thursday.

The Mavs undoubtedly won this trade — while the Philadelphia 76ers unquestionably blew it. Yes, they’ll get a solid return for Noel. Adding another first-round pick to Philly’s abundant coffers isn’t a bad thing.

But the trade itself is secondary to the real problem: the Sixers ruined their beloved Process by choosing Jahlil Okafor over Nerlens Noel.

Simply put, Okafor isn’t a high-level NBA player. He doesn’t do anything to help win important basketball games. He can score decently, but he doesn’t rebound, he doesn’t pass, and he doesn’t play defense. He’s an offensive black hole who’s going to inhale precious possessions that should otherwise go to Joel Embiid.

Noel is the exact opposite — a player who struggles mightily to score but does everything else a team needs from a big man. He’s a perfect complement for someone like Embiid as he develops (or someone like Dirk Nowitzki in the twilight of his career).*

*Quick aside: Great trade for Dallas! Nowitzki has one year left, and Noel should ensure the Mavs are playoff contenders for the rest of the Big German’s career. Beyond that, coach Rick Carlisle should unlock the former Philly big man’s full potential as a playmaker and defender. Throw in the protections on the pick and moving Bogut, and this was a borderline perfect trade for Cuban’s franchise.

We don’t know what offers Philly had for Okafor, of course, and it doesn’t matter. The difference between the pick it acquired for Noel and a potential second-rounder for Okafor is infinitely less meaningful than how the two big men fit alongside Embiid moving forward.

There are questions about how Noel, Embiid and Ben Simmons can fit together once the latter returns from injury either this season or next, and those are fair. On the other hand, those same questions exist with Okafor in Noel’s place, and Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Sixers plan to keep Okafor. So that’s a wash.

The only way this trade makes sense for the 76ers is if Noel made it clear behind the scenes that he would not sign as a restricted free agent next offseason, which is highly unlikely. Coming off of his rookie deal, Noel would have to sacrifice the security of a long-term contract to sign a qualifying offer for next year. Then, he could become an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

That’s not nearly enough leverage to force a trade, so the only other conclusion is the Sixers messed up. They valued a first-round pick over chemistry, progress and building a team the right way.

Who knew Bryan Colangelo had a little Sam Hinkie in him after all?