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Atlantic Notes: Noel, Nets, Thomas

Nerlens Noel’s rookie season with the Sixers has not established whether he will be in the team’s long-term plans, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. While he has shown offensive improvement by recording double-doubles in 11 of his last 22 games, Noel is shooting just 29% from the field on attempts more than three feet from the basket, Ford points out. Noel has yet to prove he can play power forward and mesh with Joel Embiid, who can only play center, Ford adds. The deadline trade of Michael Carter-Williams shows that Philadelphia is capable of shifting gears despite management claims that Noel is a major building block, Ford concludes.

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Robert Covington‘s scoring ability may have earned him a role with the Sixers next season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Covington is slated to make approximately $2MM over the next two seasons but the money is not guaranteed. His long-range shooting ability, which creates space for big men Noel and Embiid, may convince the Sixers to keep him around, Pompey opines. “You need people to stretch the floor,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said to Pompey.
  • The Nets will need to continue paying the luxury tax to remain competitive and majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to do that, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post reports. The Nets are approximately  $11.6MM over the tax line this season and could exceed it again if Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young exercise their player options and the club retains restricted free agent Mirza Teletovic, Bontemps continues. Lacking a first-round pick in 2016, the Nets don’t have the option of selling off assets to remain competitive, Bontemps adds. Prokhorov has shown a willingness to spend whatever is necessary to have a contender and vowed to continue that strategy, according to Bontemps. “If we need to pay a little bit more than any other teams, it’s not an obstacle,” Prokhorov said during a press conference this week.
  • Isaiah Thomas has significantly improved the Celtics’ pick-and-roll offense and given them a reliable fourth-quarter option, Chris Forsberg of writes. Using Synergy Sports Data, Forsberg points out that Thomas ranks in the 93rd percentile among all NBA players as a pick-and-roll ballhandler while the Celtics ranked 28th in that category before the Thomas acquisition. Thomas had also scored a larger percentage of his points in the fourth quarter than any player who has scored at least 800 points, Forsberg continues while using Elias Sports Bureau data. Boston’s offensive rating is significantly better with Thomas on the court and that tends to outweigh his defensive shortcomings, Forsberg adds.

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