The 2013 NBA draft was full of excitement and surprises, which is the only way it could have been after the Cleveland Cavaliers started out by picking Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick. Nerlens Noel, who was projected as one of the favorites to go No. 1, and rarely outside the top 3 or 4 selections, slid all the way down to 6, which allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to draft the center out of Kentucky.
Impartial basketball fans went into a frenzy — Anthony Davis AND Nerlens Noel? The athleticism and shot-blocking ability of that frontcourt would be out of control. We could already see it in front of us — an opposing guard beats Eric Gordon off the dribble, enters the paint and gets his shot sent into the third row. However, Noel wasn’t a Pelican for long.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Pelicans got on the phone and swung this deal:
Sixers receive: Nerlens Noel, 2014 first-round pick (top 5 protected)
Pelicans receive: Jrue Holiday, 42nd pick in 2013 draft
So, who won this trade?
On the surface, it really looks like the Pelicans got the better of the trade — after all, they landed an All-Star point guard, right? Well, not exactly.
Holiday had somewhat of a breakout season last year, and yes, he did make the All-Star game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he played at an All-Star level. Yes, his numbers were up, but that was mostly due to the fact that the Sixers really didn’t have anyone else to go to.
Holiday played more minutes, and his usage rate was up to 0.266 percent from 0.218 in the previous season, which automatically should give your numbers a nice boost. He is a decent enough 3-point shooter, but his true shooting precentage wasn’t impressive — 0.496 percent, good for 62nd AMONG POINT GUARDS. Translation: not very efficient.
Jrue is a good young player, an NBA starter by all means, but you can’t overlook the fact that Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose were hurt and label Holiday as a perennial All-Star, as he is not there yet. Could he be? Perhaps, but the Pelicans did not trade for an already elite point guard. I like Holiday, but I still think the Sixers got the best out of this deal
It was great to see that Philly’s new GM, Sam Hinkie, wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger when the opportunity arose. Holiday was coming off a great season, benefiting from the All-Star nomination which inevitably improved his market value. Hinkie was able to capitalize on the fact that Jrue’s value was at its peak and swung a great deal.
Sure, it’s a bit scary to think that the Sixers, who will now most definitely dump Andrew Bynum, are replacing one injury prone center with another young big man with an injury history. Nerlens Noel can seem like a bit of a gamble, but there is no reason to doubt that he will be a very solid defensive center, and that is his worst-case scenario. He is young and no one would be surprised if Noel turns out as one of the best, if not the best, players out of the 2013 draft class.
What really makes this trade so lucrative is the fact that the Sixers also get a 2014 first-round pick. It’s a protected, which means that the pick won’t land them Andrew Wiggins or any of the other top-5 prospects in the stacked 2014 class, but there are still some good young players in the lottery after that. Looking at the Pelicans’ roster, they will likely not be bad enough to be the favorites of landing the very top pick anyway, but they will still more than likely be a lottery team.
Overall, this was a great trade for the Sixers. With Holiday around, the team would still remain in the lottery, but would probably be too good to be a true contender for a top 3 pick. Now the team has a great prospect in Noel and a lot more cap flexibility for the future. Evan Turner has one more season left on his contract before entering restricted free agency, and it will be interesting to see if he can finally have a breakout year or if the Sixers will eventually cut ties with Turner rather than overpaying him next season.
Verdict: Philadelphia 76ers win the trade