Most of the attention in the NBA world is focused on the NBA Finals, but there 28 other teams in this league, thinking about next season. Both the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers are interested in changes, one of them being moving Jeff Teague for Nerlens Noel at the center of a potential trade deal.
The Sixers are probably tired of being at or near the bottom of the league and looking like a train station of D-Leaguers and prospects that develop too slowly. Their top 3 draft picks over the last three years have all been centers: Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. At some point, they were going to make a decision to move one of them, and it looks like Noel, who has shown some impressive defensive abilities but a lot of limitations offensively, is the bait the Sixers are using to draw in a veteran player.
Besides their big players, and one of them (Embiid) has yet to play a single NBA game since getting picked in the 2014 draft, the Sixers have very little to count on for next season. They have only $33 million committed to the salary cap and a lot of deals without any guaranteed money. It’s also difficult to find a single player on the roster besides Okafor and Embiid as a key piece of them in the next few years.
The Hawks thought about trading Teague during the season. While playing well since becoming the team’s starting point guard, Atlanta feel like they’re stuck, getting swept two years in a row by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is Teague what’s holding them back? Possibly. Even if he isn’t, his contract and ability make for a solid trade option, and open up more minutes for Dennis Schroder. Bringing in someone like Noel also takes care of something the Hawks have been worried about for some time: Al Horford leaving in free agency. Noel isn’t as offensively gifted as Horford, but could make the team even better defensively.
I’m not too sure Teague will be too happy about leaving the Hawks to Philadelphia considering what a player graveyard it’s been during the last few years, but there’s a new Sheriff in town. For better or worse, we’re going to see the 76ers at least try to win basketball games, and not settle for 15-20 wins and keep hoarding draft picks.
Noel has one more year left on his rookie deal worth $4.3 million. The 22-year old didn’t play the year after getting picked. In two seasons of actually playing with the Sixers, he’s averaged 10.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks, making 49% of his shots in 30.1 minutes per game. Teague turns 28 later this month, and makes $8 million next season, also the last one on his current deal. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.9 assists per game last season.