Let’s not get all butt-hurt about Nerlens

By: Jack Henkels

The Nerlens trade isn’t nearly as bad as everyone in Philly may think. Colangelo was in a corner and made a decision.

Hey friends, I noticed a lot of really, really smart people on Twitter today who were upset at the Sixers dealing Nerlens Noel. Yes, I am a Sixers fan, too, and yes, I also am upset that Bryan Colangelo is running the show and not our beloved Sam Hinkie, but let’s pump the brakes a bit on a Colangelo hate train.

Nerlens Noel is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. It’s an NBA now where Kent Bazemore is making 70 million over the next four years. Nerlens fits the blueprint as a rim protecting, high-flying small-ball Center. And if we’re being honest, that’s where the league is heading. Also, although in limited attempts, Nerlens has turned into a serviceable mid-range jump shooter. He’s probably a $20 million a year guy in the league, especially because he’s only 22.

Some team this summer (Dallas, maybe) is going to throw that kind of money at him. Had the Sixers kept him, they would have had the option of matching the other team’s offer and retaining Noel (that’s the difference between an RFA and a UFA) , or letting him walk to that other team whilst getting nothing in return.

The vibe I got on Twitter was that Sixer fans weren’t necessarily upset that Nerlens was traded – they were pissed at the lackluster return from Dallas. Philadelphia got a top 18 protected 2017 first rounder, a future second rounder, big-man Andrew Bogut, and former UVA Cavalier Justin Anderson. That top 18 protected turns into a 2nd rounder if the protection holds and the Sixers simply plan to buy out Bogut and let him hit the open market. The Mavericks are not making the playoffs this year – it’s just not in the cards. That protection will hold, and it will flip to a 2017 second round pick. So, Philly netted 2 second-round picks and Justin Anderson for Noel.

That return certainly isn’t overwhelming. When I heard of the details, yes, I was disappointed that the Sixers didn’t land a real first round pick.

But, here’s where I divert from most of the Philly faithful. There’s a difference between being disappointed at the return for Noel and being pissed at Bryan Colangelo. Most of Sixers Twitter today was pissed at Bryan Colangelo.

Why? Guys, we have a log-jam in the front-court. Saric, Simmons, Embiid, Okafor, Noel and Holmes. Other teams are not dumb – they know that. When they negotiate with Colangelo, they know that they have the utmost leverage. We’re obviously looking to dump a guy like Nerlens who is about to hit free agency because we just want to get something for him. Dallas isn’t just going to hand us their 2017 first rounder unprotected when they know that we’re not going to resign Noel. If we don’t budge and Colangelo demands a real first round pick, the Mavericks will stand pat and attack Noel this summer in free agency. They had all the leverage. Colangelo is smart enough to know this.  He waited until the 11th hour, wheeling and dealing, trying to see if a team would be willing to give us a first rounder for either Okafor or Noel. No one did. So, he sold Noel a bit low. But at least he got something.

Yes, I like Noel more than Okafor, too. But, no one wanted Okafor! I agree that Colangelo has handled that situation very poorly. You can be mad at Bryan for that – he’s treated Okafor very unprofessionally, most notably pulling him from a recent road trip. But, clearly no one really sees Okafor as a hot commodity. Nerlens is a better asset, Dallas called, and Bryan had to sell low or he risked just not getting anything in return.

Ok, so after all that, if you’re still mad at Colangelo for selling low on Noel, that means that you think the Sixers should have seen Noel as part of the picture moving forward. You think that Colangelo should throw 20+ million at him over the summer and we should see him as a cornerstone of our franchise. Ok, so you’re telling me we’re going to pay a Center other than Joel Embiid a near max deal? What happens when we have to pay Jojo? And that’s not even considering Saric and Simmons, who were both ahead of Nerlens on the Sixers front court totem pole.

Yes, it sucks that we couldn’t get more in return for Nerlens. It sucks that the league doesn’t think Nerlens is the next Olajuwon. I wish he was a better player so that he had more value. I wish the Warriors would have called and said “Hey Bryan, I’ll trade you Steph Curry and Kevin Durant for Nerlens Noel.” These are all things that I am sad about.

But, when push came to shove, teams know we’re looking to unload our front court, and they’re not gonna break the bank to trade with us. It stinks, but it’s nothing to be mad at Bryan about. He got something for Nerlens, whereas if we just let him walk this summer we would have gotten nothing. It was not an ideal situation, but Bryan picked the lesser of two evils.

P.S. If you think the Sixers should have thrown near max money at Nerlens this summer, then you are silly and I can’t really discuss sports with you anymore.

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