Before the countless bad schtick tweets of “Nerlens Pelicans” and “Nerlens to New Orleans” could be retweeted, the Kentucky big man was packaged in a blockbuster deal with a 2014 first round pick for Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers. Noel managed to sneak in an interview with Shane Battier excited to begin a “Block Party” with his Kentucky predecessor Anthony Davis at the Pelicans. While mainstream analysts were salivating at how dominant the frontcourt could be on defense, questions were raised in terms of how exactly they would pair. Coach Calipari raved on the ‘inside/out’ theory but with both players on the slender side, they would be easily outmuscled by many traditional NBA frontlines. In addition, Noel’s lack of offensive prowess would force Davis to shoulder a large burden of the offense in the frontcourt.
Multiple reports had New Orleans receiving a 2014 draft pick from Philadelphia but were frantically reversed only minutes later. In theory, the trade hinges on howbad will Philadelphia be next season with no Noel until Christmas Day at the earliest, a rookie point guard in Michael Carter-Williams running the offense and a large dose of Evan Turner heaving up shots in a desperate bid for a new contract. This concoction spells disaster for the 76ers and is exactly what their GM, Sam Hinkie, wants. The reason… Andrew Wiggins… and if that fails, Jabari Parker. However, projecting drafts a year in advance can be risky – just ask Sam Presti of the Thunder who thought the pick they received from Toronto would be top-5 in exchange for James Harden. The pick that is being relinquished by New Orleans, (provided they are a fringe-playoff team in the West) will hover around the 10-15 range. Personally, an all-star point guard is better to have than a 216 pound center with a torn ACL and a lottery pick who may or may not contribute right away.
The trade improves New Orleans in a variety of ways. Their backcourt, which was often slender in season’s past due to injuries, is now deep and talented. Although Vasquez will have to let go of his starting duties, I’m sure he will be more than happy to give up some minutes to become the sixth man on a fringe playoff team and on occasions spot start for the inevitable Eric Gordon DNPs.
In summary, Philadelphia is taking a risky, but smart move letting go of their current talent in order to bottom out and rebuild. There is one place in the NBA that no teams want to be – mediocre. Take the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors for example. The 76ers were on this path but Hinkie thought it would be more beneficial to blow up the team and start again. The trade also solidifies that the Andrew Bynum experiment is over in Philadelphia. Simply put, they cannot rely nor trust on his health to sign him to a multi-year contract. For the Pelicans, the trade is encouraging for fans that they have had enough of losing and are ready to threaten teams on the cusp of the playoffs. The improved roster, unlike mediocre teams pushing for playoff position, has the potential to develop like Indiana or Golden State and the only way to begin this development, is to taste the success of the playoffs. With an all-star point guard and two other potential all-stars on the team, the Pelicans are heading in the right direction.