PHOENIX SUNS

Seven Days of Suns Trade-mas: Acquiring the disgruntled, promising big man

Jan 12, 2017, 6:00 AM | Updated: 2:55 pm
Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) loses the ball as Phoenix Suns forward TJ Warren (12) d...

Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) loses the ball as Phoenix Suns forward TJ Warren (12) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Welcome to the seven days of Suns’ Trade-mas. With the Suns near the bottom of the Western Conference and a roster brewing with trade potential and questionable fits, Empire of the Suns brings you a trade scenario every day for a new year of Suns basketball.

First, our prior ideas:

‌• The deal to blow it all up
‌• Reuniting P.J. Tucker and Jeff Hornacek
Trading Chandler, paving the way for Len
The deal to get Brandon Knight to a rumored destination
Reshaping the guard rotation

***

76ers receive

G Brandon Knight, G Devin Harris (expiring), 2018 Mavs top-10 protected first-round pick

Suns receive

F Amir Johnson (expiring), C Nerlens Noel, 2017 Celtics lottery-protected first-round pick

Celtics receive

C Tyson Chandler

Mavericks receive

C Alex Len

***

Ever since the 76ers drafted Jahlil Okafor to join fellow big men Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, Suns fans have been asking how Phoenix could trade for Noel.

If the Suns’ thinking is the same, now is the time to strike. Noel has been beyond vocal about his dissatisfaction with how the 76ers have handled his time with the team, leading to a brief yet surprising move out of Philadelphia’s regular rotation.

Here’s your rather unrealistic answer of how the Suns could theoretically acquire the big man.

First, a bit of background.

Noel is a restricted free agent like their own Alex Len this upcoming summer.

He has sky-high defensive potential. Besides being an overall great defender, Noel forces turnovers at a historic rate for a young player. He’s the only player in NBA history to average at least 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks per game in his first two seasons.

Noel can contain a ball screen’s ball-handler, chase him around and still recover with enough time to cover the roll man because of his sublime feel for picking up deflections and steals.

He’s still growing as a rebounder and so is Suns forward Dragan Bender, but the two together would have limitless defensive potential as big men. They would also fit well offensively with Bender and Marquese Chriss stretching the floor, allowing Noel to rim-run on screens.

A trade for Noel would be a no-brainer for the Suns — except for the fact that, in the 2014 draft, Phoenix picked Len with Noel still on the board. Their evaluation of the two would have to have changed since then.

Looking at what the Suns give up, the Sports Guy himself said the Celtics need a rim protector and inside presence for 20 minutes. While he’s on a long-term deal, Tyson Chandler has proven he’s back this season by rebounding everything in sight and putting up improved rim protection numbers.

Among players who play at least 20 minutes per game, Chandler is tied for third in the NBA in rebounding percentage. Boston’s leading rebounder by average is 6-foot-2 shooting guard Avery Bradley.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks can count on one hand how many long-term pieces they have on the roster, and you could chop off a few fingers if you wanted to talk about those who could be positives in the starting lineup.

After an extremely disappointing 2015-16 campaign, Len has played much better in his fourth season.

Like Chandler the year prior, Len’s alarming 108.9 defensive rating should be taken in the context of all the defensive lapses in front of him on the perimeter.

Of players who defend at least three shots a game inside six feet from the rim, Len is seventh in field goal percentage allowed (49.4 percent). While he’s not on the top level with Chandler for rebounding percentage among those players, he’s still a very respectable 20th.

Most importantly, Len’s offensive efficiency is back where it was in his great 2014-15 season. He’s shooting 49.5 percent from the field, up more than 7 percent from his disastrous 42.3 percent number last season, which was a poor number for a forward, let alone a center.

He’s never going to be a number one option offensively, have an overtly reliable post game or fulfill the high-low potential he had as a top-five prospect, but he’s a good, young NBA center that Dallas should be happy to pay next summer. Plus, their only centers are 32-year-old soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Andrew Bogut and Salah Mejri, who I promise you is a real basketball player that has started over 10 games this season. Heck, against the Suns last week they started Dirk Nowitzki down low against Chandler.

In the trade, Philadelphia gets a point guard in Knight who doesn’t fill a severe playmaking need, which is actually fine because rookie forward and 2016 first overall pick Ben Simmons can do that and then some when he’s back and healthy. We have yet to see Knight play alongside a great playmaker, let alone an elite one, which Simmons should be from the get-go. That could get the most out of Knight, and Philadelphia has no long-term plan at point guard outside of the upcoming drafts. Getting a look at Knight plus gaining a draft pick is a good price for Noel considering how tumultuous their run with him has been.

For the Suns to give up Knight, Chandler and Len, Noel is possibly not enough.

Boston is fine on the draft-pick front with Brooklyn’s first rounders and an already impressive stable of young players. Giving Phoenix a pick in the twenties shouldn’t add much additional hesitation on its part. Dallas should be willing to give up a pick considering the only other asset they trade in the deal is Devin Harris.

Yes, the Suns don’t need any more additional draft picks for more young players, but as the Chriss draft day trade showed, those smaller assets do come in handy.

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