Nerlens Noel Is Exactly What Dallas Needed

The trade between Dallas and Philadelphia looked like a clear win for the Mavericks -- and possibly for the 76ers, too.

For all intents and purposes, the NBA's trade deadline was a snore. After the blockbuster trade of DeMarcus Cousins to kick off the week, we all waited to see where the other big names would land and for what. After all the build up, most of the deals left us wanting more.

One move that caught our eye was the somewhat surprising trade by the Philadelphia 76ers of Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson, and Dallas' first-round pick in the 2017 draft.

In recent weeks, all the focus and attention of the Sixers' front office seemed to be on finding a trade partner for Jahlil Okafor, in a deal that would never come. Noel was an afterthought, and at 22-34, Dallas was not expected to be a major player. Put it all together, and you have the most interesting trade of the day.

Let's break it down and figure out who came out on top.

Philly's Return

On the surface, the deal looks to be a short sale by Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo. Unlike moves done by his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, when we examine the individual pieces, it looks like Colangelo was reversing the process and turning an asset, Noel, into nothing.

When trying to find the value in the deal, we can immediately throw out Bogut's inclusion, as he will be bought out by the 76ers any day now.

We can also ignore the draft pick they got back as well. The 2017 first-round pick is protected from 1-18, meaning the 76ers would only receive the first-round pick if it falls 19 or later.

At the moment, Dallas owns the seventh-worst record in the league, making it likely the pick will convert into two second-round picks, one this year and one in 2018. That leaves the 23-year-old Anderson as the principle return for Philly.

Anderson's Sneaky Potential

For those not familiar with Anderson, he is in his second season in the NBA, after being drafted with the 21st pick of the 2015 draft. With Mavs coach Rick Carlisle being notorious for having little patience for developing young players, Anderson has been limited to just 12.6 minutes per game in two seasons.

A freakish athlete and a physical specimen -- he stands 6'6" with a 7'0" wingspan -- Anderson was a successful shooter in his final year at Virginia. He sank 46.5% of his shots, including 45.2% of his three-pointers. The 23-year-old prospect has been off-target in the pros, though, making just 40.2% of his field goal attempts and 28.8% of his threes.

While his offensive game needs some work, what Anderson brings to the table is a strong defensive mindset that he learned from college coach Tony Bennett. His energy and reach has helped him to average 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes in his short NBA career.

With the 76ers still having a frontcourt-heavy roster, a promising wing defender of his caliber should have no trouble finding minutes. If he can re-discover his shooting touch and combine it with his explosiveness, he has the capability for a solid offensive game.

Anderson screams potential, but Noel has already proven himself.

Perfect Fit?

While there may always be questions about his knees and if he will ever be a consistent offensive threat, the one known fact about Noel as a basketball player is his extraordinary defensive gifts. Starting in college, where he blocked 4.4 shots per game with the Kentucky Wildcats, Noel has been a defensive stopper in the paint.

During his first two seasons with Philly, Noel was developing into one the league's premier defensive big men. In his rookie season, he ranked in the top 10 in blocks (1.9) and steals (1.8) per game. He was also eighth in defensive rating (99.2) and fourth in defensive box plus/minus (4.5).

In his second year, he took a slight step back, but Noel still averaged 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game while posting a top 35 defensive real plus/minus (2.29).

Even with all the clutter and chaos with the center position in Philly in 2016-17, he managed to post a 3.6% steal percentage and 3.7% block percentage this season. Starting with the first second he steps on the court for the Mavericks, Noel will instantly upgrade the rim protection for Dallas.

The five spot in Big D has been a mess ever since Tyson Chandler left in 2015 and, this year, has reached rock bottom.

With Bogut hurt, 38-year-old, dead-legged Dirk Nowitzki has spent nearly 60% of his time at center. It is no wonder the Mavericks rank dead last in the association with 3.7 blocks per game.

They also allow opponents to shoot 63.2% on shots five feet or closer to the basket; only the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are worse. Noel changes that immediately.

While many are proclaiming Noel to be the new Chandler in Dallas, that is actually doing a disservice to his potential. Chandler has become one of the league's best rebounders, but he is nowhere close to being the complete defender Noel is after just 171 games in the NBA.

Tyson Chandler, 2002-
Nerlens Noel, 2014-175.321.

Present and Future

His rookie contract expires this summer, but Noel will still be a restricted free agent, meaning any offer Noel gets, Dallas has the right to match, which they will have the cap space to and almost certainly will do. Not only can they secure the 22-year-old center for the foreseeable future, but they can also avoid the embarrassment of trying -- and eventually failing -- to woo another free agent big to come to North Texas.

With Noel in the fold, the Mavericks have the foundation of a team that is built for the post-Dirk era.

Harrison Barnes is looking like the number-one scoring option Dallas believed he could be. Seth Curry, while no Stephen, has become a versatile backcourt piece who could either start at the two-guard or be one of the best sixth men in the league.

The Mavericks also will have a possible top-10 draft pick in one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory.

Bottom Line

So if we had to grade out the trade, Dallas would most assuredly come out on top. They get the long-term big man they have been seeking and keep potentially the highest draft pick the team has had since the one that kicked off the Nowitzki-era in 1998: virtual no-lose scenario.

As for the Sixers, it looks like a bad trade and possibly could be, if Anderson never progresses. However, when you consider the front office had been shopping Noel for nearly a year, and that he was openly disgruntled, the fact they got anything substantial back makes it win-win, albeit an ugly one, for Philly.