Why Noel is the Celtics Most Realistic Trade Target Right Now
Nerlens Noel should currently be the Celtics main trade target since Danny Ainge didn’t want to pull the trigger on a deal to land Serge Ibaka and got involved too late with the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Noel is realistically the next best thing as he fills a few gaping holes that the Celtics desperately need fixed.
The Celtics are currently in need of some grit and grind defensive players as ESPN.com shows they are ranked 26th in defensive rebounding, 22nd in offensive rebounding, and are ranked 23rd in blocking. All areas that Noel has shown he can excel in.
Noel averaged 8.1 Total Rebounds (5.8 defensive and 2.3 offensive) and 1.5 Blocks last season. Those numbers have dipped this season but Noel was inactive for the first 23 games of the season after having a minor procedure on his knee. Since his return, he has seen inconsistent minutes on the floor which he has not taken fondly. On December 16th the Sixers faced off against the Los Angeles Lakers, a game which Noel played just 8 minutes and told reporters after the game, per ESPN, “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. That’s crazy. Need to figure this s–t out.” At the time, the Sixers had three healthy Centers with Jhalil Okafor, Noel, and Joel Embiid which resulted in less minutes for Noel. Since then, Noel has halted his comments of displeasure and has seen an increase in his playing time which is a result of Embiid tearing his meniscus in his left knee. This, however, is only a temporary fix to their problem and the Sixers will have to trade either Okafor or Noel or possibly both to fix their log jam in the front court.
This is where the Celtics step in.
The Celtics have had talks with the Sixers in the past about acquiring Noel, but trade talks fell through as Celtics GM Danny Ainge felt the Sixers were asking for too much. The Sixers were reportedly looking for the number three pick in last year’s draft (that pick turned into Jaylen Brown) as well as players.
The Sixers are probably still looking for a decent return for their irritated center and the Celtics have the pieces needed to acquire Noel from the City of Brotherly Love.
The Celtics can use various different combinations of players and draft picks to acquire Noel it’s just a matter of which combo will both teams agree to. The base of any of these trade combinations will more than likely be around one of the guards the Celtics employ who is not named Isaiah Thomas.
Avery Bradley’s name has surfaced in past trade talks as the Celtics will more than likely have to give him a hefty pay raise if he continues on the same path of improvement that he has been following the past few seasons. Bradley will be on the books for a bargain $8.8 million next season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he looks for Evan Turner type money in free agency. The Celtics are also going to have to resign Isaiah Thomas, who has already stated he is looking for the Celtics to, “…bring out the Brinks truck” and he will be a bigger priority than Bradley. The Celtics are still on the hunt to add a superstar to their roster which in will mean they’ll have three max contract players. The best way for them to avoid having to pay Bradley’s hefty price tag is to trade him away now. Noel is in the final year of his contract and he has put up solid numbers in his three years playing, but he also missed his rookie season with an ACL tear and has yet to have a completely healthy season. This will make it easier for the Celtics to resign or extend him for less money in the off season.
It looks as if the trade makes sense, not just financially but in terms of needs for both teams. The Celtics are in need of a big man that can do all the dirty work defensively and the Sixers need guards that can make plays and score. The biggest hurdle with this trade is; what will the Sixers be looking for in return?
If the Celtics were to send Bradley to the Sixers, the Sixers shouldn’t be expecting anything thing other than the Celtics’ first round draft pick in 2018 or the Clippers 2019 first round draft pick and a couple second round picks from this year’s draft. Anything more and Danny Ainge won’t make the deal. The Sixers might have to throw in a couple future second round picks or a low first round pick of their own to even the deal.
This deal could also be made by substituting in Terry Rozier or Marcus Smart, but the Celtics might have to throw in a higher projected pick like the Memphis’ 2019 1st round pick.
Another trade possibility could be the Celtics sending someone like Amir Johnson or Tyler Zeller to the Sixers. The Sixers would more than likely be looking for either this year’s or next year’s Brooklyn pick. Danny Ainge has already stated that he won’t be giving up either of those picks for anything less than a superstar in return.
For Celtics’ fans that might be concerned about Noel’s fit with the team, they should have very little to worry about as his injuries haven’t held him back from being able to run up and down the court and make (or finish) highlight plays as he showcased about a week ago:
Noel might not currently be able to spread floor (as he is only shooting 12.1% from anywhere outside of three feet from the basket) or be someone who is an exceptional passer (as he’s only averaging 1.6 assists), but he is only 22 which gives him time to develop. Al Horford is better at the PF position as he can spread the floor as well as facilitate the ball, which means the two will stay out of each other’s way. This also prevents them from clogging up the paint and interrupting I.T.’s ability to dive to the basket.
As for the defensive end, both Horford and Noel will be unmovable towers as both players have the ability to block shots (Horford is averaging 1.53 BLK which is good for 13th in the league according to ESPN.com) and rebound at consistent rate.
There’s a better chance the Celtics are going to make a smaller trade before the trade deadline, than one that’ll land them a superstar, and that means they won’t be a threat to replace LeBron and the Cavs as Eastern Conference Champions this season. Even if they were able to land a superstar there’s no guarantee that said superstar will mesh with the team or even propel the Celtics passed the Cavs. Trading for Noel, letting him get used to the system, and then resigning him for a 10 million dollar or less a year contract is more realistic.
The Celtics will still have all of their major assets minus Bradley, Smart, or Rozier and enough cap space to trade for a superstar or court one in free agency, all while filling in glaring holes.