NBA2K: What if Nerlens Noel was traded?
This offseason has been one of massive intrigue for Nerlens Noel, the Philadelphia 76ers' center and member of CoachUp's athlete advisory council. After developing with the 76ers over the last two seasons, the surprise dismissal of general manager Sam Hinkie (#TrustTheProcess) meant that Nerlens could be moved in a deal that would net the struggling franchise another guard.
All summer, the 76ers' front office fueled the fire and rumors emerged that they could move one of their talented big man by the start of the season, either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens. Since then, fans of the other 29 NBA teams started working out ways to snag the young power forward from Malden, Massachusetts. Obviously, we at CoachUp are incredibly biased and know how hard Nerlens has worked this summer with his personal trainers, each day working to add more nuance to his ever-evolving skillset.
Although news broke on Sunday that Nerlens would need minor knee surgery, we couldn't help but imagine his future on a few select teams. With the help of NBA 2K17, the brilliantly complex basketball simulator, we've pulled off five trades that would be a perfect fit for Nerlens. By simulating five years into the future, we'll be able to peer into the crystal ball and help any real-life franchises out there that are shuffling their feet on a deal. So, without further ado, welcome to Nerlens Noel's NBA:
Trade #1: Boston Celtics trade: Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley
It's no secret that the 76ers have long had their eye on Bradley, the Celtics' shooting guard that averaged 15.2 points over 33 minutes per game alongside Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas in 2015-2016. Bradley is currently one of the few remaining holdovers from the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett era of basketball in Boston and it would behoove them to hand the reins entirely to Smart should the opportunity to snag Nerlens arise.
In a stacked starting five -- Thomas, Smart, Jae Crowder, Nerlens, and Al Horford -- the Celtics are a defensive juggernaut for years to come. For Nerlens, he sees an increase in his points and rebounds average every season from 2016 to 2021 -- starting at 9.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and finishing our simulation at 17.3 points and 13.4 rebounds -- a massive improvement. Those statistical boons will help Nerlens reach the All-Star Game in 2019, 2020, and 2021, and he even plays well enough to reach the All-NBA 2nd Team in two of those seasons.
With Boston, Nerlens doesn't take home any Defensive Player of the Year Awards, but he's included in the 2018 and 2019 All-Defensive 2nd Team and makes the jump to the 1st Team in 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately for the Celtics, the furthest they go is the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020, but the Cleveland Cavaliers add two more championships before the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers snag wins to finish up the simulation.
Final Statistics: 91 OVR, 17.3 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.5 BPG, .440 FG%
Trade #2: Milwaukee Bucks trade: John Henson, Malcolm Brogdon, 1st round pick
A trade after Hinkie's own heart, the 76ers could opt to deal Nerlens for depth and potential down the road. Brogdon may end up being one of NBA's most versatile defenders and Henson is already an elite rim protector, but the extra draft pick is too much to resist. Under head coach Jason Kidd, the Bucks would form, quite possibly, the longest wing-spanned team that will ever grace the hardwood. With converted point guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league becomes the Bucks' guinea pigs, testing out as many weird, funky, and strange lineups as Kidd can imagine.
The starting lineup of Nerlens, Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, and (soon enough) Thon Maker makes passing in the front court nearly impossible. As a Buck, Nerlens' best season comes in 2018-2019, scoring 15.2 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. His 2.5 blocks per game average is consistantly near the top of the league each season and the Bucks, despite a very crowded conference, take a step further each year.
Just as he did with Boston, Nerlens is a 3x All-Star in 2019, 2020, and 2021 -- but manages to take home the elusive Defensive Player of the Year Award in that aforementioned 2018-2019 season. The Bucks do not win a championship, but they do reach the NBA Finals in 2020 before falling to the Golden State Warriors in 5.
Final Statistics: 90 OVR, 13.5 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.1 BPG, .440 FG%
Trade #3: Timberwolves trade: Ricky Rubio
As of now, power forward is the only major hole in this youthful Minnesota Timberwolves' starting lineup. With the arrival of phenom Kris Dunn, the very young and still talented Ricky Rubio becomes expendable. For the Sixers, their situation is the exact opposite: great big men, poor guards -- so it's an easy win-win for both sides. Under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, it'll be defense first in Minnesota and Nerlens would slide in perfectly. Alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, who is already showing bursts of a potentially legendary player, opposing teams become downright terrified of shooting in the paint and form one of the best defensive frontcourts since Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace.
