The Sixers have discussed a deal centering on Jeff Teague and Nerlens Noel with the Hawks, the Vertical's Shams Charania reports. Atlanta has been dangling Teague for some time now, and there were rich rumors around him at the February trade deadline. Nothing happened as reports indicated the Hawks' price was too price. Nerlens Noel, as it turns out, is a fairly high price.
Are you surprised that a core segment of Philadelphia fandom is rabidly opposed to this rumored deal? You should not be, for this deal speaks exactly to the widely held fears about the franchise's transition from Sam Hinkie to Bryan Colangelo. Sam Hinkie wouldn't do this deal in a million years. Trade a young, potential-ridden, cheaper asset who can be locked up up to five more seasons this summer for an older, lower-ceiling player at a need position who will become mighty expensive in exactly one year's time? This is the anti-Hinkie deal.
Sixers ownership knew what Hinkie was doing and co-signed on his plan. Then Josh Harris changed his mind, and this is the predicament the franchise finds itself in. The Colangelos promised, once Hinkie repotted himself, that they wouldn't pursue moves to leverage what Hinkie had built in terms of assets and a young core just to be better in the immediate term. This rumor, if it bears fruit, puts the lie to that. This is exactly the type of move that leverages what Hinkie built just to be marginally better in the immediate term. You can understand why Hinkie's supporters would not be thrilled with this rumor just weeks into the younger Colangelo's tenure.
Of course, if Sixers management no longer believes in Hinkie's vision -- which is obvious; he was usurped less than three years into his reign -- then pulling off an anti-Hinkie deal is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have all of these assets and young pieces and you're not going to be satisfied with a bottom-three record again next season, well by golly you'd better look at trading some of those young pieces for better players. In that respect, trading a somewhat unproductive youngster like Noel for a rather productive vet like Teague makes sense, especially considering the point guard position is an incredible tire fire for Philly.
The problem is the Colangelos said they weren't going to do this, and yet they are immediately doing this. That's not a great way to build trust in the fandom.
There's also a real basketball and salary cap problem here, too. Noel, as limited on offense as he is, projects as an elite defender at center. His combo of hands, agility and length is rare, and his instincts are already pretty good. He's never going to be a 20-point scorer, but he's the best prospect currently on the Sixers because he's one of the most promising defenders in the NBA. He plays a critical defensive position.
Bismack Biyombo is going to get $15 million a year this summer. Noel is still on his rookie deal for one more year, and the Sixers will be able sign him to an Early Bird extension this summer for a starting salary of no more than 25 percent of the 2017-18 salary cap. Teague, who is on a cheap contract now, will be a free agent in one year. His max salary will be 30 percent of the 2017-18 salary cap.
Teague will also likely put up huge box score numbers in 2016-17 as the only fully functional guard on the team (no offense to Robert Covington or Ish Smith), and given the price the Sixers will have paid for him, it'd be a disaster for Philly to let him walk. Teague will be mighty expensive next summer if the Sixers trade for him this summer.
This is all calculus Hinkie would have known well. This is all calculus that would have triggered laughter from Hinkie and the Sixers front office. This is all calculus that the Colangelos appear to not be terribly concerned about. If this rumor has merit -- and there's no reason to believe otherwise -- it would appear the Colangelos care more about marginal improvement in the immediate term than actually making best use of the rewards from three years of losing.
It's true that Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor (if he isn't traded), Noel (if he isn't traded) and Dario Saric would benefit greatly from a solid, functional point guard. It's also true that the free agent point guard class is really shallow. I'd written that if Teague were a 2016 free agent, he'd be second in the class only behind Mike Conley. This could end up being a good deal for the Sixers in the long run, despite the basketball and salary cap issues illustrated above.
But you can understand why fans who suffered through the past three seasons of abject awfulness following a few years on the treadmill of mediocrity would be upset. The principles of what gave hope to Philadelphia are being violated immediately. The dreams that all this youth would someday explode into a new superpower are being dashed.
Of course, the segment of the Sixers fandom who loathed Hinkie and The Process might have a Teague-Noel swap differently. It might just they salve those fans need to get on board with the Colangelos. And so the war over the heart of Sixers Nation continues, just as it ever did.
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