Philadelphia 76ers Trade Options As Deadline Looms

Oct 30, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (left) and center Jahlil Okafor (right) watch from the bench during the final minutes of a game against the Utah Jazz at Wells Fargo Center. The Utah Jazz won 99-71. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers have made great strides this season. But questions still remain regarding the future of some of their young stars.

Bryan Colangelo’s first real test as the Philadelphia 76ers‘ president of basketball operations could be looming. His first assignment in selecting Ben Simmons with the No.1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft was considered a no-brainer.

His first significant trade was made earlier this season and flew somewhat under the radar. Colangelo traded young forward Jeremi Grant to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for forward Ersan Ilyasova.

So far, Simmons has yet to play due to a foot injury, while Ilyasova has been a pleasant surprise since his arrival at the Wells Fargo Center.

But it will be the decisions he makes regarding the futures of the 76ers’ young frontcourt players in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel that will be critical moving forward.

The emergence this season of clear Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid has cast significant doubt over the roles of Okafor and Noel moving forward.

Okafor, taken with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft, has regressed significantly this season. After averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in 53 appearances as a rookie, Okafor’s numbers have dropped to 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 34 games.

Noel, meanwhile, has also regressed in both confidence and playing time with the arrival of Embiid. After missing the first 23 games of the season due to a knee injury, Noel is averaging 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 17.9 minutes per game.

This is a sharp drop from the 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds Noel averaged last season in 29.3 minutes per game.

Colangelo has entered the 76ers organization at a crucial juncture. The hoard of current and future assets acquired in recent years by his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, means the 76ers can be set up for sustained success if the correct decisions are made.

Colangelo noted at his introductory press conference:

“This may be one of the best jobs in basketball right now. Given all the things that have been established over the last three years, given the draft picks that are in place, given the cap flexibility, given the fact that ownership is committed. It’s a tremendous sports town with passionate fans. We’re going to embrace that passion.”

Dec 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) reacts against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Assessing Okafor

The Sam Hinkie era, aka “The Process,” saw the 76ers in a position to accumulate multiple high lottery picks. The most recent of these was Jahlil Okafor, the former Duke product who was touted to be the possible No.1 overall pick during his solitary season with the Blue Devils.

At 6-foot-11 and just recently turned 21, Okafor presents a tantalizing prospect for a number of teams around the league.

Okafor has demonstrated in his 87 career games to this point that he can become one of the supreme low post players in the game. Combining this with his size and basketball intelligence can make him a handful for any opponent.

However, the defensive side of his game is where the question marks abound.

The 76ers are allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions with Okafor on the court and 103.7 when he is resting. Overall this season, the Sixers are minus-15.1 points per 100 possessions with Okafor on the floor. They are just minus-2.4 when he is off the court.

Therefore, the Sixers need to target which teams could be interested in Okafor’s services, and what they could obtain in return.

Orlando

Considering the makeup of the Orlando Magic roster, it’s little surprise that they find themselves with a 20-33 record and seemingly headed nowhere.

Despite having a number of recent lottery selections (Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja), they have yet to land a player who could be confidently labeled a future All-Star.

Okafor possesses the talent level that would enthrall a team such as the Magic. Their recent acquisition in forward Serge Ibaka is someone who could ideally fit the 76ers’ future blueprint.

Still just 27 and with the ability to stretch the floor, Ibaka alongside Embiid would form a lethal defensive presence for the Sixers.

The key elements of a potential deal would be as follows:

Philadelphia receives: Serge Ibaka, Mario Hezonja
Orlando receives: Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric

Click here to see how the trade would pan out.

Utah

A deal with the Utah Jazz could be a real possibility. Jazz forward Derrick Favors has been oft-injured and will be a free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season.

The Jazz have recently committed a huge deal with center Rudy Gobert and have All-Star Gordon Hayward and point guard George Hill hitting free agency this summer.

The No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 draft and still just 25, Favors could very easily be the odd man out in Utah. Favors possesses a versatile inside-outside game and would represent a great second-fiddle to play alongside Embiid. Here is an example of Favors at his best:

As an extension of the proposed deal, young point guard Dante Exum could be a bargain of a find if they could pull off the transaction.

Coming back after missing last season with a torn ACL, Exum is slowly starting to show glimpses of the player the chose with the No. 5 overall pick of the 2014 draft.

Furthermore, Exum could be reunited with 76ers’ rookie and childhood friend, Ben Simmons. Combined with another Australian connection in head coach Brett Brown, this could be a multi-faceted win for the Sixers.

For Utah, the 7-foot-1 defensive presence of Gobert would provide a great cover for the defensive deficiencies of Okafor. In addition, Okafor would provide the Jazz with the elite post scorer they have lacked since the days of Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap.

The key elements of a potential deal would be as follows:

Philadelphia receives: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum
Utah receives: Jahlil Okafor, Jerryd Bayless

Click here to see how this trade pans out.

Phoenix

The Phoenix Suns are presently a team heading nowhere. Aside from their dynamic backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, the team as a whole has simply not gelled under first-year head coach Earl Watson.

A move for Okafor would provide the Suns with a legitimate low-post option, something clearly lacking on their roster. Veteran defensive center Tyson Chandler would provide a terrific complement alongside Okafor in their frontcourt.

