Philadelphia 76ers: Rich Paul may have blocked a Nerlens Noel reunion

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

In 2018-19, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ center rotation was… lopsided.

Sure the team still had Joel Embiid, who had fully come into his own as one of the best big men in the NBA, but behind him? Well, Philly had the Boban Marjanovic for a few weeks, who is good in his own unique way, and then a bunch of guys who are no longer in the NBA right now.

Amir Johnson? I mean, sure, in 2013 he was good, but in 2018 he was averaging less than 10.5 minutes per game and just couldn’t provide valuable minutes at the five. How about Justin Patton? At the time, he seemed like a solid throw-in to the Jimmy Butler trade, but during his tenure with the team, he only recorded 21 total minutes spread over three games.

And what about Greg Monroe? *shakes head* don’t even get me started on Greg Monroe. During the team’s playoff run, the Sixers were outscored by 42 points when Monroe was on the court versus +100 when Embiid was in the game, and one could argue that that level of mindboggling inconsistency played into an early playoff exit for the best iteration of Philly’s finest we’ve seen since the Allen Iverson days.

Had the Sixers even had an average option at backup center, maybe we’d be looking at this team in a very different light. Maybe Brett Brown would still be standing in the coaching box, Butler would still be on the bench, and Daryl Morey would still be working in Houston.

If Brett Brown the GM and Elton Brand, also the GM, had secured a viable center to backup Embiid, maybe we’d have never been cursed with the image of Al Horford in a Sixers uniform; an undying horror that will surely live on forever in the nightmares of Phila fans for years to come.

Well, in a cruel twist of fate, we almost were afforded that reality, as Brett Brown was reportedly trying to bring back the original “Process Sixer,” Nerlens Noel, to backup his best friend, Joel Embiid, heading into the 2018-19 season, only to have that opportunity squashed by Rich Paul, who is currently being sued by his former client for $58 million in lost earnings.


Nerlens Noel would have been a godsend for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018-19.

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From the very first quarter of Joel Embiid’s very first game with the Philadelphia 76ers, Nerlens Noel’s time in the City of Brotherly Love became expendable.

Though Brett Brown tried his darndest to get his three young centers on the court as often as possible and attempted some truly head-scratching “twin towers” looks that never quite meshed, the idea of retaining three big men drafted in the top-10 long-term felt incredibly unrealistic in the modern-day NBA.

Considering Noel’s value on the trade market, his was the first shoe to drop, as he was shipped off to Dallas for two second-round picks and Justin Anderson in the spring of 2017.

Had Rich Paul not made it his mission to convince Noel that he was a $100 million man worthy of a max contract, maybe that’s where his NBA journey would have ended. Noel’s four-year, $77 million contract negotiated by Happy Walters would have just expired at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he’d be getting ready for his third NBA contract at the ripe old age of 27.

In hindsight, that was a mistake.

At the time, many assumed Noel had to go because he would never have been able to average 30 minutes per game on the same team as Embiid, but since leaving South Philly for a road trip around the NBA, that hasn’t really happened.

No, over his past four professional seasons, Noel has only averaged 20-plus points once, during his career-redefining season with the New York Knicks, and only started 17 games out of 168 appearances from 2017-20.

If you’re only going to play 15.8 minutes of action a night, why not do so as a member of a few really good Sixers squads, as opposed to a few over-the-hill OKC clubs and the Mavericks pre-Luka Doncic?

Beats me… or should I say beats, Rich Paul, as he allegedly wouldn’t answer the Sixers’ calls because he hates the Process (probably).

Next. Revisiting the astounding Seth Curry trade. dark

In a perfect world, the Philadelphia 76ers would still have Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and, yes, Nerlens Noel under contract, and we’d be thinking back fondly about a championship-winning team a la the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. I mean, I guess that team could have pulled a “Sixers” and fallen apart in the Eastern Conference Semifinals like oh so many of their predecessors have in the past, but it’s hard to see a squad with so much top-end talent failing. *sigh* it’s just too bad Rich Paul didn’t want to see that vision through.