NBA Trade Rumors: Celtics Prefer Nerlens Noel, Not Jahlil Okafor, In A Potential Trade For The No. 3 Overall Draft Pick

With Thursday’s 2016 NBA draft only two days away, rumors are heating up regarding the potential selections in the first round. While the Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly going to select Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick, the rest of the draft order is yet to be determined. In all likelihood, the Los Angeles Lakers will draft Brandon Ingram with the No. 2 overall pick. Assuming Ingram is the Lakers’ guy, the Boston Celtics are going to have a difficult decision to make with the No. 3 overall selection.

While there are talented players available in the No. 3 slot, none of them have the upside that Simmons and Ingram possess. For that reason, the Celtics are rumored to be interested in trading for either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor of the 76ers. While it was originally thought that Okafor was the more intriguing of the two young big men, a new report is stating that the Celtics actually prefer Noel in a potential trade, according to Brian Geltzeiler of Hoops Critic.

At only 22-years-old, Noel has already established himself as one of the top rim protectors in the entire NBA. While his offense has improved over the past two seasons, it is unlikely that he is ever going to be a dominant scorer. Regardless of his offensive limitations, his defense and rebounding potential has to be intriguing for the Celtics. Additionally, he has proven that he has the ability to consistently block shots.

At only 20-years-old, Okafor has the potential to be an offensive star. In his rookie season with the 76ers, he averaged 17.5 points per game, 7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. The problem with Okafor is his subpar defense. While he has the ability to improve, his lack of athleticism is most likely going to put a cap on his defensive potential.

Regardless of each player’s upside, the Celtics are looking to add Noel to their roster. While it was originally thought that a potential deal between the 76ers and Celtics would be a one-for-one trade — Okafor for the No. 3 overall pick — it appears as though the 76ers will have to add more if Noel is the main piece, as reported by Jon Johnson of Sports Radio 94 WIP.

In addition to the No. 1 overall pick, the 76ers also hold two other first-round draft picks — No. 24 and No. 26. While it is unknown what other compensation the Celtics would require, it is likely that one of these picks would have to be included in a potential trade. Since the Celtics need help in the frontcourt, and the 76ers need help at the guard position, this deal really makes sense for both teams. Larry Brown Sports breaks down the benefits of the deal.

“An athletic, instinctive rim guardian like Noel who can also switch on pick-and-rolls and seal off perimeter penetration would be a godsend for Boston. While Amir Johnson is an excellent interior defender, the Celtics had a tough time coaxing adequate defensive performances out of their big man trio of Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk. On Philadelphia’s end of things, Noel shares some positional overlap with the guy it looks like they will be choosing No. 1 overall, Ben Simmons.”

Since the 76ers have an abundance of big men, losing Noel is a loss that they can absorb. With the No. 3 overall pick, the 76ers could potentially draft Providence guard Kris Dunn, who has the potential to be an elite distributor and defender in the NBA.

While nothing is imminent, it appears as though the Boston Celtics are pushing to make a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Nerlens Noel. Since draft picks are going to be a major factor in a potential deal, expect a trade to go down before Thursday’s draft. If the trade does not happen before or during the draft, it is probably unlikely that the deal will be completed.

[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

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