Nerlens Noel has already been through “The Process” once. Unfortunately for him, an ungodly rebuild is just starting to get underway in his current home of Oklahoma City.
Noel re-signed in Oklahoma City on June 30, and 13 days later the team dealt away both Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
The former lottery pick already had some hesitation in re-signing with the Thunder when he posted a couple of cryptic question marks on his Instagram story following the news breaking on his one-year deal with the Thunder.
Noel has one of the more tradeable contract in the league this season as he has a base salary of just $2.02 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti is not even close to being done when it comes to acquiring assets this season, as he will dangle Chris Paul, Andre Roberson and others ahead of the February trade deadline.
The most glaring trade partner for Noel’s services when Noel becomes eligible for a trade in December are the Celtics, who are in desperate need for a defensive-oriented big man.
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Playing in limited minutes on a talented team last season, Noel was the most efficient player on the Thunder as he had the highest offensive and defensive rating on the team (per 100 possessions). Noel finished 21st in the NBA with 1.2 blocks per game.
The Celtics have plenty of trade chips to cash in ahead of the deadline, and you can bet that Danny Ainge’s first priority will be to address the defensive worry in the front court. Not for nothing, but Noel is also a Boston native.
Another team that will be interested in adding up front this winter is the Nets, who could use some depth behind DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen. The Nets have protected first round picks from Golden State and Philadelphia coming their way – something that Presti will be salivating over.
A third team that could seek a trade for a big man is the Indiana Pacers, who rely heavily on backcourt play (Victor Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon). Pacers boss Chad Buchanan is fixated on getting the Pacers into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, and adding Noel on a cheap contract would certainly help that effort considering the big trees of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo swinging in the East.