Well, one of the Miami Heat’s bigger future assets is now not so big.
Pending league approval, which for salary cap reasons won’t come until July, the New Orleans Pelicans will reportedly trade center Nerlens Noel and a 2014 top-five protected first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for point guard Jrue Holiday. The Sixers will also send its 42nd overall draft pick, point guard Pierre Jackson of Baylor, with Holiday.
Not the Heat.
Holiday was an All-Star point guard. He was the team’s best player. He was young. A cornerstone. Now he’s gone.
By trading for Noel, the former Kentucky standout, the 76ers will also have no interest in bringing back center Andrew Bynum either.
And so, the Sixers have now lost former All-Stars at both the point guard and center positions, and replaced them with very little. With their No. 11 pick today’s draft, the Sixers selected point guard Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse to replace Holiday. Noel, coming off a March 12 operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, will replace Bynum, though he is not expected to be ready for play until at least the end of December.
The Sixers will also have a projected $18 million in salary cap room heading into the offseason, but nobody to spend it on. They aren’t likely to spend big, or long-term, dollars to attract top free agents, nor are such free agents likely to be eager to play for this roster.
This is a complete rebuild for Philadelphia.
They will be giving significant minutes to a rookie point guard in Carter-Williams, a vastly inexperienced fourth year shooting guard in James Andersen, a low-yield fourth year small forward in Evan Turner, a sophomore power forward in Arnett Moultrie, and a rookie center in Noel, amongst several other youngsters. That’s very likely a lottery team for the foreseeable future.
Not a good outcome if you’re the Miami Heat.
Prior to the trade, the Sixers had a strong shot at being an average but irrelevant team next season, perhaps a low-level playoff team in a not very deep Eastern Conference – horrible for them, but wonderful for the Heat.
The Heat hold the Sixers’ 2014 first round pick from its trade of Moultrie last season, conditioned upon the Sixers making the playoffs in either of the next two seasons. The lower the seeding for Philly within the playoffs, the better the pick would become for the Heat.
Philly was ninth in the conference last season, just one spot outside of the playoffs, with Atlanta, Boston and Milwaukee, all playoff teams last year, all rebuilding this year and figuring to get weaker. An eighth place finish for the Sixers in 2013-14 would translate into a possible No. 15 pick for the Heat in the strong 2014 NBA draft.
Now it would appear that Philly has chosen to sacrifice the present to concentrate on the future.
If Philly misses the playoffs next season, its first round pick will not get conferred to the Heat until 2015. If the Sixers then miss the playoffs the following season as well, the Heat would no longer be entitled to a first round pick. Instead, Philly’s obligation to the Heat would convert into consecutive second round picks in 2015 and 2016.
At this point, that appears all but certain.