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NBA Trade Rumour: Raptors have approached the Sixers about a deal for Nerlens Noel

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Zach Lowe of ESPN has the scoop on what Toronto may or may not be doing so far in the off-season.

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Oh yes, it's that time of year again. The NBA free agency period begins in just over 24 hours and that means the trade season is about to heat up. Are the Raptors in the mix? Well, according to the big dog, Zach Lowe of ESPN, Toronto has apparently already approached the Philadelphia 76ers about a deal for Nerlens Noel. Breathe deep, it's our first major NBA trade rumour of the off-season.

Here's what Lowe says about it:

The Raptors will need to move at least one big deal to have any hope of retaining both DeMar DeRozan and Biyombo, and teams will call about DeMarre Carroll. Toronto has already approached Philly about a deal sending out a rotation player -- perhaps Terrence Ross, and other goodies -- in exchange for Nerlens Noel, who could then assume Biyombo's backup center role, according to league sources. The talks haven't gained much traction yet.

Props to Lowe here. He's one of the few basketball writers on the planet who can write this paragraph, sound 100 percent legit, and just casually send the city of Toronto, land that I love, into a major frenzy. Let's break this down.

The obvious place to start: are the Raptors serious about trying to re-sign both DeRozan and Biyombo? This seemed like a crazy pipe dream just yesterday, but now Lowe is saying, hey, one big deal and it's party time. Not sure it's that easy and despite Lowe's leisurely way with the terms here, count me amongst the skeptical that the Raps will actually retain Biyombo.

Second little tidbit: teams are still interested in Carroll? This actually comes as something of a relief, to be honest. Carroll injured himself in just about every way possible last season, so it's nice to see he still has value.

Ah yes, but now the main event: apparently Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is talking to his old friend Bryan Colangelo -- imagine that phone call -- of the Sixers with a deal proposal to pry away Nerlens Noel. The 21 year old centre is just two seasons into the league, on a contract with two rookie deal years left on it; he averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 52 percent from the field last season.

Noel has clear value as defensive player, and could be the guy to replace Biyombo for the Raps. (And those of you questioning Noel's worth, remember: it wasn't so long ago many NBA fans were laughing at Bismack, the hapless colossus.) Theoretically, Noel could grow into a great backup centre option, particularly when you consider him paired with Patrick Patterson. That part makes this proposal intriguing.

As Lowe rightly points out though, any deal would presumably include Terrence Ross, the team's best and most real trade asset. This would mean the trade still doesn't quite address the strange logjam the Raps have at backup centre, and it still doesn't give Jonas Valanciunas a true, viable starting power forward to play with. (It does clear the way for the Year of Norm, though.)

Also, what it would mean for the Raptors newest draft picks -- Jakob Poeltl, backup centre, and Pascal Siakam, springy backup PF -- remains to be seen. Though, maybe one of them would also have to be included in said deal?

In any case, Lowe ends with "the talks haven't gained much traction yet," so we'll have to temper our emotions here.