The Philadelphia 76ers are taking another gamble on a big man with bad knees.
With the Andrew Bynum debacle seemingly behind them, the Sixers made a splash Thursday night in the NBA draft when they acquired Nerlens Noel from New Orleans for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.
Noel, out of Kentucky, had a March 12 operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The 6-foot-10 post player expects to return to the court by Christmas, a long road back likely to involve countless hours of rehabilitation.
The Pelicans sent Noel, the sixth overall pick, and a protected 2014 first-round pick to the Sixers for Holiday and the Sixers' second-round selection — 42nd overall — in this year's draft.
The Associated Press, Yahoo Sports and the New Orleans Times-Picayune all reported the deal, which was not officially announced.
Noel was still wearing a New Orleans Pelicans hat in New York when he learned he was traded.
"They've got a great organization there, too. I'm just staying positive about everything," he said. "It shows how much confidence they have in me. I'm just looking to get down there and work hard."
With the Sixers suddenly in the market for a point guard, they selected Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick.
Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard, played two seasons at Syracuse. He led the Orange in assists (7.3) and steals (2.8) and averaged 11.9 points last season.
General manager Sam Hinkie came out swinging in his first draft running the team. Hinkie traded the Sixers' best player and acquired a big man to go along with a bounty of draft picks for next season.
The Sixers were in the draft lottery mostly because Bynum never played a game for them because of bone bruises in both his knees. Philadelphia also cleared Holiday's $41 million contract off the books, giving them plenty of cap space to continue to reshape a team that went 34-48 last season. The Sixers still have not hired a coach two months after Doug Collins resigned.
Hinkie said he has not yet interviewed any candidates for the vacancy. Michael Curry, who worked on Collins' staff, will coach the 76ers summer league team.
Hired on May 14, Hinkie made his first draft night a memorable one by sending Holiday to New Orleans. Hinkie could not yet discuss the trade, but alluded to the difficulty of dealing the popular All-Star.
"It was a challenging night in a bunch of ways with one gut-wrenching phone call," Hinkie said. "All in all, I think the right thing to do."
That's because the Sixers believe in Noel.
Noel led the nation with 4.4 blocks per game this season along with 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals, being named the Southeastern Conference's top rookie and defensive player along with making the all-conference first team.
Noel ran into the padded basket support after blocking a layup from behind and landing awkwardly, falling to the floor and screaming as he clutched his knee in a Feb. 12 game against Florida. Kentucky stumbled to a 4-5 finish with Noel out and lost in the first round of the NIT.
Now, it's on to Philadelphia.
"I'm just looking to get down there and make an impact," he said.
As for Bynum, Hinkie said he'd keep an open mind about bringing him back.
In his lone year as a starter, Carter-Williams broke the school record for steals in a season with 111 and finished with 292 assists, the second-highest total in Syracuse history behind only Sherman Douglas's record of 326 in 1988-89. Carter-Williams also recorded nine double-doubles.
His star rose greatly in the postseason as he led Syracuse on a scintillating run after an end-of-year skid. In free fall with four losses in five games to close the regular season, the Orange beat Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Georgetown in the Big East tournament before falling to eventual-national champion Louisville in the title game at Madison Square Garden.
"He's a guy who sees the floor and can get anywhere he wants on the floor," Hinkie said. "He's a player we can really grow with and one we're really excited about."
In the NCAA tournament, Carter-Williams scored a career-high 24 in an upset of top-seeded Indiana in the semifinals of the East Regional, just days after his family home had been ravaged by a fire. Two days later, in the regional final, he had 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals with just one turnover in a victory over Marquette and was named the most outstanding player of the regional.
Carter-Williams, who had a private workout with the 76ers, and Noel are close friends who played AAU basketball together.
"He was like, 'Yo, I'm real happy we get to play together,'" Carter-Williams said. "We're talking about living next door to each other.