Grading the Nerlens Noel Trade for Dallas Will Take Time

Jan 11, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) sits by the scorers table before entering the game against the New York Knicks during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 99-98. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) sits by the scorers table before entering the game against the New York Knicks during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 99-98. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Mavericks have landed their next big man of the future, but you can’t classify the move as a ‘home run’ right away.

Nerlens Noel is a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

For fans in Dallas, disappointed has been like a dark cloud hovering over their heads due to free agency failures and the Rajon Rondo trade. But on Thursday, they made a move that has the fan base raving and a move that brings more hope for the future.

As previously reported, Dallas sent Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a protected first round pick (which has a 99% chance of turning into 2017 and 2018 second rounders) for 22-year-old big man, Nerlens Noel.

With the first round pick turning into two future second rounders and Andrew Bogut on his way out anyway, the trade for Dallas basically turned into a swap of Justin Anderson for Nerlens Noel. Basically giving up a player who has literally been the last man on the bench, while not playing most nights, for the chance at a potential long-term starting center in Noel.

Sounds like a complete win for Dallas right?

For the moment it is, but only time will tell if this is truly a win for the Dallas Mavericks.

Nerlens Noel is a restricted free agent this summer and the Dallas Mavericks will have to pay a decent amount of money to keep him. For many around the league, this is what played into the low asking price for the young Noel.

With the way the market has been moving, the idea of Nerlens Noel getting near or at max money this summer is highly likely, especially if the big man finishes the year strong for the Mavericks.

For Philadelphia, it was the Sam Hinkie log-jam up front that put the front office in a tough position moving forward. With Jahlil Okafor obviously in trade discussions, it looked as if Philly was ready to hand Noel the money to play alongside of Joel Embiid for the next years to come.

Either way, it was a tough situation for Philadelphia and Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson acknowledged that situation on Friday when talking to the media.

"“Look, they had an extremely difficult situation. They were overstocked at the center position. You’re looking at basically the possibility of a couple-month rental, and so I think they did the best that they could with the situation they had. It was really a need position for us, and it was taking the best possible deal they could get,” said Nelson."

Nelson went on to talk about the relationship he has with the Colangelo’s dating back to their days in Phoenix and how that played into their discussions.

Dallas got the restricted Noel for a cheap price, but are you prepared to hand Noel big money considering his past injury history?

During Noel’s freshman (and only) season at the University of Kentucky, he tore his ACL late in the year where he was projected by some to be the top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. After sliding to 6th, Philadelphia selected Noel where he would go on to sit out his entire rookie season.

Noel made his debut that next season where he would miss just 22 games over the next two years. But heading into the 2016-17 season, Noel missed the first 23 games of the season after having knee surgery due to inflammation.

Since then, Noel has played in 29 games for the Sixers and started in just seven games due to the emergence of Joel Embiid. Averaging nine points and five rebounds in his 29 games this season, Noel comes to Dallas where the assumption is that Dallas is prepared to hand Noel big time money this summer.

For Nelson, he doesn’t see the injury history as an issue.

Nelson does have a point. The Dallas Mavericks, led by Casey Smith, is well-respected around the league for their medical department. You have to believe that Dallas has done their medical homework in Noel before trading for the big man.

But with two knee surgeries, one being a torn ACL, and a total of 131 games missed in the past four years, it still possesses some risk in handing a large contract to him.

Then you look at Justin Anderson.

On Friday, Donnie Nelson said of Anderson getting traded to Philadelphia

"“In Justin, it was very difficult. I know this hasn’t been a perfect year for Justin, but we had really, really high hopes last year, he had a terrific year. It was a reluctant piece that we at the very end had to put into this deal. He has a very bright future and we wish him nothing but the best.”"

Anderson was drafted with the 21st overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by Dallas where he became a huge piece of the puzzle in the Mavs late season playoff push. He would go on to log over 15 minutes a game in each of the Mavericks five playoff games and gave Dallas an energetic presence on both ends of the court.

Expectations were naturally high going into Anderson’s sophomore season, but like Nelson said “it hasn’t been a perfect year for Justin.”

Anderson found himself riding the end of the bench the majority of this season as undrafted forward, Dorian Finney-Smith and even Nicolas Brussino at times, had passed him up in the rotation.

But was it time to give up on the young forward? Does it bring up any memories of Jae Crowder to Mavs fans?

ESPN’s Zach Lowe takes a subtle jab at that situation, but I would be lying if it wasn’t at least tucked away in the back of my mind.

Yes, Anderson has been brutal at times for the Mavericks this season, but time will tell what he can turn into. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton gave the Sixers a grade of a “B-” in the deal and sighted how Anderson is an interesting wing prospect.

"“Though he could never seem to win Carlisle’s trust, Anderson is a physical wing defender with an excellent combination of steal and block rates. In fact, Noel and Anderson (who just sneaks over the bar) are both among the 21 players in the league who have averaged 2.0 steals per 100 team plays and blocked 2.0 percent of opponent 2-point attempts or better in at least 500 minutes,” Pelton said."

For Philly, Nelson said that they “liked Anderson a lot and that he was the critical piece” for them in the deal.

The question remains if he could have been a critical piece for Dallas moving forward, like Jae Crowder could have been.

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Ultimately, this is a move I feel like Dallas had to make and a move that I admit is growing on me with time, which is exactly what it will take to see if this was a ‘home run’ trade for the Mavericks.

Will Justin Anderson stay the same player he was this year and prove to Mavs fans that he was worth letting go? Will he take the next step in his career and haunt Dallas like the ghost of Jae Crowder?

Will Nerlens Noel, with no injuries moving forward, become Tyson Chandler 2.0 for the Mavericks and be the centerpiece in the middle for many years in Dallas? Will Noel sign a max contract with Dallas only to have his injury history haunt him and his athletic game moving forward?

You can’t feasibly answer these questions. Point blank, it’s somewhat of a risky move in investing in Noel long-term. But who doesn’t win in this league without taking risks?

For that matter, I’m happy to have Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and a crew that is willing to take risks. A risk that I, along with many fans, are happy that they made on Thursday.

Next: Four Roster Targets For Dallas

Now, only time will tell if that risk will work out for the better of the Dallas Mavericks.