Nerlens Noel heads to Dallas as Philadelphia adds yet again to its assets

Ball Don't Lie
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5157/" data-ylk="slk:Nerlens Noel">Nerlens Noel</a> tangles with new teammate <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5536/" data-ylk="slk:Salah Mejri">Salah Mejri</a>. (Getty Images)
Nerlens Noel tangles with new teammate Salah Mejri. (Getty Images)

The first piece of the Process is no longer a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Nerlens Noel, drafted No. 6 overall in 2013 as the first addition of the Sam Hinkie era, was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday in advance of the NBA’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news.

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In making the deal, the Mavericks are afforded the dual luxury of pushing for a playoff berth this season and attempting to secure a foundation for the future in the form of the defense-first big man’s addition.

For Philadelphia? It’s just another asset addition, for a front office that swore up and down that they were past this sort of (often inspired and intelligent) line of thinking.

Veteran Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, will head to Philadelphia in the exchange, alongside 23-year-old swingman Justin Anderson. A protected first-round pick will also head to Philly, with details coming from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe:

Bogut boasts an $11 million contract this year, one that will expire this summer as Philadelphia looks to once again enter the offseason with more cap room than any other team. Run in and out of the lineup all year as he’s dealt with a typical array of rest (he’s been a walking trade rumor from the moment he arrived in Texas, and Dallas was protecting its asset) and injury concerns, the center averaged but three points per game with Dallas while adding his usual mix of knockout defensive work and creative offensive additions alongside 8.3 rebounds in 22 minutes.

Philadelphia, stuck again in yet another rebuilding year at 21-35, would still do well to move the 32-year-old veteran before the end of trading action, however. If bought out, Bogut would be a much-sought after addition to a contending team, perhaps replicating his role in the Golden State Warriors’ 2015 championship run.

In Anderson, the Sixers will secure a still-tantalizing prospect that mostly disappointed during his fitful run with the Mavericks. There is significant talent in Anderson, as the second-year player averages 16.7 points and a solid 7.6 rebounds for every 36 minutes he plays, but he hadn’t advanced much in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation for reasons that will only be revealed as the years, and his play in Philadelphia or elsewhere, spool onward.

The first round pick only adds to Philadelphia’s stable.

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The team could have the Los Angeles Lakers’ selection this year if it falls out of the top three in the lottery. The Lakers are currently slated to pick third. Philly’s own selection is currently slated to pick fifth overall, a number that could drop without Noel in the rotation.

The team has the rights to swap that selection with Sacramento if the Kings end up with the better selection this June. And it still has an unprotected 2019 first-round pick coming from the same Kings. The Oklahoma City Thunder also owe Philadelphia a protected 2020 first-round pick.

Dallas owes no future first-round picks, so its selection could come as early as this June. The Mavs currently have the best odds to select seventh overall in this year’s draft.

Dealing a No. 7 pick for a former No. 6 pick, one who worked through injury rehab and development on another team’s dime from 2013 through 2017, seems like a solid return. Still, Bogut was viewed by many as a significant trade chip, so much that the knowledge of his status perhaps lessened his eventual return, and the addition of Anderson (selected 21st overall in the draft just 20 months ago) only adds to the worry for the Mavs. Noel is a restricted free agent this summer.

The 6-11 22-year-old averaged 8.9 points, five rebounds, a block and 1.4 steals in just 19.4 minutes per game with the 76ers this year was pulled along in fits and spurts by the team in ways that left the third-year center exasperated. Noel missed all of his would-be 2013-14 rookie year after tearing his left ACL during his lone year at Kentucky prior to averaging over 10 points and 8 rebounds, alongside 1.7 blocks a contest, in only 30 minutes a game during his first two seasons.

And, with Joel Embiid flourishing, we’ll always have to wonder what might have been:

In Dallas, Noel will be expected to contribute right away alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Despite the significant defensive gifts of Bogut and holdover center Salah Mejri, neither fits well alongside the aging Dallas legend, which is why the Mavericks had gone small recently (with Dirk at ostensible center, alongside Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews in the frontcourt) in games without Bogut.

At 22-34, the Mavericks are on just a 33-win pace, but they’re only three games out of the Western playoff bracket with 26 to play. The deal that sent disgruntled Kings center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans on Sunday, alongside the Nuggets’ (current holders of the No. 8, and last, playoff seed in the West) emergence with Nikola Jokic as a focus, will make life rough on any potential playoff push. At current rates, the Mavs would have to finish on a 15-11 tear to make the playoffs.

“Current rates,” with both New Orleans and Denver improving, might not be enough. All Western playoff participants may have .500 records or better by the time this is all over. Noel, a defensive-minded big man who can cover a multitude of sins at two positions while holding his own offensively, could be the needed tonic that sends the skittish-yet-super-slow Mavericks on a run.

Meanwhile, the Sixers have turned Jrue Holiday (the initial trade asset for the since-departed Hinkie, replaced last year by veteran executive Bryan Colangelo) into a few lost years with Noel, whatever they can get for Bogut, Anderson, and a pick that helped bring 2016-17 rookie stud Dario Saric into the fold. In addition, they’ll move in on yet another first-round pick, one that could be a lottery selection from Dallas – an NBA rarity.

It feels like a satisfying move for both teams, known for their basketball brains. In all, a sound way to start the NBA’s trade deadline day.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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