On Thursday afternoon, Shams Charania of The Vertical reported a rumor that Philadelphia was in discussions with Atlanta for a trade involving Nerlens Noel and Jeff Teague.
It has been known for several weeks now the Sixers were likely to trade one of Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor this offseason, especially with Joel Embiid supposedly ready for the 2016-17 season, and Boston was one of the teams linked to the rumors.
Being from Everett, Mass., Noel grew up a huge Boston fan, and the C's have been in need of a defensive-minded center for years now, so it seemed to be a match made in heaven. At the trade deadline, the Celtics were reportedly on the cusp of bringing in Jahlil Okafor in a blockbuster exchange for the Nets pick, among other pieces. With both players linked to Boston in some form or fashion in the past, it seemed extremely plausible for Ainge to make a move to obtain one of Philly's available front court studs.
But it appears now Noel is likely headed to Atlanta. What exactly does this mean for Boston?
The major piece of news to come out of this trade is the implications for Al Horford's future in Atlanta. If Noel does officially end up in a Hawks uniform, it likely signals Horford's departure in free agency, as it is extremely unlikely Atlanta would be willing to spend big bucks on the big man out of Florida with Noel's contract expiring next offseason and plenty of holes to fill outside of the front-court.
Horford has been linked with Boston countless times in recent history, as it was reported a strong push was made for him at the trade deadline, and most recently, it was discovered Kevin Durant wants Al Horford as a teammate in Boston should he leave Oklahoma City this offseason.
At this point, all signs are pointing to Horford ending up in green this offseason, especially if it means having a realistic shot at Durant becoming a Celtic.
On top of Horford possibly ending up in green, the Noel trade likely signals the end of the possibility of bringing in Jahlil Okafor on draft night.
One of the most popular trades being discussed for Boston was centered around Jahlil Okafor and the C's #3 overall selection in this year's draft. The Sixers have a surplus of front court talent and need backcourt help. A trade for the #3 pick could have landed any of the top guard prospects in the nation, ranging from Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, and Buddy Hield. Boston has known interest in Okafor, and under Brad Stevens, he could have become one of the most talented big men in the league. It just made sense.
Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor struggled to find successful chemistry with one another this past season, and with Noel likely packing his bags and heading to Atlanta, Philly now has no reason to get rid of Okafor. Joel Embiid is expected to immediately step in and be a major contributor alongside Okafor. Sixers' lottery choice in 2014, Dario Saric, is supposedly set to join the team next season, along with Ben Simmons likely being selected as the #1 pick in July's NBA Draft. Philadelphia's front court is filled with unbelievable talent even after Noel's departure, and it'd be ridiculous to break that up further when so much help is needed in the back court.
Though it once seemed extremely possible one of the Sixer front court studs would end up in green this offseason, the Hawks' possible trade for Noel paves the path for the C's signing of Al Horford and a greater chance of Kevin Durant ending up in Boston when free agency opens in July.
Nerlens Noel photo: Charles Krupa of the Associated Press
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