With a starting five that boasts Nerlens, Dunn, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and the aforementioned Towns, the Timberwolves would become one of the league's best franchises according to 2K17. With the effervescent KAT as his foil in Minnesota, much the defensive pressure is taken off of Nerlens and the Timberwolves thrive because of it.
Although his overall reaches a 92, Nerlens' Serge Ibaka-esque role sees a small statistical dip, averaging exactly 10 points and 10 assists in 2018-2019. However, Nerlens is still a beast on the blocking end, notching over 2 blocks per game throughout the next five seasons. Nerlens manages to snag one Defensive Player of the Year Award away from Towns in 2019, but the point is made: this franchise is dominant. The Timberwolves win a ring in 2019-2020 after taking down the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Finals and Nerlens cements his place in NBA history.
Final Statistics: 92 OVR, 11 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.1 BPG, .456 FG%
Trade #4: Phoenix Suns trade: Brandon Knight, Alex Len
Listen, the Sixers have Joel Embiid, Okafor, and Nerlens; the Phoenix Suns have Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight -- this would-be trade is a match made in basketball heaven. The Sixers get the very capable Knight -- who averaged 19.6 points and 5.2 assists per game in 2015-2016 -- and frees him from the awkward 6th man role behind the younger, better Booker and Bledsoe combination.
On the flip side, the Suns find a power forward to place next to the forever-efficient Tyson Chandler while rookies Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss develop. Then, when Chandler moves on, the three form a new powerhouse in the paint. Bledsoe, Booker, Nerlens, and Chandler eventually rival the Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference crown.
With the Suns, Nerlens handles much of the dirty work down low, providing the perfect defense to Booker and Bledsoe's explosive offensive. In 2019-2020, Nerlens averages a robust 14 points and 15.5 rebounds per contest, anchoring the young guns in the Western Conference race. This time, with much of defensive onus on himself, Nerlens averages 3.0 blocks per game -- a number reminiscent of Dwight Howard and Marcus Camby in their primes. Noel makes the NBA All-Defensive Team in 2019 and 2020 and the Suns reach the Western Conference Finals in 2018, 2019, and 2020, climbing to the Finals in the latter year.
Unfortunately, they cannot overcome their new rivals from the Bay Area, which brings us to our final simulation...
Final Statistics: 92 OVR, 12.7 PPG, 11 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.9 BPG, .451 FG%
Trade #5: Golden State Warriors trade: Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Patrick McCaw, 1st Round pick
OK, we had to -- I mean, why not? If Kevin Durant can sign with the 73-win Warriors in real life, we can definitely send Nerlens here in the game. Full disclosure, this offer probably isn't enough for the Sixers to accept, but two young bucks and another (albeit late) pick gets it done for our benefit. This team didn't need an introduction before and they certainly don't with Durant either, but with Nerlens? They become an entirely different beast.
Stephen Curry (our guy!), Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Nerlens destroy the league forever and commissioner Adam Silver has to consider canceling every consecutive season until Stephen retires. Unfortunately for fans of parity, the Warriors continue on their path of destruction. With Durant and Nerlens now in tow, the Warriors win the NBA Championship in 2017, 2018, and 2020 defeating the Celtics, Cavaliers, and the Raptors each once. As you can see in the gif above, that Stephen-to-Noel connection is on point and opposing franchises dread playing in Oakland.
Nerlens' best season with the Warriors comes in 2019-2020 and the power forward drops 14 points and 12 rebounds per game. Along with Green, Nerlens forms a crafty front court duo that's tough to defeat -- earning an All-NBA Defensive First Team bid in 2019. Although he doesn't reach any All-Star Games with the stacked Warriors, Nerlens' three championship rings are a nice trade off.
Final Statistics: 11.2 PPG, 10 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.1 BPG, .436 FG%
Although the jury is still out on any current deal for Nerlens Noel -- these sims prove that with his hard work and CoachUp backing him up, there's plenty of promise awaiting the flat-topped forward.
Where can Nerlens take his NBA game to #AnotherLevel?