And so it begins! Oklahoma City backup center Nerlens Noel has decided to decline his $1.98 million player option for 2019-20 and test the waters of free agency. It’s a move that catches no one by surprise but also one that the OKC front office will be keeping a close eye on.
Noel could be a key piece to restructuring the Thunder roster…assuming they’re going to try something new after going just 4-12 in the playoffs over the last three seasons. Even as a free agent he’ll come at a much cheaper price than the $53.5 million left on Steven Adams’ contract over the next two seasons.
That’s why Adams is rumored to have been shopped around by Sam Presti. The Thunder are well over the $109 million salary cap so you gotta move a big piece somewhere. With Paul George and Russell Westbrook the faces of the franchise, that only leaves Adams as the man to move, which opens a door for Noel to not only get a bump in salary (Somewhere between the $5-7 million dollar range), but also a bump in playing time.
The team to keep an eye on now are the Boston Celtics who were once involved in the Steven Adams trade rumors. Al Horford is expected to leave through free agency and the Celtics traded Aron Baynes to Phoenix, leaving the team in need of another big man. With Kyrie Irving also out the door through free agency, Boston has plenty of cap space to sign a center and isn’t necessarily in need of a trade anymore.
To complicate things a little more, Noel is from the Boston area and could easily move back “home” by signing with the Celtics. Such a move would certainly put Oklahoma City in a “Plan B” mode as one of their best options to replace Steven Adams, should they move him, would be off the table.
The free agency period opens up late Sunday afternoon.
Photo Credit | Loud City Photography