ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday Noel agreed to a deal for undisclosed terms with the Thunder. Hours later, Wojnarowski followed up to report Noel "has asked OKC for time to re-evaluate their earlier commitment on a new deal" and that the sides were maintaining a dialogue.
Noel averaged 4.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in his first season with the Thunder.
While Noel's per-game numbers don't jump off the page, they're largely a result of his limited playing time. He averaged only 13.7 minutes in 77 appearances.
The 25-year-old was an effective presence when he did play, averaging 16.7 points, 14.4 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference. It was a return to form for the 2013 first-round pick after a disappointing tenure with the Dallas Mavericks.
Noel was especially good on defense. He held opponents to 24.1 percent shooting on three-pointers and a respectable 54.5 percent shooting inside six feet, per NBA.com. Not only did he protect the rim, but he also held his own on the perimeter when he was pulled away from the basket.
Re-signing Noel is important for the Thunder because they enter the 2019-20 season with a $148.9 million payroll, per Spotrac, which doesn't factor in any of the free-agent moves reported Sunday.
Finding an adequate replacement for Noel will be almost impossible for Oklahoma City given the team's limited financial means.
Klay Thompson is likely to miss most or all of next year as he recovers from a torn ACL, while Wojnarowski reported Kevin Durant agreed to a four-year, $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets. The Western Conference is bound to open up as the Golden State Warriors take a step backward.
By running it back with last year's squad, the Thunder can be one of the top contenders in the West. Losing Noel would be a blow to their title hopes.