By Don Bell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia 76ers did trade a center on Thursday before the deadline — but it wasn’t Jahlil Okafor.

It was the worst keep secret in the NBA. We all knew the Sixers were going to trade a center before the trade deadline. It’s the “who,” that has everyone surprised.

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The Sixers traded former first-round pick Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks, according to multiple reports. The Sixers are reportedly getting back Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a first-round pick that is top-18 protected.

It was no ordinary practice for the Sixers on Thursday. Brett Brown and the Sixers were forced to pull Noel and deliver that news that he was traded. The players knew this was a possibility with the deadline approaching.

“They understand. It didn’t catch anybody wildly off guard,” Brown said. “When it actually happens, you know, there’s a human side to this.”

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, if the protected pick falls in the top 18, it converts to two second-round picks. If Dallas remains where they are in the standing, the pick will convert into two very unimpressive second-round selections.

Watching Noel leave was a tough pill to swallow for Sixers rookie Joel Embiid. “Nerlens is my guy,” Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly. I’m happy for him and I know he wants to start and I think in Dallas, he’s going to get the chance to start and I think they’re going to resign him and pay him a lot of money.”

After a busy day, a major takeaway is that Okafor, widely speculated to be traded, is still here in Philadelphia. That is the surprise of the day.

WIP’s Spike Eskin called the move “disappointing.”

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“Nerlens Noel was the Sixers second best player and getting better so this is disappointing,” Eskin tweeted.

“I don’t think it’s a good day for Sixers fans, I really don’t,” said WIP host Chris Carlin. “I think Nerlens Noel might have been a guy that could’ve fit here long term as opposed to Jahlil Okafor who I don’t think fits here long term.”

Sixers center Joel Embiid tweeted that he’s going to “miss my best friend.”

“Gonna miss my best friend but I’m happy for him… He represented the process since he was here from the start,” Embiid said.

Embiid is now the longest-tenured Sixer with the Noel trade.

Noel is a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

There were previous reports the Sixers were leaning to signing the reserve center to a contract extension.

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Noel has been averaging nearly nine points and five rebounds a game this season.