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Trade Rumour: Raptors interested in Nerlens Noel (Again)


NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

In some news ESPN tried to sneak by us on a Friday afternoon, Marc Stein reported the following news about one Nerlens Noel:

“The Raptors are among the teams that have expressed interest in Philadelphia's very available Nerlens Noel, but sources say Toronto's initial preference in the wake of losing Jared Sullinger (foot) to injury is to give more minutes to various younger players (such as rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl) so they get first crack at filling the void.”

Noel has long been a favourite of Raptors fans, and Philadelphia a destination many have looked to as a trade partner, given Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo’s ties back to many of the players on the Raptors’ roster.

Currently out 3-5 weeks due to an injury to his left knee, how you feel about Nerlens Noel depends on how serious you think his injury concerns are and how bullish you are on him evolving offensively from the turnover-prone, non-shooting big that he is.

Defensively, Nerlens Noel is as talented as they come. In his lone year at Kentucky, Noel matched Anthony Davis in BLK% and surpassed his STL%. You could argue he’s among the few players in the league capable of putting up a 5x5. While his offensive polish is definitely lacking, with his athleticism, Noel does have some promise as a passer and rim-runner.

In terms of fit, he wouldn’t be too dissimilar to Bebe in terms of expectations and injury concerns. Both players are promising rim protectors, passers and energy bigs, but can’t seem to get out of their own way due to niggling injuries. Rim protection is certainly a hole the Raptors should be looking to fill after Bismack Biyombo’s departure over the summer. While the talk of Biyombo vs Jonas Valanciunas was ridiculous, he did give the Raptors an option to throw a different look at opponents when Valanciunas’ plodding offensive game was ineffective or his defensive fragilities were being exposed.

Ultimately, it appears as if Masai Ujiri is willing to let Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl stake their claims for the minutes available. I’d argue it’s a prudent move going forward since you need to look no further than Delon Wright to find a player the Raptors have had some difficulty finding minutes for on a team that’s looking to be competitive right now. The opportunities Poeltl and Siakam get right now are incomparable and invaluable to learning how they’re progressing and how they fit on this roster moving forward.

It’s difficult to say what it would take to pry Noel from Philadelphia. Noel is a gifted player in terms of his skill set, but considering he’s already missed a full season due to injury, an additional 15 games last year, and is starting this season on the sideline again, you’d be justified in worrying a little bit. Also, it’s unknown whether Philadelphia wishes to pay him next summer when he becomes a restricted free agent, and they have Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid on the roster already. Would Delon Wright suffice? Delon and a pick? Some package around Cory Joseph? Your guess is as good as mine.

All that being said, at least we know that Masai is looking.