The Philadelphia 76ers and Nerlens Noel failed to comes to terms on a contract extension by the league’s deadline of Oct. 31. Any player who was not extended by midnight on Monday is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, provided they receive a qualifying offer from their respective team.
Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo confirmed weeks ago that there had been no discussions about elongating the 22-year-old’s tenure in Philadelphia. Signs have pointed to Noel’s eventual departure since the summer, and the fact that both parties were never close to a deal is another step towards confirming he won’t wear a Sixers jersey past this season.
At media day in late September, Noel publicly stated that the organization needed to make a decision regarding their front court players, as he felt it was unnecessary to keep himself, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor on the roster. Noel phrased it carefully enough as to not make it sound like he was demanding a trade, but he seemed aware that his future was not with the Sixers, and hoped that publicly stating his displeasure would bring that to fruition.
Colangelo would certainly hope to appease the former Kentucky big man, but navigating the trade waters clearly hasn’t been easy. The Sixers have not been in a position to strong arm teams in negotiations, and at this point, their best bet is to hope that a contending team feels they need rim protection so badly that they’ll part with assets of legitimate value. It’s far from a guarantee, but all Philadelphia can do now is play the waiting game, especially since Noel is now on the mend.
There’s little denying how much talent Noel has, despite spending the first two years of his career attempting to overcome the on-court woes that came with building process. He’s one of just seven players to average at least 10 points, 8 rebounds, one block, and one steal per game during the 2015-16 season, and his company is rather elite. He did that all while lacking a starting caliber point guard, and being forced to cooperate with a blasphemous experiment that resulted in him trying to become a jump shooter. His offensive game is remarkably raw (which could be partially attributed with the attempted position change), but he’s undoubtedly a killer pick-and-roll threat. On the defensive end, he can be one of the league’s best rim protectors. Philadelphia could certainly use a guy like that regardless of the status of Embiid, but the two sides are past the point of reconciliation.
Noel’s never really been known for work ethic, and missing/being late to practice (among other things) has happened regularly during his tenure with the Sixers. The constant losing over the past couple of years certainly has not made the situation any better, but the new regime doesn’t have nearly as much patience for his antics.
When Noel had surgery last week to repair an inflamed plica, the team’s press release described it as “minor” and “elective”, which would lead one to believe that the organization felt the procedure wasn’t entirely necessary. Noel is clearly looking past this season, and towards earning a big payday from a team not named the Sixers this summer.
For dealing with the complications of being the face of this team’s lengthy rebuild, Noel definitely deserves to get paid and play on a team that knows how to use his strengths.
It’s just clear that place will not be Philadelphia.