Nerlens Noel is Sitting on the Dallas Bench
Who “won” the Nerlens Noel/Justin Anderson trade?
Well one of those guys isn’t playing right now, so I guess the Sixers “won” it. The Mavericks have basically benched Noel in the midst of a 2-13 start.
Nerlens is off to a forgettable season. He played five minutes last night in a 97-91 loss and two minutes Sunday in a 112-99 loss. Saturday night he was a DNP-CD in a loss to the Cavs, a team that doesn’t even defend in the paint. That tells you how much Rick Carlisle thinks of his 23-year-old center.
This is what the Mavs’ coach said after the Cleveland loss:
“There’s no doghouse here. There just isn’t. It’s pretty simple. You compete and if you earn minutes, you get minutes. You got to compete. And our guys have to have an edge. No one’s given anything. That’s how we have to do things. The situation is we have a lot of tough opponents, record’s not good right now. Competing is what it’s all about.”
So the minutes have gone to guys like Salah Mejri, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Devin Harris, as the Mavericks try to find something that works.
“If it’s between him and Salah, Salah has earned the minutes,” Carlisle said.
Case in point, Nerlens’ last five games:
Dirk Nowitzki, now 39 years old, is putting up his worst numbers since his rookie season. He’s too slow to play power forward now, so he continues to start every game as the Mavericks’ 5. Harrison Barnes is better at the 4 than the 3. Wesley Matthews is better at the 3 than the 2. It’s a domino effect of square peg, round hole when Noel starts a game, which is why a poorly constructed team featuring a rookie point guard is playing a lot of small ball.
“When (Noel) does play with Dirk, it’s not as feasible to play faster and have that kind of pace.
“But listen, it’s something we got to get figured out because the board differential is a big problem. And defensively we’re really struggling. And we got to get that fixed.”
Noel and Nowitzki can’t play together.
Nerlens reportedly pushed for a max deal this summer but instead was offered a four year, $70 million extension. He wound up with a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer and will be an unrestricted free agent at the season’s end. So the Mavs don’t have much invested in him right now, but it seems a bit strange that they appear to be done with a player who was apparently worth $17m per year not long ago.
Maybe he gets back on track in Dallas and mends fences with Carlisle. Maybe it turns into a Jahlil Okafor hostage situation, with a trade request before the inevitable parting of ways.
And that’s the sort of inevitability that we reached when the Sixers shipped out Noel last year. Bryan Colangelo basically implied that he didn’t want to pay big money to Joel Embiid’s backup. Nobody knew that Noel’s value would plummet like it has, or else the Sixers might have made a lower offer in restricted free agency before deciding whether or not to match another club’s sheet. They made it clear that they weren’t going go down that road, based on what the initial valuations were. Instead, they got what they could in the trade.
Anyway, that’s revisionist history. “The Eagles should have drafted this guy instead of this guy.” We could do that for days.
What the Sixers did get was Justin Anderson and a fake first round pick (which became two second rounders), while also taking on Andrew Bogut’s contract. One of the picks was flipped for cash considerations.
Anderson has showed some glimpses since coming to Philadelphia but hasn’t entirely asserted himself as a consistent second team contributor this year. He had 6 points and 10 rebounds in the Sacramento loss before adding 8 and 6 in the Golden State game. Monday night, he finished with 0 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist in 13 minutes. Whenever he shows you something offensively, that momentum seems to fade.
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) November 13, 2017
On the season, he’s averaging 5 points and 3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. He’s shooting 38.6% overall and 37.5% from three-point range.
For comparison, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is contributing 6.6 points and 1 rebound in 15.6 minutes per game on 38.1% shooting. TLC is 38.5% from downtown. Nick Stauskas has played in three games and Furkan Korkmaz has one appearance.
There’s just not a lot of separation between Anderson and TLC off the bench, and the Sixers could really benefit from those guys pushing each other to improve, especially with Jerryd Bayless removed from the starting lineup and now dealing with his wrist injury. Monday, Philly only got 12 points off the bench in a 109 point effort. They struggle in the second and third quarter when the second unit plays a significant chunk of minutes, so it’s no surprise the Sixers rank 26th out of 30 teams in average bench points scored (28.1).
If we’re trying to determine who “won” this trade, I don’t know if either team can claim that on November 15th, 2017. But the Sixers seem to have more upside in Anderson, at least right now, while Noel is stuck on the bench and might not be long for Dallas.