OKC Thunder is the perfect rehab centre for Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel OKC Thunder Player Preview (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nerlens Noel OKC Thunder Player Preview (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images) /
1 of 5
Nerlens Noel
NEW ORLEANS, LA – MARCH 20: Nerlens Noel #3 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 20, 2018 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In 2013 Nerlens Noel was a near unanimous draft board No. 1 pick. Five years and three teams later, could the OKC Thunder offer the perfect elixir to finally unlock Noel’s potential?

The NBA needs a reminder on why it fell in love with Nerlens Noel in 2013. Thankfully, the OKC Thunder are committed to being the team who accepts that challenge.

Noels’ past five years in the league have been up-and-down, to say the least. He came out of Kentucky heralded as the clear number one pick for the Draft. By the end of the night, he dropped all the way to sixth place and was traded the same night to Philly for Jrue Holiday. Hardly a ringing endorsement for someone who once considered himself a franchise cornerstone.

In Philly, things were far from rosy. Within two years, he fell to third place in the pecking order, behind Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid.  Upon being traded to the rebuilding Mavericks, it seemed like Noel’s fate would change for the better.

As Noel drew closer to restricted free agency, he was a near-lock to be financially crowned Dallas’ new franchise centerpiece. And, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did hold true to expectations. Well, somewhat. But somewhat wasn’t good enough for Noel.

Noel received a four-year, $70 million contract offer from Cuban. It was close to the max deal Noel wanted, so many around the league expected him to at least remain at the bargaining table. Yet, what followed will surely go down as one of the most painful, real-life “Shaqtin” moments in player contract decisions.