Since the departure of Al Horford via last year’s free-agency period, rumors have been circulating that the Boston Celtics are looking for a defensive-minded big man on the trade market. Though they currently have Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Robert Williams III playing at the center position, none of them could fill the hole Horford left as a stopper. In the past months, the Celtics have already been linked to several defensive-oriented big men who are — or will be — available on the market before the February trade deadline, including Nerlens Noel of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With their hesitance to include their core players in any trade, Dan Mennella of CBS Sports Radio believes that Noel would be a perfect target for the Celtics. Since he only earns $2 million in the 2019-20 NBA season, Boston would no longer need to sacrifice the likes of Gordon Hayward or Marcus Smart for salary-matching purposes. To acquire Noel, Mennella suggests that the Celtics could simply send former No. 27 overall pick Robert Williams III to Oklahoma City.
“Noel is more of a traditional power forward/center. He’s a gamewrecker on the defensive end, and mostly limits his high-efficiency, low-volume offensive game to putbacks and pick-and-roll finishes. The former No. 6 overall pick has a long history of injuries but has proven highly effective in 20-minute bursts with Oklahoma City the last two seasons. Noel is a free agent after this season, when his modest one-year, $2M deal expires, and could be a difference-maker on a contending team right now.”
Noel may not be a three-point threat like Horford, but he is very capable of filling the hole he left on the defensive end of the floor. Aside from being a quality rim protector who could also come up with steals, he would also give Boston an incredible rebounder and a reliable scorer inside the paint. This season, the 25-year-old center is averaging 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.1 steals while shooting 68.4 percent from the field.
The proposed trade also makes a lot of sense for the Thunder. If they have no intention of keeping Noel beyond the 2019-20 campaign, moving him before next week’s trade deadline would be their best option, rather than losing him in this year’s free agency period without getting anything in return.
Though he’s currently dealing with injuries, Williams offers the same skillset as Noel. Also, the Celtics reserve is four years younger and under contract until the 2022-23 season.