Oklahoma City Thunder big man Nerlens Noel has been ruled out of Saturday night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after he underwent surgery to repair a facial fracture in his left check, the team announced.
Noel will be re-evaluated next week. The 25-year-old has also missed seven total games with an ankle injury in January.
Injuries have become a common occurrence for Noel, who played just 30 games during the 2017-18 season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks after thumb surgery and missed the 2013-14 campaign because of knee surgery.
He also suffered a concussion in a January 2019 contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves while with the Thunder when he fell to the floor in a frightening manner. He was carried from the floor on a stretcher after the fall and missed the next three games.
When healthy, the Kentucky product gives the Thunder frontcourt depth, as well as control on the boards and occasional scoring while playing off primary ball-handlers. He is averaging 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks across 38 games (six starts) this season after posting 4.9 points and 4.2 boards per night in 2018-19.
He appeared well on his way to developing into a double-double threat after averaging 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in 2015-16 for the Philadelphia 76ers, but injuries have held him back in part.
Fortunately for the Thunder, they still have the combination of Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Darius Bazley and Mike Muscala to anchor the frontcourt while Noel is sidelined.