76ers Rumors: 'Real Chance' Nerlens Noel Could Sign PHI Contract in Free Agency

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder center Nerlens Noel during a break in action in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Friday, March 6, 2020, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly considering pursuing Nerlens Noel when the free-agency period begins later Friday.

Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the Sixers view Noel as a potential replacement for Norvel Pelle, who was waived Thursday.

Noel, who spent his first two-and-a-half seasons with the Sixers, is coming off a two-year stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While the athletic big man never became the star the Sixers envisioned in 2013 as a sixth overall pick, he's carved out a role as a solid reserve. Noel averaged 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 18.5 minutes per game in 2019-20. His offensive game hasn't evolved much past being a dunker, but he did shoot a career-high 68.4 percent from the floor last season.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN reported the Houston Rockets also have interest in Noel, though their rocky relationship with James Harden and Russell Westbrook may result in players cooling on signing with the team.

The Sixers have clearly emphasized shooting in the short time since Daryl Morey took over their basketball operations in early November. They jettisoned Al Horford in a deal for Danny Green and then flipped Josh Richardson for Seth Curry on draft night. Noel doesn't fit the bill as a floor-spacer, but he could be a quality backup for Joel Embiid in limited minutes.

Knowing Morey's past, the Sixers' interest in Noel will probably be dependent on him taking a minimum deal. It seems unlikely that Morey would use the team's mid-level exception on a non-shooting backup center when there are obvious needs elsewhere on the roster.

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Noel's performance level exceeded a minimum salary in 2019-20, so it'll be interesting to see how his free agency develops.