The 76ers traded Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks yesterday, as I’m sure you’ve heard. The world found out for the first time via an Adrian Wojnarowski tweet a little before noon on Trade Deadline Thursday, followed up by the proposed terms:
Philadelphia is in advanced talks to send Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks, league sources tell @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 23, 2017
Philadelphia is sending Nerlens Noel to Dallas for Justin Anderson and a first-round draft pick, league sources tell @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 23, 2017
Noel for a first round draft pick and a young wing didn’t sound like an impressive return to an admittedly avowed Noel supporter like myself, but it also seemed like a fair enough trade given Noel’s impending free agency and the transition the NBA has undergone making skilled wings a more valuable commodity and thus devaluing centers.
The details didn’t get released here about the pick, however. Protections were assumed, and no year was noted on the pick. What else was there? Marc Stein had our answer:
Andrew Bogut is in the trade to Philadelphia and Dallas' pick is protected 1-to-18 in the June draft, league sources say— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 23, 2017
The 1-18 protection, in this case, virtually ensures that Dallas keeps the first round pick for this season. Dallas entered the all-star break with a 22-34 record, a single game ahead of the Sixers in the full NBA standings and the 7th worst record in the league. In order to match the winning percentage of the 12th best, currently held by the Atlanta Hawks, the Mavericks would need to finish with at least 47 wins, which in layman’s terms would require the Mavericks to finish their final 26 games with a 25-1 record.
Nerlens Noel is good, but he’s not THAT good. So the pick isn’t conveying as a first rounder this year.
So then we waited for the protections if the pick did not convey, because the trade leaked like Hillary Clinton’s emails but the details leaked like information about Russian hacking activities. Zach Lowe was the first to confirm the protections, and it set off a firestorm:
Sources: If Sixers do not receive Mavs top-18 protected pick this season, it converts to 2 2nd-round picks: Mavs 2nds in 2017 and 2018.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 23, 2017
The Sixers traded Nerlens Noel, a center having a productive season in an admittedly terrible situation for his long-term wealth, for what amounts to a two second round picks^ and a wing player not getting any playing time on a team as bad as the Sixers are*?
^The picks, per official release, are actually in 2017 and 2020.
*The Sixers also acquired Andrew Bogut in the trade and his $11 million salary. Bogut is expected to be released to sign with a title contender. His salary’s inclusion in the trade for Noel, if he is unclaimed on waivers by another team, will ultimately save the 76ers approximately $3.5M in real dollars due to convoluted salary floor rules.**
**Obtaining Tiago Splitter in the Ilyasova trade on Wednesday will also save the 76ers real dollars, provided that Splitter remains unhealthy, as insurance is covering every dollar in his salary until he returns from injury. This will total approximately $2.4M in real dollars, as well.
So in the end, the Sixers picked up a couple of second round picks and a flyer wing player, plus the money savings from Bogut’s salary, for an actually good player who could be useful as a backup to our perpetually injured starting center or even alongside him, given more than eight (yes, 8) minutes to try it out.
But that’s not the issue here. The issue is that the Sixers are trying to sell this as a trade for a first round pick. And if you don’t believe that is the case, I have a press release email to show you, via my inbox:
Including the “first round pick” as the highlight in the trade return is a classic bait-and-switch, and for what reason? To make it seem like a fan favorite - Noel received a rousing ovation in his post-benching return - was traded for more than a bag of peanuts? To make the front office look competent? To save face for some unknown reason?
Ultimately, there is no legitimate reason to frame the pick as a first rounder other than for the “optics” of getting a first round pick in a trade, the same optics that the ownership group and business leadership obsessed over when lying about recovery timelines for injuries to star players or for accelerating recovery times to ensure its best players were available for a game run on national television, and then also lying about that.
It’s the same attitude that caused the team to throw a celebration press conference at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia when trading for Andrew Bynum. The same attitude that led to Big Bertha, to dropping forests’ worth confetti after every win, and to withhold injury information about Joel Embiid breaking his foot a second time. The same attitude that leads a six-week Jahlil Okafor injury to last over six months with no explanation, the same attitude that refuses to put a timetable on a three month injury to Ben Simmons more than four months into his recovery time, the same attitude that chalked up Jerryd Bayless’ injury as a sore wrist that resulted in him playing three games before being ruled out for the year.
The actors have changed but the story remains the same. It’s a business problem more than a front office one, where the people who run the business don’t seem to care if the truth gets in the way of what they’re trying to sell.
These actions - on-court and off - are embarrassing and insult the intelligence of the fans of the team. No one will buy this, and it’s only a matter of time until all of the team’s lies catch up with them.
And in this case, those lies will surface about a month from now, when we’ll confirm that the Sixers have indeed received 2017 and 2020 second round picks from the Dallas Mavericks.