Sixers Need to Move a Big But Celtics Not a Good Match

The Sixers need to trade a big man. You know it. I know it. The other 29 NBA teams know it.

Now that we've got the obvious out of the way, let's get to the newest, juiciest rumor.

After some odd Twitter activity from Nerlens Noel, CSNNE.com is reporting that Noel is "very open" to a trade to the Celtics, "but no deal is imminent." The Celtics have also been linked to Jahlil Okafor since last year's trade deadline.

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The Sixers want to move a big. The Celtics clearly want a big. Perfect match, right? There's just one problem: What does Boston have that the Sixers want?

Not much, to put it simply. 

Let's get one item out of the way first. Then-Nets GM Billy King made a god-awful trade with the Celtics back in 2013 for aging veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. Boston acquired a bunch of first-round picks and the right to swap picks in 2017. That should come in handy this season because Brooklyn could very well get the No. 1 overall pick while Boston is eyeing the postseason for the third straight season.

With that said, Danny Ainge will not part with that pick swap for either Noel of Okafor, so just get that out of your mind. The Celtics also own the Nets' pick in 2018. Doubtful Ainge would be willing to part with that pick, either. 

Would Boston trade its own first-round pick for either player? Sure. The Celtics finished 48-34, good for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They held the 23rd pick in the first round in the most recent draft. Boston's own first-round pick would have to be part of a bigger package to tempt Bryan Colangelo.

Looking at the Celtics' roster, which backcourt players are desirable? They likely won't trade All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas or fellow starting guard Avery Bradley. Both played a huge part in the Celtics' successful 2015-16 season. They also have extremely affordable contracts, something worth noting after this summer's free agent frenzy. With the signing of prized big man Al Horford, it's doubtful Boston will want to trade one of its key veteran guards. You'd have to look at some of Boston's younger pieces.

Since 2014, the Celtics have drafted five guards in the first round: Jaylen Brown (2016), Terry Rozier (2015), R.J. Hunter (2015), Marcus Smart (2014), and James Young (2014).

Rozier has shined in summer league, but failed to crack Boston's rotation and spent time in the D-League last season. The same can be said for Hunter and Young. 

Smart has averaged 27.1 minutes per game in his first two seasons and has become an excellent defender with room to grow as an on-the-ball defender. But he's fallen well short of expectations on the offensive end after being the sixth overall pick in 2014. In fact, Smart just set a dubious shooting record. He recorded the worst three-point percentage in a season for someone who took at least 200 threes (h/t to CSNPhilly.com web producer Steven Tydings for that nugget). His defensive prowess, however, could make Ainge hesitant to include him in any package.

Brown is a super athletic wing who, at times, can be explosive, but isn't a great shooter and doesn't have a great feel for the game. He's a player I valued more than others did coming out of Cal. With that said, he was a dreadful pick for the Celtics.

On draft night, there were reports of crazy offers from the Sixers, who were pining over Providence point guard Kris Dunn. Instead of cashing in on the Sixers' desperation, Ainge selected Brown. Brown needs to play for a team that can have patience with him and provide him playing time to develop. Boston can't really offer either. He would seem to be a mismatch on the court with Ben Simmons, so I can't see how the Sixers would have interest, but you never know.

If you acquire any of these players for Okafor or Noel, you're going off potential. You're hoping their NBA struggles and/or lack of experience are based on Boston's success, and, therefore, lack of opportunities for young players. The problem there is Okafor and Noel have produced at the NBA level. 

Despite playing on dreadful teams, Okafor and Noel have had success and shown flashes of their NBA potential in NBA minutes. Okafor averaged 17.5 points a game in 53 games during his rookie year. His defensive weaknesses have been well-documented, but the footwork and smooth touch on the offensive end were also obvious. 

Noel's game is the polar opposite. He's shown ability as an elite rim protector and defender. He also has no hands and no touch in and around the basket. The fact that both players have shown so much at their age (Noel is 22 and Okafor is 20) should make the Sixers wary of making a trade just for the sake of moving a big. Colangelo has said he won't do that.

Could a package of Smart, Rozier and a first-round pick get it done? If I'm Colangelo, no, it can't. Those players certainly have good pedigrees and may still be productive NBA players, but that's not enough to pull the trigger on trading either Noel or Okafor.

We all know the Sixers need to move a big man. That doesn't mean they should give one away. 

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