Nerlens Noel

Northwest Notes: Kings, Wolves, Whiteside, Noel

New Trail Blazers trio Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel are excited for their opportunity in Portland, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. And their new teammates are looking forward to integrating them into the team’s system as 19-27 Portland competes for the eighth seed in the West.

The Trail Blazers are currently the No. 11 seed, just 2.5 games shy of the current eighth seed, the 21-24 Grizzlies. The 34 year-old Ariza appears the most likely new player to be incorporated into the current rotation. He is in the first of a two-year, $25MM contract he signed with the Kings in 2019.

“At this point, we’ve really simplified everything that we’ve done over the years, so… I don’t think it will be that hard to catch on to,” said star Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. “Like today at practice, they put in some of the sets that we’ve been running, the things that we do a lot and we didn’t have to stop practice to be like ‘Alright, this what we gotta do.’ [Ariza] just kinda remembered it, it was pretty simple for him.” 

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • During halftime of a seventh straight Timberwolves loss, irked coach Ryan Saunders berated his team, according to Chris Hine of the Minnesota Star Tribune. Much of that frustration was directed at disappointing $148MM wing Andrew Wiggins. “He was yelling at me a lot of the time,” Wiggins confirmed. “I needed it. The first half was a bad first half. I wasn’t aggressive.”
  • Though the Trail Blazers are clearly eager to cut more contracts to get under the luxury tax this spring, The Athletic’s Jason Quick suspects that GM Neil Olshey may have trouble offloading $98MM center Hassan Whiteside. Quick puts Whiteside’s odds of remaining in Portland through the February 6 trade deadline at 50/50.
  • Thunder backup center Nerlens Noel will miss tonight’s tilt against the Timberwolves due to a surgical procedure for a left cheek fracture, according to an ESPN report. The timeline on Noel’s absence will be updated next week. Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013, has been productive in limited minutes for Oklahoma City, averaging 8.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Malik Beasley, Nuggets, 23, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $7.8MM deal in 2016
Beasley reportedly declined a three-year extension offer worth at least $30MM prior to the season. Oops. Beasley’s playing time has significantly dropped this season and so has his production. He’s averaging 6.9 PPG and just 1.0 APG in 16.0 MPG. Beasley has been a bigger factor on offense recently, reaching double figures in four of the last six appearances, but he never left the bench against Indiana on Thursday. The prime trade candidate probably needs a change of scenery to restore his value. Denver can make him a restricted free agent but that’s an increasingly unlikely scenario.

Noah Vonleh, Timberwolves, 24, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2019
Vonleh entices NBA teams with his physique and potential but no one has been able to tap into it. At age 24, the 2014 lottery pick has already played for five teams. The way things are going in Minnesota, he’ll probably be looking for a sixth team to take a chance on him. He’ll get you some rebounds but defenses don’t have to respect him on the offensive end. He hasn’t developed a three-point shot, which is a no-no for a young ‘four man’ these days. Injuries led to increased playing time for Vonleh the past two weeks before he sat out Thursday’ game with a back injury. It’s unlikely he’ll remain in the rotation when the T-Wolves get healthier.

Nerlens Noel, Thunder, 25, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2019
Seems like Noel has been around for quite awhile but he’s still just 25. He’ll never live up to his draft status (No. 6 pick of 2013) but in shorter bursts, Noel can be quite effective. Noel has been a force off the bench at both ends of the floor, averaging 7.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.4 BPG and 1.1 SPG in 18.7 MPG. He’s even making his free throws this season (79.7%). Noel knows his strengths and finds ways to contribute. He can have a long career in the league as a backup big.

Hassan Whiteside, Trail Blazers, 30, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $98.4MM deal in 2016
Going strictly by the numbers, Whiteside is having a bounce-back season after a couple of uneasy years with Miami. During 14 games in December, Whiteside posted a stat line of 16.2 PPG on 63.2% shooting, 15.1 RPG, 1.8 APG and 3.4 BPG in 31.6 MPG. The flip side is that the Blazers have nosedived in the standings with Whiteside as their starting center. As a traditional post man who doesn’t shoot threes, Whiteside will have to take a significant pay cut next season. But his rebounding and shot-blocking prowess can’t be totally ignored.

