The 2016-2017 NBA trade deadline is February 23 at 3 p.m. ET, and rumors are heating up regarding some of the biggest names in the league. The Philadelphia 76ers have an abundance of big men, and centers Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor have been involved in numerous trade rumors over the past few years. While neither has been dealt, it is becoming clear that the team is going to have to move one of them.
As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes, a team consisting of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor is not going to work. While each player has his own strengths, putting them together on the floor at the same time is not exactly efficient. Playing Embiid and Noel together has its fair share of problems, while Embiid and Okafor together has another set of issues. While cutting Noel’s minutes and essentially making him a bench player has been thrown around as a potential solution, he believes that he is a starter, which will only lead to problems inside the locker room.
As the 76ers’ franchise player, Embiid is not going anywhere. The organization waited two years for him to finally get healthy, and he is already looking like a star. Pompey points out that it is important to have Okafor on the floor to increase his trade value, but the current pairing of him and Embiid is not doing anyone any favors.
“We also know the Sixers are having a tough time trading Okafor and Noel for what it perceives as equal value. And their value will continue to plummet if they’re not playing. One of the best ways to showcase Okafor is to start him. But you can’t start him over Embiid, the franchise player. So you have to play both. The only problem is that nothing he and Embiid did on the court during the pairing increased Okafor’s trade value. It might have decreased it. Because he’s more athletic and a better shooter, Embiid lined up at power forward when the two played together. Opposing teams usually drew Embiid away from the basket, and it was open season against Okafor in the paint.”
Okafor has shown to have a strong offensive game, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. Noel has the opposite problem. His rim protection and ability to block shots is his strength, but his offensive game still needs a lot of work. Neither player is particularly a great fit with Embiid, but the 76ers could make it work by trading one of them. There are only so many minutes to go around, and the abundance of big men is a real problem for the 8-24 76ers.
While nothing is imminent, the Boston Celtics have been linked to both Noel and Okafor numerous times over the past year. With a record of 20-14, the Celtics are one of the better young teams in the NBA. Al Horford has been a solid addition for the Celtics this year, but they could improve their roster with a young big man.
Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia looked at the possible destinations for the 76ers’ abundance of big men. As expected, the Celtics are at the top of the list.
“Even though the Celtics locked in Al Horford for a mega-deal in the offseason, the veteran big can also play further out from the five spot, which could make way for Okafor to score in the middle. The Celtics also could pair Noel with fiery Isaiah Thomas for an uptempo duo.”
The 76ers and Celtics were not able to come to an agreement on a trade for either player during the deadline and before the draft last year, so it is unknown where each organization stands. As Pompey noted, Okafor and Noel need to be on the floor to increase their value, but they also need to play well. Being division rivals, the 76ers could also have a higher asking price for the Celtics than they would have for a team that is not in their division.
In addition to the Celtics, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia also views the Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Tortono Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Cleveland Cavaliers as destinations for Okafor or Noel.
While the 76ers have been one of the best teams in the league at collecting draft picks and assets in recent years, they finally want to start winning games. Securing more draft picks may allow them to get the best offer, but targeting a guard in a potential deal may be their best path.
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