Thunder Rumors: Nerlens Noel Declines Contract Option; Several Teams Interested

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2019

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 23:   Nerlens Noel #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers during Game Five of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Zach Beeker/Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder center Nerlens Noel has declined his $1.9 million player option for the 2019-20 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Per that report, "Noel and Thunder will discuss potential reunion, but several other teams are expected to express interest."

Noel, 25, had a solid 2018-19 season as Steven Adams' backup, averaging 4.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 13.7 minutes over 77 appearances. 

To say Noel's career has taken a rocky path would be an understatement. He was the No. 6 pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans but was acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers in a draft-night trade. 

After missing a year with a torn ACL, Noel watched as the Sixers selected centers Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the next two drafts, creating a logjam at the position that eventually led to an unhappy Noel being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2016-17 season. 

Noel then turned down a four-year, $70 million contract offer from the Mavericks in the 2017 offseason, instead betting on himself and signing a $4.1 million qualifying offer. That bet didn't pay off, as Noel appeared in just 30 games for the Mavericks in the 2017-18 season and fell out of favor with the team, famously making headlines when he visited the media room during halftime of one game to eat a hotdog. 

With bridges burned in Dallas, Noel signed a two-year, $3.7 million contract with the Thunder last offseason, with a player option for the 2019-20 campaign. He played well enough to earn a raise on the open market, and for teams that are seeking a rim-running, shot-blocking option, Noel should be intriguing.

He won't get anywhere near the huge offer the Mavericks once made him—and may have to compete for a starting job wherever he goes—but Noel should have plenty of suitors, even in a saturated center market.