Jordan Clarkson, Jazz, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
The NBA went five-plus months without a trade until Utah, seeking more bench scoring, acquired Clarkson from Cleveland for Dante Exum and two second-round picks. Utah is thrilled with the early returns. In his first four games in a Jazz uniform, Clarkson has averaged 15.0 PPG in 23.8 MPG. That lifted Utah to victories over Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit. Represented by super agent Rich Paul, Clarkson should draw plenty of interest as teams look to fortify their benches in a weak market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Notes: Roster, Paul, Diallo, Abrines

A challenging early-season schedule may determine whether the Thunder decide to push for the playoffs or sell off their assets and start rebuilding, observes Brett Dawson of The Athletic. Oklahoma City will begin the season with 10 of its first 16 games against teams ranked in the top 10 by FiveThirtyEight.com. That will take the club into late November, close to the unofficial start of trade season when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be dealt on December 15.

OKC’s obvious trade candidates are Danilo Gallinari, who has an expiring deal worth $22.6MM, and Chris Paul, whom the organization tried to move shortly after acquiring him from the Rockets. Dawson also points toward Dennis Schroder, who has two seasons left at $15.5MM each, along with Nerlens Noel and Mike Muscala as other rotation players who could be on the move.

“Obviously the most important season is (this) season, and we want to maximize that season the best that we can,” GM Sam Presti said. “But not at the expense of continually and aggressively making sure that we’re repositioning and replenishing the team so that we have a platform and a runway for the next great Thunder team to take shape. I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive.”

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Regardless of how long Paul stays, the Thunder can count on his competitive nature to drive the team, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Not only does Paul want to extend his streak of 50-win seasons, but the better he plays, the more he will drive up his trade value. “Obviously Russell (Westbrook) was an unbelievable competitor — I think Chris is an incredible competitor, too,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The biggest thing I’ve always tried to do with all these guys is to try to always be open and be honest and try to communicate. And I think that’s the way Chris is.”
  • Hamidou Diallo showed in Summer League that he is fully recovered after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in mid-April, notes Nick Gallo of NBA.com. Diallo was an important part of the rotation early in the season, but got into just six games after the All-Star break. He looked good in July, averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four Summer League games. “In this league you’ve got to be ready for anything at any given time, and sometimes you face adversity, but you still have to learn how to fight through and learn how to push through,” Diallo said.
  • In an interview with Basket en Movistar+ (Twitter link), Alex Abrines speaks out about the mental health issues that drove him out of the NBA and credits Westbrook for trying to be a calming influence.

Thunder Re-Sign Nerlens Noel, Agree To Sign Alec Burks

JULY 2, 10:07am: The Thunder have officially re-signed Noel, according to the NBA’s transactions log. Most NBA contracts can’t be finalized during the July moratorium, but one- or two-year minimum-salary deals can, so this strongly suggests that Noel will be returning to Oklahoma City on the veteran’s minimum.

JULY 1, 3:41pm: The Thunder are once again in agreement on a deal for big man Nerlens Noel, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Noel and the Thunder appeared to reach a deal early in free agency, but a follow-up report indicated that the center wanted to reconsider things.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has also agreed to sign free agent shooting guard Alec Burks, a league source tells Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Terms of the two deals aren’t yet known, and neither is the Thunder’s agreement with Mike Muscala, which was reported on Sunday. However, OKC entered the offseason with limited resources at its disposal to upgrade its roster, so it’s probably safe to assume that the team won’t be paying big money for any of its three new rotation pieces.

Noel, who served primarily as Steven Adams‘ backup at center last season, averaged 4.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 1.2 BPG in 77 games (13.7 MPG). Depending on what other moves the Thunder make, he could play a similar role this year, though it’s possible that Muscala’s arrival will eat into his minutes.

As for Burks, the former lottery pick is a career 35.5% three-point shooter, so he may be able to provide Oklahoma City with some much-needed floor spacing. Last season, he appeared in a total of 64 games for the Jazz, Cavaliers, and Kings, averaging 8.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 2.0 APG in 21.5 minutes per contest.

No Deal Yet For Thunder, Nerlens Noel

9:29pm: Three hours after having apparently committed to the Thunder, Noel has asked for time to re-evaluate the deal, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the two sides continue to discuss options.

6:29pm: The Thunder are re-signing free agent center Nerlens Noel to a deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The terms of the agreement are not yet known.

Noel will enter his second straight season with the organization, coming off a campaign which saw him average 4.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per contest. He appeared in 77 games, the most of his five-season NBA career.

