Ex-Sixers Lottery Pick Bought Out, Paving Way For Possible Reunion

Nerlens Noel

Getty Former Sixers lottery pick Nerlens Noel

A new backup center option has emerged for the Philadelphia 76ers: Nerlens Noel. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Noel and the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a buyout, making him a free agent.

“Center Nerlens Noel and the Detroit Pistons have completed a contract buyout,” Wojnarowski said. “Noel can join a team and become eligible for a playoff roster.”

After the New York Knicks traded Noel to the Pistons last summer, he appeared in 14 games for the Pistons, averaging 2.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 10.8 minutes a game.

With him now hitting the market as a free agent, the Sixers could potentially add him to the roster, though they would have to waive one of their players to make room for him. On February 8, NBA Insider Marc Stein reported that the Sixers, along with the Miami Heat, were interested in trading for Noel.

“The Piston most likely to be traded this week: Nerlens Noel. Sources say Miami and Philadelphia continue to register interest in Noel,” Stein said.

If the Sixers were to add Noel, he would enter a backup center rotation of him, Paul Reed, Montrezl Harrell, and Dewayne Dedmon, unless one of those three gets waived to make room for him.

Insider Says Sixers Need to Find Solution at Backup Center

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps says that, ever since Embiid first started playing for the Sixers, they have consistently failed to provide him with a reliable backup center.

“When it comes to the 76ers and the backup-center minutes behind Embiid, time is a flat circle,” Bontemps said. “No matter how many different ways Philadelphia has tried to solve the problem — and, boy, have the 76ers tried to solve it. They are no closer to it today than they were when Embiid first stepped on the court seven years ago.”

Bontemps then used the Sixers’ game against the Boston Celtics on February 25 to illustrate how desperate the Sixers are to get an adequate backup center.

“Embiid was dominant throughout Saturday’s game. He finished with 41 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and three blocked shots in 39 minutes, 49 seconds. He was the best player on the court, and he was unstoppable whenever he got the ball.

“And yet, like so many times before, Philadelphia couldn’t manage to hold on in the few minutes he wasn’t on the court. If the 76ers want to write a different ending than having a fifth second-round exit in six seasons, they’ll have to finally find a solution to their eternal dilemma: surviving the handful of minutes Embiid needs to sit.”

Noel Spoke Highly of Time With Sixers

When Noel and the Pistons came to visit the Sixers on January 10, Noel spoke highly of both Embiid and the Sixers.

“I’ve got a lot of memories here, a lot of relationships — Joel especially, having him come in and helping him learn a couple of things when he was a rookie,” Noel said per Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Being a year or two ahead of him, I took a lot of pride in that, helping him build the foundation that he has today.

“He’s a great player — Hall of Fame (in the) future. And the whole coaching staff, front office, everybody. I have great relationships and I valued my time here.”

Noel stressed that he was happy for everyone in Philadelphia, even former President of Basketball Operations Sam Hinkie.

“I had my own path, had my own journey, and everything here that’s coming to success, I genuinely am happy for everybody here,” he said. “From Joel to … I’m proud of Sam Hinkie, what he was able to start. He doesn’t get enough credit for it. I’m proud of everybody doing well here.”

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