Yesterday we received the fun news that the Blue Coats have acquired Jahlil Okafor, and now there’s a trade report that the Sixers have inquired about Nerlens Noel? What a nostalgic, full circle time for the Sixers.
As The Athletic's James L. Edwards III has reported in an article summing up recent Detroit trade buzz, the Sixers are one of six teams that have recently called the Pistons about Noel:
Per league sources, the Heat, Nuggets, Mavericks, Kings, 76ers and Celtics have recently called the Pistons and inquired about Noel.
Of course, this doesn't mean the Sixers are eagerly targeting Noel, but they are at least doing their due diligence to gauge value and he's (somewhere) on their radar.
Noel has had some spells of really solid play in recent seasons since he left the Sixers, particularly in 2020-21 when he played a significant role for the Knicks and upped his game defensively. He averaged 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and an impressive 2.2 blocks in just 24.2 minutes per game that year.
However, his playing time and production has fallen off more over the last two seasons and he's not part of the rotation in Detroit right now — he's appeared in just 13 games this season, averaging only 11.4 minutes a night. He's also not an easy target for the Sixers from a financial standpoint. With his $9.24 million salary (he also has a $9.68 million team option for 2023-24), the Sixers would need to send more players Detroit’s way just to match salary, and at that point it’s hard to see a trade really being worthwhile.
Considering current ability and contract, Noel isn't the best backup big option for the Sixers to pursue right now. Jarred Vanderbilt, who's reportedly emerged as a “leading target”, possesses quality versatility defending the perimeter, a high rebounding rate, and sound secondary rim protection, all while being easier to acquire financially with a cheap $4.37 million salary this season (and he’d still be under contract for a very fair $4.67 million in 2023-24).
If the Sixers’ primary goal is to invest in a new backup big before the trade deadline, Vanderbilt looks like a smart player to focus on. But even if any phone calls with the Pistons go no further, Noel popping up in connection with the team again is certainly a fun wrinkle to this week’s trade talks.