Prior to joining the Thunder in the summer of 2018, Noel held brief stints with the 76ers and Mavericks. He was the No. 6 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft after spending one year at Kentucky.

Thunder’s Nerlens Noel To Opt Out

Thunder center Nerlens Noel won’t exercise his 2019/20 player option, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania, Noel and the Thunder figure to discuss a potential reunion, but the big man is expected to draw interest from other suitors as well.

If Noel had opted in for ’19/20, he would’ve locked in a salary worth his minimum, $1,988,119, per Basketball Insiders. Instead, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.

After signing a minimum-salary deal with Oklahoma City last summer, Noel enjoyed a solid season as Steven Adams‘ backup, averaging 4.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 1.2 BPG in 77 games (13.7 MPG). The 25-year-old may not reach the ceiling that some experts anticipated when he was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft, but his versatility and athleticism should appeal to some teams seeking frontcourt depth.

Assuming Noel signs elsewhere, the Thunder will have limited resources to replace him. OKC’s current commitments for 2019/20 already put team salary well above the projected tax threshold.

Now that we know which direction Noel is going, we’re just waiting for one last player-option decision, as our tracker shows. Nene‘s decision on a $3.8MM player option with the Rockets is the only one that has yet to be reported.

Northwest Notes: J. Howard, Jazz, Nuggets, Noel

Before he reached a deal to become the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Juwan Howard reportedly drew interest from the Timberwolves as they considered whether to retain head coach Ryan Saunders or go in a different direction.

While Minnesota ultimately opted to retain Saunders and Howard left the NBA for a college job, the Wolverines’ new head coach revealed today that the Timberwolves’ interest was real. According to Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (via Twitter), Howard said that the Wolves offered him their associate head coach position – presumably under Saunders – but he declined. “My heart is with Michigan,” he said.

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Northwest…

Thunder Notes: Roberson, George, Morris, Noel

Thunder swingman Andre Roberson, who has missed the last season and a half due to knee problems, is on track to be ready for training camp this fall, he told reporters, including Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman, during his end-of-season presser on Thursday. Roberson, who initially suffered a patellar tendon tear, estimates that he was about 85-95% recovered when he suffered a major setback in the form of an avulsion fracture.

“By me rupturing my patellar tendon it kind of shut off the blood supply to the patellar bone, which causes it to be weaker,” Roberson said. “And then when I was coming back I was working harder than the revascularizing of the tendon was happening, so you kind of see where the problem was there, and we did not know that at the time, unfortunately.”

Before his injury, Roberson was one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. If he returns to anywhere near that form, the Thunder will have happy to get him back in their lineup for the final year of his contract in 2019/20. He’ll earn $10.74MM before reaching free agency in 2020.

Here’s more out of Oklahoma City:

  • As Lee details in another story for The Oklahoman, Paul George hinted today that he may undergo surgery on his troublesome right shoulder during the offseason. “I will address it soon,” George said. “Try to get it fixed and get back out there come this next season.”
  • Markieff Morris was extremely complimentary of the Thunder today, calling it the best stop of his career from an organizational standpoint, tweets Brett Dawson of The Athletic. However, Morris didn’t express much interest in returning to play the same role he had down the stretch this season. The veteran forward averaged a career-low 16.1 MPG in 24 regular season games with the Thunder, then just 11.8 MPG in five postseason contests.
  • Nerlens Noel‘s minimum salary contract with Oklahoma City features a 2019/20 player option, but he’s not ready to commit one way or the other on it. As Dawson tweets, Noel said today that he’ll let his agent figure that out. I’d be a little surprised if Noel doesn’t seek at least a modest raise on the open market after a solid season as Steven Adams‘ backup.
  • With the Thunder’s offseason underway, Sean Deveney of Sporting News examines the major decisions facing the franchise, while ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) previews their summer from a cap perspective. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer, meanwhile, explored the challenges of building a roster around Russell Westbrook.
  • We opened up our own discussion on the Thunder’s offseason on Wednesday.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Tyler Lydon, Nuggets, 22, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.45MM deal in 2017
Lydon was the 24th overall pick in 2017 and acquired from Utah in a draft-day deal. He didn’t make much of an impression as a rookie, as the Nuggets declined his third-year option in October. Lydon has appeared in 21 games this season, mostly during garbage time. At the G League level, Lydon has averaged 5.3 three-point attempts and made 36.7%. He’s also rebounded well (8.5 in 31.3 MPG). He’ll be seeking a fresh start this summer, most likely with a rebuilding team that can offer him a greater opportunity.

