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The 76ers just cleared up their biggest roadblock with a surprise trade

The Philadelphia 76ers finally cleared up their center logjam.

On Thursday, three hours before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, the 76ers sent center Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson, and protected first-round draft pick (it stays with the Mavs if it's 1-18).

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as most of the trade buzz had been around second-year center Jahlil Okafor, who had been behind Noel in the rotation.

However, rumored deals with the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans for Okafor appeared to fall through in recent weeks. The 76ers were reportedly in talks with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday for a deal involving Okafor.

The 76ers had to clear up their logjam of big men. Okafor and Noel had both expressed displeasure with their limited roles as Joel Embiid became the future of the 76ers with surprisingly strong early-season play. Noel's athleticism and ability to protect the rim could be a good fit for the Mavericks, who sorely need a defensive-minded center to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.

See Jahlil Okafor through the years:

25 PHOTOS
Jahlil Okafor throughout his career
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Jahlil Okafor throughout his career
GARDEN GROVE, CA - AUGUST 4: Jahlil Okafor #122 poses for a portrait during adidas Nations on August 3, 2013 at the Next Level Sport Complex in Garden Grove, California. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 19: Jahlil Okafor (center) of Whitney Young High School (Chicago, IL) talks with Karl Towns Jr. of St. Joseph High School (Metuchen, NJ) during Countdown to Craziness at Cameron Indoor Stadium on October 19, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
02 APRIL 2014: McDonald's All American West Team Jahlil Okafor (22) in action during the 2014 Boy's McDonald's All American Game between the East Team and West Team, at the United Center, in Chicago IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 04: Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils concentrates at the free throw line against the Livingstone Blue Bears at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 4, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 03: Amile Jefferson #21, Justise Winslow #12 and Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils defend Dennis Clifford #24 of the Boston College Eagles during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 3, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20: Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the Robert Morris Colonials during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Duke won 85-56. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06: Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils cuts the net after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Duke defeated Wisconsin 68-63. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 24: NBA Draft Prospect, Jahlil Okafor speaks to the media during media availability as part of the 2015 NBA Draft on June 24, 2015 at the Westin Times Square in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 25: Jahlil Okafor poses for a portrait after being drafted number three overall by the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2015 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 25, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA,PA - OCTOBER 30: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes up for the shot against the Utah Jazz at Wells Fargo Center on October 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA,PA - NOVEMBER 9: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots a foul shot against the Chicago Bulls at Wells Fargo Center on November 9, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 22: Jahlil Okafor #8, Nerlens Noel #4, and Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers warm up prior to the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on December 22, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, USA - JANUARY 1: Jahlil Okafor (L) of 76ers is seen during NBA match between Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, Los Angeles, California on January 1, 2016. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA,PA - JANUARY 30: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots a foul shot against the Golden State Warriors at Wells Fargo Center on January 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 10: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a shot over DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings on February 10, 2016 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 13: Former Duke player Jahlil Okafor attends the game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic on February 28, 2016 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 26: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers slaps hands with Joel Embiid #21 against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center on October 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 103-97. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Head coach Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers pats Jahlil Okafor #8 on the back during a timeout against the Washington Wizards at Wells Fargo Center on November 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Wizards 109-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 20: Jahlil Okafor #8 and Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers watch the game from the bench against the New Orleans Pelicans at Wells Fargo Center on December 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA,PA - JANUARY 3 : Jahlil Okafor #8 and Ersan Ilyasova #7 of the Philadelphia 76ers go up for the rebound against Minnesota Timberwolves during game at the Wells Fargo Center on January 3, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 8: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers attempts a layup against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on February 8, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Spurs defeated the 76ers 111-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the USA Team dunks the ball during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge as part of 2017 All-Star Weekend at the Smoothie King Center on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 18: Former Duke basketball players (L-R) Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones pose for a photo following the game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 18, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 99-94. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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The 76ers remain half in "The Process" mode. The motivation for such a trade, besides clearing up the rotation, is to get back a draft pick (though it may not happen this year since the Mavs are unlikely to make the playoffs). On Wednesday, the 76ers also traded for Tiago Splitter from the Atlanta Hawks, taking on two second-round picks in the meantime.

Slowly, but surely, the 76ers are being molded into a real NBA team with clearer path.

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