At this point, it almost seems a foregone conclusion that the Trail Blazers will be buyers during the NBA trade season. They have pieces, picks, playoff potential, and problems; all swirling for a perfect mid-winter storm. As it stands, the team is as unbalanced on the court as it is in the books, and the chorus of voices suggesting a trade built around Allen Crabbe and Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel has been joined by Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated, who sees no better landing spot for Philly’s disgruntled big man than Portland.
It's just hard to find a solution that makes more sense than Portland. Noel is a restricted free agent after this year, which is why he'd be a tough fit in Toronto, Boston, or Golden State. Those teams won't be in a position to pay him market value over the summer, which makes it harder to sacrifice assets now.
It's a different story for the Blazers. They stockpiled this summer's mismatched assets specifically to move them for more useful pieces down the line. They can't trade Evan Turner back to Philly (Hinkie fans would burn down the Wells Fargo Center), and they have to wait until January 15th to trade any of this summer's restricted free agents (Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard), and Crabbe can veto any trade during this season (since Portland matched his Nets offer sheet). Still, the pieces are there. They just have to survive another month.
As you may recall, the 76ers were interested in Crabbe during 2016 free agency, but were outbid by the Brooklyn Nets, whose offer the Trail Blazers matched to retain Crabbe’s services. The 76ers still desperately need strong shooting in their backcourt, so washing their hands of Noel in exchange for a Crabbe package could be a big win for them. This, of course, assumes that a presumed starting role is seductive enough for Crabbe to be on board with a trade.
The setup would be pretty ideal for all parties.
Crabbe would get a long-term, leading role for a young team that has untold potential with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, and an eventually healthy Ben Simmons; Noel would get a fresh start on a team expected to win more than 20 games for the first time in his career; the Trail Blazers would get to offload a huge contract and solve some major defensive problems, and the 76ers would finally get a solid young shooter to pair with their fearsome frontcourt.
There is just over a month until such a deal becomes possible. Is this something that both sides will seriously consider? We will have to wait and see. Until then, what are your thoughts?