Anthony Tolliver, Timberwolves, 33, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $5.75MM deal in 2018
Tolliver carved out a steady role under former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and delivered a career year last season. He averaged 8.9 PPG in 22.2 MPG and shot 43.6% from distance, and when he hit the free agent market, he drew interest from the Clippers, Mavericks, and Sixers as well as the Timberwolves. It hasn’t gone well in Minnesota, as Tolliver completely dropped out of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation in mid-November. He’s seen more action under Ryan Saunders but hasn’t made an impact. He’ll likely have to settle for the veteran’s minimum this summer to stay in the league.

Nerlens Noel, Thunder, 24, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.74MM deal in 2018
Noel has a player option worth less than $2MM and it’s likely he’ll decline it and take his chances on the open market. Noel has carved out a steady bench role with the Thunder and provided a defensive presence, along with an occasional scoring outburst. His Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating, according to Basketball-Reference, is an outstanding 5.8. He posted a 22-point, 13-rebound stat line in 22 minutes in a loss to New Orleans on Thursday. Noel, the sixth overall pick in 2013, has revived his career to some extent after a lost season in Dallas.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers, 28, PF (Up) — Signed to a four-year, $30MM deal in 2015
The quintessential glue guy, Aminu never puts up big numbers but he does a little bit of everything for a playoff-bound team in the West. He’s averaging a career-best 7.9 RPG in 29.0 MPG and his defensive versatility makes him indispensable on a team lacking in stoppers. He’s also become a respectable – if not prolific – 3-point shooter (35.8%). It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Aminu re-signs with Portland but he’ll have several suitors in July and shouldn’t have any trouble getting a multi-year deal.

Royce O’Neale, Jazz, 25, SF (Up)– Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2017
O’Neale, undrafted out of Baylor, has been a rotation player all season for Utah. He’s often the the last offensive option on the court but he’s pumped up his production this month. He averaged 13.8 PPG and 4.3 RPG in the last four games prior to the All-Star break. He’s shooting an outstanding 43.9% from long range and advanced defensive metrics are also kind to him (2.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). O’Neale’s $1.62MM salary for next season isn’t fully guaranteed until next January but the Jazz might do that a lot sooner and perhaps even negotiate an extension with the swingman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Noel, Butler, Fultz

Joel Embiid‘s back soreness is creating a dilemma for the Sixers as they battle for home court advantage in the playoffs, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia may prefer to rest Embiid, but the team leads Boston by only a game and a half in the race for fourth place and is in the middle of a challenging 12-game portion of its schedule.

Embiid said his back was “pretty tight” after Saturday’s loss to the Thunder, but his first choice is always to play. He missed his first two NBA seasons with a broken bone in his foot and appeared in just 51 games last year as the team was being cautious about his condition.

“I have to keep getting treatment on it,” Embiid said of his back, “and it’s going to get better.”

Pompey observes that Embiid moved gingerly on the court yesterday and used a heating pad on his back when he went to the bench. It could turn into a season-long question for the Sixers as they balance the value of home court advantage against the prospect that Embiid won’t be 100% at playoff time.

There’s more Sixers news to pass along:

  • Nerlens Noel‘s appearance in Philadelphia yesterday with the Thunder served as a reminder that he could have been the rim-protecting backup center that the Sixers need, Pompey notes in a separate story. The sixth player chosen in the 2013 draft, Noel spent two and a half seasons in Philly before being traded to the Mavericks. He signed with Oklahoma City last summer.
  • Two months after acquiring him from the Timberwolves, the Sixers are still working to make Jimmy Butler fit with all their other pieces, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic. He finds that Butler’s usage rate when he’s on the court with Embiid is just 18.1%, well below the 28.2% mark when he’s playing without Embiid or 27.8% when he and Ben Simmons are together without Embiid.
  • The Sixers welcomed Markelle Fultz back to the team this weekend, but his future remains cloudy, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Fultz will remain with the organization as he does rehab work after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, but there’s no timetable for him to start playing again. “It’s great to see him … it’s good to have him back,” said coach Brett Brown, who added that the team needs to assess whether he’s in basketball shape after being away so long.