Nerlens Noel

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Tolliver, Noel, Roberson

The Trail Blazers are looking to make trades to upgrade their roster, Sean Meagher of The Oregonian relays via an NBA-TV interview. Portland retained Jusuf Nurkic with a four-year deal and added guards Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas in free agency. They also used a slice of their mid-level exception to sign second-rounder Gary Trent Jr.

“There’s a great foundation there, we need to continue to add veterans,” Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey told Leigh Ellis of The Starters. “The draft was the draft, we didn’t have a lot of resources in free agency – we had the tax-payer mid-level, we broke that up – and now we’ll go into the rest of the offseason looking to make trades to bolster the top nine guys in our rotation.”

In other news around the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves valued veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver as much for his defense as his 3-point shooting and veteran leadership, coach Tom Thibodeau told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Tolliver signed a one-year, $5.75MM contract after a solid season with the Pistons. “We wanted to address the defense of the second unit, and we think he’ll be a great fit,” Thibodeau said. “Whatever he’s asked to do, he does it. He always stars in his role. We can’t have enough guys like that.”
  • Nerlens Noel was recruited by Russell Westbrook and Paul George to join the Thunder, he told Nick Gallo of the Thunder’s website. Noel signed a two-year deal with a player option, adding depth to OKC’s frontcourt. “They called the night of free agency when I was meeting with coach Billy [Donovan],” Noel said of the Thunder’s 1-2 punch. “They told me, let’s get it done and that we want to do special things this year. I definitely felt where they were coming from. I gave it a little thought and with as much love as they showed, it became an easy decision.”
  • Thunder guard Andre Roberson says he’s on track to be back in action for the start of the season, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. He ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee in January. Roberson is able to do some light shooting and ball-handling drills but hasn’t started running.

Thunder Sign Center Nerlens Noel

JULY 6th, 10:00pm: The signing is official, according to a team press release.

JULY 2nd, 1:55pm: Free agent center Nerlens Noel has reached an agreement to sign with the Thunder, league sources tell Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. According to Charania, Noel will sign a two-year contract that includes a second-year player option. It’s a minimum deal, per Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).

Noel, 24, began his NBA career with the Sixers as the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. After missing his rookie year with a knee injury, the big man played well in his next two seasons, averaging 10.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG, and 1.7 BPG in 142 games.

However, with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Richaun Holmes in the mix at center for the 76ers in 2016/17 and Noel once again battling knee issues, he struggled to carve out a regular role and was eventually sent to Dallas at the trade deadline.

As a restricted free agent during the 2017 offseason, Noel reportedly passed on a four-year, $70MM offer from the Mavericks and ultimately signed his one-year qualifying offer, putting him on track for unrestricted free agency this summer. Once again limited by injuries, Noel appeared in just 30 games during his contract year in 2017/18, averaging 4.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 15.7 minutes per contest.

Noel will get an opportunity to rebuild his value in Oklahoma City, where he’ll presumably slot in as the team’s backup center behind Steven Adams. According to Charania, the Thunder “aggressively” pursued Noel in free agency, with head coach Billy Donovan meeting him on July 1. Russell Westbrook and Paul George pitched the young center on joining the club, Charania adds.

The Thunder’s agreement with Noel is the latest move in an eventful offseason for the franchise, which has already struck lucrative new deals with George and Jerami Grant.

The Thunder currently project to be way over the tax line, with team salary set to $160MM+, so cost-cutting moves are expected at some point along the way. Carmelo Anthony – who has an expiring contract worth $27.93MM – represents the most obvious candidate to be stretched, since the cap and tax savings created by reducing his cap hit to $9.31MM would be massive.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Udoh, Thunder, Tolliver, Blazers

The Jazz have been relatively generous during free agency so far this summer compared to most teams, handing out a two-year, $36MM contract to forward Derrick Favors, agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with backup guard Dante Exum, and reaching terms on a two-year, $4MM pact with seldom-used guard Raul Neto.

Furthermore, Utah has already guaranteed the 2018/19 salary of Thabo Sefolosha, who was limited to only 39 games last season. As such, it would appear that the Jazz are intent on sticking with their 2017/18 roster for now, which means that both Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh can be cautiously optimistic while waiting for their 2018/19 salary to become guaranteed.

