There was a time when Oklahoma City Thunder big man Nerlens Noel was a highly sought-after prospect. In fact, he was projected to be the number one prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft. However, a string of injuries bumped his stock down pretty bad. Although he was still picked sixth overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, his hype as a player would slowly die down.
Initially, he was a piece moving forward into the Sixers’ process, but the logjam of big men that played his natural position slowly took a bite off his minutes and eventually made him an afterthought. Not a knock to his talent and athleticism, but the pace and space game of the modern NBA has slowly rendered him a bit obsolete.
A trade to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2017 season would supposedly be a breath of fresh air for the young big man and a young talented acquisition for the Mavs. Unfortunately, issues and injuries would arise relegating to more time on the bench as expected.
Playing for his third team in his young career, going into the season, Noel’s preparation and motivation are quite different this time.
Nerlens Noel on the differences between the Thunder and his previous stops: "Just the mentality. There's no beating around the bush." https://t.co/mlrE9p96p2
— Erik Horne (@ErikkHorne) September 27, 2018
Thunder forward Jerami Grant was drafted 39th overall by the Sixers a year after Noel was selected. His 2017-18 averages may not easily pop up with 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but he sure has found a home for his talents in Oklahoma City.
As the Thunder try to vie for the playoffs this season, the promising Nerlens Noel may be that surprising piece that could push them beyond in the postseason. Nonetheless, with All-Star Paul George back in the fold, it would be a worthwhile watch to keep eyes on the Thunder.