What can the 76ers get for Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor?
That's perhaps one of the biggest questions during the first third of the NBA season. The Sixers would love to trade Noel and/or Okafor to get a more-balanced roster. However, the team has been adamant that it won't make a bad deal.
But what's a good deal at this time?
We all know that Sixers would have been better off cutting their losses by trading one of the two around the NBA draft and the three months that followed. At least they wouldn't have all the distractions that came after Noel voiced his displeasure in the Sixers' having three starting-caliber centers in the 6-foot-11, 232-pounder, Okafor, and Joel Embiid.
They wouldn't be forced to slide power forward Dario Saric to small forward, where he's struggling just to get him some quality minutes in games. The Sixers wouldn't have to force-feed a Twin Towers starting lineup when they know they're more effective without it.
So what's a good deal now?
Teams are wary about Noel. He's in the final season of his rookie deal. So a team that acquires him would most likely make him a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer at season's end. However, that team would have to match any offer a team extends in free agency to keep him. If the new team doesn't match the offer, it basically would have traded for an end-of-the-season rental.
Right now, Noel is viewed as the third-string center behind Embiid and Okafor. In addition to that, he's getting back into shape after missing the first 23 games with inflamed tissue in his left knee.
Maybe the Sixers can find a team in a similar situation, with an unhappy player in the fourth year of his rookie deal without an extension. In that scenario, the Sixers could try out that player for the rest of the season, then decide if they want re-sign him afterward.
However, that's still not a lot of value for Noel. He was expected to be the first overall pick of the 2013 draft until he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his lone season at Kentucky. And it wasn't too long ago that the Sixers were touting him as their franchise center. They gave up an all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday to acquire him from the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2013 draft.
"I will only make deals that make sense for this organization," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "Hopefully we can make mutual benefit to both the organizations and players involved in whichever respective trades between the [February] trade deadline or before the [June] draft, ultimately.
"I'm pretty sure everyone is lined up to criticize whatever deal I make with Nerlens."
That's why keeping Noel isn't out of the question.
However, that would only benefit the Sixers if the 22-year-old's trade value remains very low. In that situation, they could extend Noel a qualifying offer and hope that no other team tries to throw a lot of money at him in free agency.
If he does fail to negotiate a suitable long-term contract, Noel could sign the one-year qualifying offer for $5.8 million with the Sixers. That would make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season.
His stock is also expected to rise that season. So the Sixers could actually get more back in return by trading him to a playoff contender then. Noel, however, could block a trade in that scenario.
But keeping his value low could have been one of the reasons the Sixers were content to take him out of the rotation altogether on Dec. 18. They have since decided to play him. But his value would have remained low as long as he sat.
As a result, the Sixers probably wouldn't think twice about matching another team's offer. Trade partners would be more interested in acquiring him, knowing that he has a team-friendly salary.
Meanwhile, Okafor's options are limited because he is a throwback player. He'll have to go to a team where he'll be protected by a defensive-minded power forward. It would preferably be a place where a teams run through him in a half-court set.
He's a solid offensive player. But his defensive deficiencies and lack of athleticism and conditioning have driven his trade value down.
Right now, it will be extremely hard to get anything of what they view as equal value for Okafor, the third overall pick of the 2015 draft. The Sixers selected him instead of standout power forward Kristaps Porzingis, who went fourth to the New York Knicks.
Porzingis is one of the league's best young talents, someone expected be voted to several All-Star Games in the future. Some have questioned why the Sixers passed over Porzingis in the first place when his skill set is better than Okafor's to pair with Embiid.
Assuming they do trade him, Okafor would be viewed as complete failure if the Sixers don't get a top-10 pick or a standout player in return.
Okafor, however, is a little more attractive than Noel because he's in the second season of a four-year rookie deal. Teams looking to acquire him would have two years to decide if they wanted to give him a lucrative extension.
But both players will also have to explain some negative off-court situations before a team thinks they would be a fit.
The Sixers had better hope someone gets desperate before the trade deadline on Feb. 23.
So, again, what can the Sixers get for Noel and Okafor?