Sixers-Pelicans Trade: Grading the Nerlens Noel for Jrue Holiday Swap

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2013

The 2013 NBA draft spit in the face of predictability when the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for rookie Nerlens Noel.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Pelicans—who drafted Noel with the sixth overall pick—sent the Kentucky product along with a 2014 first-round pick to the Sixers in exchange for Holiday and a 2013 second-round pick (No. 42 overall).

Per Marc Stein of, the first-round pick that New Orleans gave to Philadelphia is top-five protected in 2014.

I can hear jaws dropping and connecting with the floor as I pen this.

After wading through all the pre-draft rumors and anonymous conjecture, no one saw this coming. Absolutely no one.

But it happened. Now it's time to catch our breath, gather ourselves and look at what comes next.

Philadelphia 76ers

I'll say this about newly instated general manager Sam Hinkie: He's got balls.

Barely one month into his tenure, he's already referred to Andrew Bynum as a failure, and now he's dealt away Philly's best player—an All-Star point guard who served as a beacon of hope during a dark time.

And I commend him for it.

This wasn't an easy trade to make. The Philadelphia franchise and its fanbase were exhausted after a season of trials and tribulations, and seeing their prized point man shuffle off to New Orleans is bound to sting.

Just know that it was for the better of this team.

Analysts considered Noel the easy choice with the No. 1 overall pick before he went down with an ACL injury in February. He's a shot-blocking connoisseur who excels when defending in transition.

Prior to the injury, Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. Even the injury proved that he is a defensive warrior. Noel tore his ACL while pursuing a chase-down block on the break.

That's the kind of effort he'll bring to Philly.

His offensive game is still raw, but if he can become a better scorer and develop his passing skills, he has the opportunity to evolve into a Kevin Garnett-like pillar.

Hate on that.

Noel also likely puts an end to what has been an enfeebling Bynum saga. There's no way the Sixers will voluntarily house two big men coming off extensive knee injuries. Bynum is as good as gone, which is a good thing.

He's the reason the Sixers and their fans are in the lottery and languishing in "what could have been." Had he been healthy, maybe the Sixers would have made the playoffs. Maybe they would have contended. Maybe Holiday would still be in Philadelphia.

It's over and done with now, though, and the Sixers should be ecstatic that they can finally remove themselves from a situation that Hinkie wishes they never got into in the first place.

Admittedly, Noel alone isn't enough to soften the blow, yet that's what the lightly protected first-round pick in 2014 is for.

New Orleans' pick won't wind up netting the Sixers Andrew Wiggins since it's top-five protected, but it's still a nifty asset. Next year's draft class is supposed to be incredible.

Depending on where the Hornets wind up next season, the Sixers could be looking at two lottery picks. For a franchise in transition, that equates to sitting pretty.

Could-bes and should-bes do little to quell the suffering now. Neither does Michael Carter-Williams, who Philly picked at No. 11. But they'll prove to be enough later and maybe even sooner.

The Sixers can now finally hire a new coach and move on.

Distancing themselves from the Bynum fiasco and the Doug Collins implosion begins now. Tomorrow is today. That it had to come at the expense of Holiday is unfortunate—slightly tragic, even.

Nonetheless, accepting reality and embracing the future was a good move.

Grade: B

New Orleans Pelicans

The post-Chris Paul point guard era is treating the Pelicans well, if you ask me.

Jarrett Jack steered them through that first year admirably, and Greivis Vasquez emerged as one of the league's most dependable playmakers last season. Now they have another All-Star floor general in Holiday.

Last year, Holiday put up 17.7 points, eight assists and 1.6 steals per game, claiming his first-ever All-Star selection. As the focal point of the Philly offense, he excelled, and though he wasn't able to lead a playoff-caliber outfit on his own, he'll no longer be alone in New Orleans.

With Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson, Vasquez and now Holiday, the Pelicans have a promising young core on their hands, one that may even be playoff-bound next season.

That soon? Absolutely.

Even after assuming Holiday's $11 million salary for next season, the Pelicans still have upwards of $13 million annually to play around with. Think of what they could do with that.

Think of what they can do with the players already in place.

To be sure, New Orleans may still make some moves. There's no telling what this deal means for Gordon or Vasquez, but either way, it doesn't matter.

The Pelicans have more options now than they did before they draft. They essentially turned two draft picks into a star. 

Holiday will allow the embattled Rivers to play more of his natural position of shooting guard.

He also gives the Pelicans yet another playmaker next to Vasquez and Gordon. He's a prolific pick-and-roll catalyst who will instill a sense of off-ball purpose into Davis. 

Holiday adds a star-quality dossier to a team that already has two. 

Remember, both Gordon and Davis are considered to have high ceilings in their own right. Davis carved out an impressive rookie campaign despite battling injuries, and Gordon, when healthy, proved capable of carrying the scoring load for the team.

Think about all this again. Then again. Then once more. You're bound to come to the same realization every time, without fail: New Orleans is teeming with potential.

The rest of the NBA better be ready.

Grade: A+


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