Udoh in particular, who averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 63 games for the Jazz last season, and whose $3.36MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on Utah’s roster past July 9, is trying to remain positive while awaiting Utah’s decision on his future, writes Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News.

“You know, we’ll see what happens,” Udoh told the Deseret News. “I’m grateful. I’m getting great workouts at the facility. I’ve been here pretty much since the season has been over outside of a couple trips, but I’ve just been getting in good work.”

Per Woodyard, Udoh is excited and prepared to return in a Jazz uniform next season, but also understands the business-like nature of the NBA.

“It’s gonna be a fun season,” Udoh said. “The West has gotten better but we’ve gotten better and we’re gonna be the same team next year. Starting last year, you didn’t know what you were going to get with so many new pieces, but now we’ll be ready from the beginning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that although Paul George did in fact want to be a Laker at this time last year, he is now happy in Oklahoma City after signing a four-year, $137MM max contract with the Thunder on the eve of free agency.
  • According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star TribuneTimberwolves’ free-agent signee forward Anthony Tolliver chose a return to Minnesota over four other pursuing teams because of the familiarity he has for the franchise – he played for the Wolves from 2010 to 2012 – and because “(he) want(s) to win.”
  • While it’s probably a bit bold to get too excited about the free agent signing of a backup, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes that the addition of 24 year-old center Nerlens Noel on a minimum-salary deal is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Thunder.
  • Per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, a couple of key subplots have emerged for the Trail Blazers during the team’s summer league minicamp. First, it’s an opportunity for Portland to get a first-hand look at rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. in an NBA practice. Moreover, both Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis are fighting for their NBA lives while Jake Layman looks to secure a more prominent role for next season.

Lakers Notes: James, Bosh, Noel

LeBron James‘ 2018 free agency was always a two-horse race between the Lakers and Cavaliers, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on SportsCenter, noting that the meeting with the Sixers earlier today was a mere courtesy.

The decision to move to Los Angeles had been in the back of James’ mind for a while now, leaving the Lakers in the driver’s seat for the past three weeks with little left to do but not blow it.

In the television interview, Windhorst spoke of the exodus of the King’s staffers, who relocated from Miami to the west coast during James’ second stint with the Cavaliers, and the fact that his wife has been looking at Los Angeles schools for the past year.

With James already in hand, Magic Johnson simply had to close the deal and, as ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne adds, was actually at James’ residence when free agency officially began.

There’s more out of Los Angeles tonight:

  • One name to keep an eye on as a potential Lakers addition is free agent big man Chris Bosh, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. Bosh played alongside James for four years in Miami but has been out of the game since February, 2016 after being diagnosed with life-threatening blood clots. A comeback would require some additional paperwork but a successful return would not impact the Heat’s payroll.
  • There’s a chance that Brook Lopez ends up back in Los Angeles now that much of the team’s available cap space has been tied up in James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets. Lopez was under contract for $22MM with the Lakers in 2017/18 and averaged 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
  • The Lakers are one of three teams that Nerlens Noel has narrowed his free agency decision down to, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Noel is represented by Rich Paul, the same agent that represents James and Caldwell-Pope. The Wizards and Thunder are the other two teams on Noel’s short list.

And-Ones: Georges-Hunt, Robinson, Gortat, Gordon

The first domino of the NBA offseason fell tonight with the Clippers sending Austin Rivers to the Wizards for Marcin Gortat. As we wait to see what other moves the offseason brings, let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the league:

  • The Wolves will not tender Marcus Georges-Hunt a qualifying offer, Michael Scotto of The Atlantic tweets. Georges-Hunt, who played in 42 games for Minnesota last season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Glenn Robinson, who will hit the unrestricted free agent market, has changed representatives, leaving CAA and signing with a group of independent agents. He’ll be represented by the team of Jelani Floyd, Daniel Poneman, Mike Naiditch, and E.J. Kusnyer, according to Kevin O’ Connor of the Ringer (Twitter link).
  • NBA.com’s David Aldridge isn’t surprised that the Wizards dealt Gortat, tweeting that Gortat and Wall were “oil and water.” The scribe adds that Washington is now in need of a big man and he speculates that Nerlens Noel could be a fit in D.C.
  • The Kings like Aaron Gordon, but view him as a power forward, the same position as Marvin Bagley, their top selection in this year’s draft, James Ham of NBC Sports writes. Ham adds that it’s unlikely Sacramento chases the 22-year-old.

