Wild trade rumors are out saying that the Boston Celtics could use the team's disabled player's exception to pull off a deal with the Dallas Mavericks for Nerlens Noel in midseason.
The NBA gave the Celtics the option after Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury during Boston's opening night game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hayward was ruled out for the rest of the season after going through surgery.
The $8.4 million exception could more than accommodate Noel's $4.1 million wage, thus making it possible for Danny Ainge and company to acquire him via a trade before February's deadline, as per Blasting News.
Noel, 23, was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers to the Mavericks last February. He had a solid 22-game run with head coach Rick Carlisle last season, although he only averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 22 minutes per game.
SB Nation's Mavs Moneyball said that Noel was the "best player" for Dallas since that trade. Yet, he was seldom utilized this season with only 12.5 minutes of playing time in 18 games so far.
Noel recently underwent an operation to repair a left thumb injury he suffered earlier in the season. It was not clear when was the exact game he injured the thumb, but Carlisle admitted that it affected his game, particularly when catching passes, resulting in the decrease in minutes.
Sportsday reported that the Mavericks are hoping Noel could be back before the February trade deadline, which kindled speculations that the team is planning to offer him to interested teams by that time.
However, Carlisle insisted that Noel is a "part of this (Mavericks) team" and that he wants him to get back to full strength.
"He's got a torn ligament that's affecting his ability to catch the ball and things like that. As for all the other stuff. He's a part of this team and he's been very professional. Our No. 1 thing as a franchise is to get him 100-percent healthy and go from there."The Celtics are currently the NBA's top defensive team even without having a legitimate shot blocker. Versatile starting center Al Horford has never been known as a rim protector while starting power forward Marcus Morris is still sidelined by a knee injury.
Adding Noel to the group would "beef up" Boston's shallow frontcourt, the Blasting News report said. Noel's athleticism and skill set for a big man will also allow head coach Brad Stevens to experiment more on faster small-ball lineups.
Noel is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If the Mavericks decide to keep him beyond the trade deadline, then Noel may eventually choose to leave the squad via free agency next summer.