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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

A ‘big’ mistake or the right move?

Posted by Eric Fisher On February 23

The 76ers traded away one of their trio of young centers selected with high draft picks, but it wasn’t the center nearly everyone expected to be traded.

Jahlil Okafor will remain a Sixer – at least for the immediate future. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel joins the Mavericks in exchange for center Andrew Bogut, swingman Justin Anderson a top-18 protected first-round draft pick. If the Mavericks pick in the top 18, which is extremely likely, the Sixers will receive a second-round pick this year and a second-round pick in 2018 instead of the first-round pick.

Noel, who has a been an important player coming off the bench during the Sixers’ semi-resurgence, averaged 8.9 points and five rebounds with the Sixers this season. Noel, who sat out his first NBA season after tearing his ACL in February of his only college season, is averaging 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds during his three-year NBA career.

Bogut, in the final year of his contract, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He may not even play for the Sixers, so the question is why the Sixers traded a player who was selected sixth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft for Anderson and two second-round draft picks.

Noel, who will turn 23 years old in April, is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. Even though the Sixers can match any offer made to Noel, perhaps president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo decided the price to retain Noel would be too high, so he decided to get what he could for Noel prior to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

Similarly, Colangelo obviously decided the Sixers weren’t going to re-sign Ersan Ilyasova, which is why they dispatched him to Atlanta for a pair of second-round draft picks.

With Noel and Ilyasova gone, Okafor, the player most observers thought was most likely to be traded, is the frontcourt complement to Joel Embiid. With Embiid sidelined by his long-lasting bone bruise, Okafor is the starting center.

Okafor still doesn’t seem to be part of the Sixers’ future plans. If they could have received value in return, they would have traded him before Thursday’s trade deadline. Perhaps the Sixers are hoping that Okafor increases his value during the season’s final 26 games.

Meanwhile, the Sixers will move forward without Ilyasova, one of their most reliable scorers, and Noel, their best rim protector.

Clearly, they are not striving to make the playoffs. A cynic might even suggest that they are back in “tank” mode for the rest of the season to improve their draft position, which might be another reasons they were so willing to trade Noel and Ilyasova without getting too much in return.

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