For the Sixers, they’d be acquiring an under-utilized point guard in Brandon Knight, who just last season averaged 19.6 points and 5.1 assists per game. Further, third-year forward T.J. Warren would provide the Sixers with a legitimate wing scoring threat.

Warren started this season on fire, averaging 20.0 points on 47.3 percent shooting over the first 11 games before missing time with a concussion.

Knight is on a very favorable contract, earning $12,606,250 this season with steady increments until it expires after the 2019-20 season. Meanwhile, Warren’s rookie contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Check out the following highlights of Knight excelling against Golden State Warriors in the midst of their 73-win season:

The key elements of a potential deal would be as follows:

Philadelphia receives: Brandon Knight, T.J. Warren
Phoenix receives: Jahlil Okafor, Jerryd Bayless

Click here to see how this trade pans out.

Jan 20, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) looks on against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Noel Possibilities

Nerlens Noel is the other key frontcourt player whose future Colangelo needs to decide upon. Still just 22, Noel represents a player with enormous potential who could excel given the right circumstances.

Widely expected to become No.1 overall pick in his draft year, a knee in his solitary season saw him slip to the No.6 overall pick.

The resultant knee injury saw Noel miss the entire 2013-14 season. At 6-foot-11, Noel is seen a high-level shot blocker who possesses terrific ball-handling and passing skills.

Just watching the following clip of Noel from Jan. 24 this season provides a tease of what Noel is capable of producing.

But due to Noel’s contract expiring at the end of this season, the 76ers’ leverage is severely restricted.

Other teams can simply wait until the summer to pursue Noel without having to give up any assets in return, although as a restricted free agent, Philadelphia would have the ability to match any offers for Noel.

Here are some possible Noel destinations:

Dallas

Currently, the Dallas Mavericks have an aging frontcourt. Dirk Nowitzki is 38 with a team option for next season on his current contract. Andrew Bogut, acquired last offseason, is 33 and is again experiencing a myriad of injuries. He is a free agent at the end of this season.

Acquiring Noel for the remainder of the season would be a great way for the Mavericks to audition a possible future pivot man. The 76ers in return would be looking for some elite perimeter shooting in return, something they are currently lacking.

In his first season with the Mavericks, Seth Curry has continued to improve as his confidence has grown. Over his last 10 games, Curry has averaged 17.4 points on 51.9 percent shooting. He has also hit at a 46.3 percent clip from behind three, nailing 2.5 per game.

Furthermore, the recent emergence of Yogi Ferrell would somewhat lessen the loss of Curry for the Mavericks.

Check out the video here of a terrific recent Curry performance:

The key elements of a potential deal are as follows:

Philadelphia receives: Seth Curry
Dallas receives: Nerlens Noel

Click here to see how the deal pans out.

Boston

The Boston Celtics don’t have a certified “man in the middle.” Amir Johnson currently mans the middle alongside power forward Al Horford. Kelly Olynyk is a pseudo backup, while Horford also spends stretches of the game at the 5.

Acquiring Noel would provide both a great complement to Horford, but also a player they could tie heading into the future.

Marcus Smart has proven to be a valuable reserve guard for the Celtics, and is currently averaging 30.7 minutes per game. Losing Smart would be a blow for the Celtics, but the emergence to superstar status of point guard Isaiah Thomas would somewhat lessen the blow.

Smart would represent an ideal addition to the Sixers’ backcourt. A hard-nosed defender with an incredible competitive streak, Smart fits the mold of the type of player that coach Brown would desire.

This video encapsulates the best qualities that Smart brings to the floor:

The key elements of a potential deal are as follows:

Philadelphia receives: Marcus Smart
Boston receives: Nerlens Noel

Click here to see how this trade pans out.

Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo during an introduction press conference at the Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Colangelo Time

Bryan Colangelo has an impressive track record as a front office executive. He first won the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2004-05 when in charge of the Phoenix Suns.

This was due primarily to the acquisition of point guard Steve Nash, who would go onto win the league’s MVP award. Other notable moves he made with the Suns were:

He also won the award in 2007 when he was in control of the Toronto Raptors, where he oversaw a 20-game improvement for the Raptors. Some of Colangelo’s notable moves with the Raptors were:

Colangelo had a number of hits, but he also had some misses. Trading Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury. Trading Luol Deng for Jackson Vroman and Nate Robinson. Drafting Andrea Bargnani at No. 1 overall.

The 76ers currently have the NBA’s lowest payroll and have just $47,810,380 in guaranteed contracts for next season. Considering the league’s salary cap next season is expected be $102 million, this represents enough room to play with.

When you add Okafor, Noel and the stash of future draft picks Colangelo has at his disposal, there is a real chance for the 76ers to make some serious noise over the coming 12 months.

Colangelo further stated at his introductory press conference:

“I just want to be very clear that this is not about a departure from a process, a departure from a strategy. This is a moving forward with everything that’s already been established, everything that’s in place, and we’re going to be measured in our continued building of this organization.”

“This is a transition from this measured rebuilding process to sustainable winning. That’s what’s important to establish here. We will be pragmatic, we will be utilizing the tools and resources. You can only have so many developing players on your roster at a time, so there may be some decision to defer some of those to future years and there may be a decision to package some of those things to acquire players that make sense and fit our strategy.

Colangelo’s sentiments here are spot on and are a terrific blueprint moving forward.

For the sake of the long-suffering 76ers’ fans, lets hope Colangelo follows through with his intentions.

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