Rumors: 76ers could trade for ‘Process’ legend to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With the Feb. 9 trade deadline close on the horizon, the rumor mill is starting to heat up. For the Philadelphia 76ers, it would appear one primary point of concern is the backup center spot, as evidenced by their recently reported interest in Utah’s Jarred Vanderbilt.

It would appear, however, that Philadelphia’s prospective targets range beyond Vanderbilt. According to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic, the Sixers are among the teams who have expressed interest in Detroit center Nerlens Noel.

Obviously, Philadelphia fans are quite familiar with Noel. He was a touchstone of the Process era, in many ways the first Process player. The No. 6 overall pick in 2013, Noel came to Philly as a rookie by way of the Jrue Holiday trade.

The 76ers could reunite Process past and present

Noel’s NBA career has been one of peaks and valleys, but he has never quite lived up to his lottery billing. The Sixers, for a brief time, tried to make it work with him and Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the frontcourt. Embiid is the only one who displayed staying power, but we could be hurdling toward something of a poetic moment here.

With the Sixers more firmly in the championship chase than ever before, Noel is a legitimate deadline target. If Morey does pull the trigger, one would have to imagine Noel takes over primary backup center duties behind Embiid. Meanwhile, the Sixers’ G-League affiliate in Delaware recently acquired Jahlil Okafor via trade. The gang is almost back together.

The appeal with Noel has never really changed: he’s a tremendous shot-blocker who can dissuade drivers with his lanky wingspan and trampoline athleticism. He’s fairly limited on offense, but the Sixers really just need a player who can competently anchor the defense for the 10 minutes per game that Embiid sits in the playoffs.

A minor complicating factor is Noel’s contract, which is worth $9.2 million (with a team option for next season). The Sixers would presumably have to involve multiple pieces to make the money work, with Furkan Korkmaz and Danuel House Jr. being prime candidates.

Noel has appeared sparsely for the Pistons this season, with young players like Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren taking priority at the center position. It has been a couple years since Noel had a legitimately good season, but the defensive talent and veteran status is something Doc Rivers would no doubt appreciate. Plus, it’s hard not to get nostalgic is these parts: it would make for a nice story.