Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel were involved in several trade rumors around the time of this year’s draft and into the early part of the free agent period, but there hasn’t been much trade chatter surrounding either player lately. Still, that doesn’t mean the Sixers are entirely comfortable moving forward with both players as long-term pieces.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Philadelphia doesn’t believe that the talents of Okafor and Noel are complementary, and still intends to eventually move one of the two players. The Sixers have had “periodic” trade discussions involving the pair this summer, Wojnarowski reports.
With so many teams already having an idea of what their training camp rosters will look like, a deal at this part of the year may be difficult for the Sixers to pull off if they hope to get decent value back. Although GM Bryan Colangelo admitted in July that he’s not entirely comfortable heading into the regular season with Okafor, Noel, and Joel Embiid still on the roster, a move at the deadline is probably more likely.
Whether the Sixers explore a deal within the next few weeks or closer to the deadline, Noel’s contract situation will be an interesting factor in trade discussions. The former sixth overall pick is eligible for restricted free agency next summer, so whichever team holds his rights at the end of the 2016/17 season will have an inside track on locking him up long-term.
The decision to trade Okafor or Noel may also hinge on how third-year center Embiid looks this season. Despite having been with the team since 2014, Embiid has yet to make his NBA debut, but he recently said he feels 100%, and he’s expected to suit up for the Sixers this fall. A healthy and productive Embiid would make frontcourt minutes even harder to come by in Philadelphia, and might motivate the team to make a move involving Noel or Okafor sooner rather than later.