Nerlens Noel left an interesting footprint on the Sixers' organization.
Originally drafted sixth overall by New Orleans, Noel was dealt to the Sixers along with a future first-round pick in a draft night trade for guard Jrue Holiday. This was Sam Hinkie's first true move in The Process.
After a trade deadline deal that sent him to Dallas for swingman Justin Anderson and a heavily protected first-round pick, Noel will be in the Wells Fargo Center for the first time as a Maverick Friday.
"It'll be funny to see Nerlens on the other side," Dario Saric said at practice Thursday. "He was a big part of this team. I think I can say a big part of this process. More than probably anybody here. He was the first to come to Philly. Of course it will be fun to play against him."
Jahlil Okafor has benefitted the most from Noel's departure. Okafor has been given more run and been the team's starting center. Since the trade, Okafor has averaged 23.3 minutes and started all nine games he's been active for.
Despite the logjam the Sixers had at center, Okafor and Noel remained friends. On Friday, they'll be opponents for the first time. Okafor is glad to see Noel excelling in Dallas and is looking forward to squaring off with him Friday.
"I love Nerlens to death," Okafor said. "He's someone that's been genuine with me since the second I got to Philadelphia. I'm happy for him. I know he's playing well in Dallas. I'm excited to see him tomorrow."
As for the Sixers' end of the trade, Anderson has remained pretty level headed about facing his former team. He was the Mavericks' first-round pick (21st overall) in 2015. Buried behind more accomplished wings in Dallas, Anderson never got much of an opportunity to showcase his talent.
Still, Anderson has nothing but praise for the organization that drafted him.
"Obviously there's probably a lot to it with Nerlens and all, but it's a situation where it's unique," Anderson said. "Being around a bunch of older veterans (in Dallas), they taught me a lot. But also just understanding the game, understanding the NBA game. That's my first [team] so it had a lot of weight as far as my professional career."
Noel became a cult hero in Philadelphia for being the catalyst of The Process. Fans embraced his energy and loved his potential on the defensive end of the floor.
For his Sixers career, Noel averaged 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 171 games. With the Mavericks, he'll have the opportunity to become their starting center of the future, something the Sixers simply couldn't offer.
"I'm very fond of Nerlens," head coach Brett Brown said. "He and I went through a lot. On many levels you miss him. You always wish him well. In my heart of hearts, I think he's in a really good place. He will be viewed as a perspective starting center and he should be viewed as that."