Southwest Notes: Stefanski, Gentile, Noel, Mavs Pick

The Grizzlies’ draft preparations won’t be interrupted by the departure of executive VP of basketball operations Ed Stefanski, according to Michael Wallace of the team’s website. Stefanski accepted a front-office position with the Pistons on Thursday.

“Our draft process moves forward at this time,” Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace told Michael Wallace. “In due time, we’ll get to if we’re going to do something else in our front office. But our draft (process) rolls on. And we know who (Stefanski) likes already.”

The Grizzlies didn’t get lucky in the lottery but still have the No. 4 overall pick, as well as the No. 32 pick in the second round.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Swingman Alessandro Gentile will play for the Rockets in the Vegas Summer League, he indicated in an interview with Il Corriere dello Sport that was relayed by Sportando. Gentile, who has been playing in the Italian League, will be a free agent this summer. The Rockets acquired his draft rights in 2014 after he was selected in the second round.
  • Signing Mavericks free agent Nerlens Noel might be a worthwhile gamble for the Hawks, Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype opines. Noel’s skill set could complement Atlanta’s promising power forward, John Collins, because of his defensive versatility. The Spurs, Wizards and Warriors are some other potential landing spots for Noel, who signed his qualifying offer after a disappointing foray into restricted free agency last summer.
  • It’s unlikely the Mavericks will trade the No. 5 overall pick, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. They would have to get some prime assets to trade down below the No. 7 or No. 8 slot, Sefko continues. If Dallas wants to move up, it would likely have to give up a future first-rounder as well as the No. 5 pick and possibly one of its top young players, Sefko adds.

Nerlens Noel, Thabo Sefolosha Receive Five-Game Suspensions

Mavericks center Nerlens Noel and Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha have each received five-game suspensions for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program, the league announced today. The bans are for marijuana violations, tweets Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.

The lottery-bound Mavericks only have five games left in the regular season, so Noel will start serving his suspension immediately and avoid having it carry over to 2018/19. With unrestricted free agency looming for the former lottery pick, it’s possible that Noel has played his last game in Dallas. The suspension will cost him approximately $145K of this season’s salary.

As for Sefolosha, his situation is a little more complicated since he’s expected to miss the rest of this season with a knee injury. The veteran must receive medical clearance before he can begin serving his suspension, so the five-game ban figures to impact his availability at the start of next season.

Sefolosha is under contract for 2018/19, but his $5.25MM salary is non-guaranteed. The Jazz could release him by July 1 and avoid being on the hook for that salary — if they keep him on their roster, they’ll be without him for their first five games in the fall.

Mavs Notes: Smith Jr., Noel, Discrimination

Despite the Mavs’ disappointing 23-53 mark through 76 games, it’s hard to consider Dennis Smith Jr.‘s rookie season anything less than a success, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes. The 20-year-old has put forth 15.2 points and 5.0 assists per game, which both rank among the top five for first-year players.

More importantly, however, Smith Jr. has been healthy for the majority of the season. Considering the high-flying guard tore his left ACL back in 2015, it bodes well that he has made it through the bulk of an entire NBA campaign in relatively good shape. With the exception of a few instances of soreness, the guard’s knee has held up and he’s played in 86% of the team’s games so far.

A lot of rookie point guards who have the responsibility of starting would be worn down mentally and really banged up physically,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s neither. He’s very strong and has worked very hard on his body and his mind is fresh. He wants to be one of those guys that’s really depended on by a franchise and he’s gained is a real knowledge of the amount of work that’s going to go into that.

There’s more news out of Dallas this evening:

  • While it seemed as though Nerlens Noel‘s exit from Dallas was a foregone conclusion a couple months ago, the fact that the injured big man has done so little over the course of the 2017/18 campaign may mean that there isn’t much of a market for him in free agency. Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News writes that he doesn’t believe the franchise views Noel as a building block anymore but that the club could use him as a placeholder.
  • A woman fired by Arena Operating Co., the company that operates the American Airlines Center, is following up a January complaint alleging gender, sexual and racial issues by seeking information from Mark Cuban about a 2011 incident involving a noose hung in the Mavs’ stadium, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes. It’s alleged that Cuban disposed of the noose at the time, but did not “make a big deal of it.”
  • Under the leadership of new CEO Cynthia Marshall, the Mavs have hired a pair of executive leadership employees and officially launched an initial “100-Day Plan” to improve the culture of the disgraced organization. A team-issued press release states that the Mavs plan to position the organization as a standard bearer for inclusion and diversity.

Mavs Notes: Nowitzki, Kleber, Noel, Mejri

All signs point toward Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki returning next season, Marc Stein of the New York Times reports in his latest newsletter. Nowitzki has been pleased how his body has held up this season, as he has appeared in all but one of the team’s 73 games. “I feel great,” he told Stein. “I’ve only missed one game this season. I signed a two-year contract because I wanted to play two more years. And here we are.” The Mavericks hold a team option on his modest $5MM salary for next season and would unquestionably welcome back the future Hall of Famer. He’s averaging 12.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 24.8 MPG.

In other Mavs news:

  • Maxi Kleber‘s future with the team is uncertain, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. The Mavs have too many similar players on the roster and won’t keep them all, Sefko notes.  The 6’11” power forward has not played in five of the last 14 games and 10 or fewer minutes in seven others. Kleber’s $1.38MM salary for next season is not guaranteed.
  • Nerlens Noel is enjoying every chance he gets to play as he heads into unrestricted free agency, as he told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News“I’m just playing basketball and having fun,” he said. “If that means showcase, then that’s fine, but I think I’m going out there just doing what I love to do.” Noel, who posted his second double-double of the season against the Hornets Saturday, signed his $4.2MM qualifying offer last summer after a disappointing foray into restricted free agency.
  • Salah Mejri is a better bet to return than Noel, Sefko opines in a live chat segment. Mejri would likely be a cheaper alternative and plays with a little more of an edge, Sefko adds. But it’s quite possible that both big men will not return.  Mejri will be an unrestricted free agent unless the club extends a $1.84MM qualifying offer.

Mavericks Notes: Noel, Carlisle, Matthews, Tanking

Injuries have limited Nerlens Noel to just 24 games and six starts this season, leaving his impending unrestricted free agency as a major question mark. The former sixth overall pick will be able to sign with any team this upcoming offseason and he intends to approach the process in the best shape of his life, Isaac Harris of NBA.com writes.

“Once this summer ends I’ll be working harder than I’ve ever worked,” Noel said. “Just growing in this league and being older. Getting the priorities right and evolving. My mindset has only grown stronger in what I really want in life and want from this game. Right when the season ends I will strictly be working on my game and staying to myself and just letting things play out.”

Noel is still just 23 years old and his status as a former lottery pick with upside on defense and rebounding will likely attract a fair amount of suitors. Noel said he is open to a reunion with the Mavericks but will enter the summer with an “open mind” when it comes to signing his next deal.

Check out more Mavericks notes below:

  • The Mavericks’ recent win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden was proof that head coach Rick Carlisle is still taking his job seriously, despite the team’s poor record, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. Carlisle is owed a sizeable $7MM annual salary and has job security through 2022 but he does not want to concede in any way. “Competing just takes on a different form in our situation,” Carlisle said. “I have chosen to be here. I have a long deal. I knew we were probably going to hit a lower point. It’s just part of the cycle of the NBA.”
  • With Wesley Matthews out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture, several Mavericks players stand to see increased minutes. Sefko writes that players such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Doug McDermott, and Jalen Jones will likely see the most increased minutes.
  • After the Mavericks’ win over the Knicks, Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki addressed the topic of tanking in the NBA. Nowitzki said it’s clear which teams are purposely trying to lose and which ones are trying to win despite their record. “We keep playing hard,” Nowitzki said, per Sefko. “There obviously are some teams that are going for some losses now. We’re one of the teams that still wants to win and see where we end up in the draft.”