OKC Thunder finalize deal to re-sign Nerlens Noel – for real this time

OKC Thunder center Nerlens Noel (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder center Nerlens Noel (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After a day of confusing on again, off again, hold on moments the OKC Thunder get their backup big man Nerlens Noel to re-sign — for real this time.

It may have felt like the plot of a suspense movie for OKC Thunder fans on the first day of the 2019 NBA Free Agency Moratorium.  Early in the process, a Woj Bomb announced General Manager, Sam Presti had secured backup center Nerlens Noel to return next season.

Most fans were surprised but delighted by this news given the Thunder weren’t exactly in the market to land many big fish and the center had proven a good fit with the team last season.

When Noel opted out of his second year most felt this signaled the fact he’d be a long shot to re-sign with the expectations he’d likely moved into a contract bracket which would be too rich for OKC.

So, when the initial tweet was followed (shortly afterward) by a video of a question mark on Noel’s Instagram it appeared the deal was not secure. It had our writing team scurrying to make sure we’d not looked at one of those fake Woj accounts.

Yet, there it was plain as day, not an imposter but the sage himself. That led to the belief there was no deal and perhaps an overeager agent or Thunder staffer had prematurely leaked the signing without verification.

Then, just like those great suspense movies another tweet from Woj suggested Noel had requested additional time to evaluate the offer on the table. Which was good news because it meant the Thunder were still in the mix.

This afternoon another tweet announced the Nerlens Noel deal was complete and confirmed his return to the team. No doubt, this time after carefully double and triple checking the accuracy of the commitment.

However the two parties were able to reach this stage doesn’t matter, the fact they did agree and Noel will be back is the point.

With the Thunder in a pinch financially the thinking has been the most tradeable asset on the roster is big man Stephen Adams and losing would’ve limited Presti’s options, particularly at center.

That’s not to say Adams is definitively on the trade block. Rather, it means Presti at least can pursue trade scenarios knowing there is at least one center familiar with the Thunder system. Conversely, the brain trust may be content with both Adams and Noel and was desirous of the constancy the two would afford head coach Billy Donovan at the center position.

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The backup center had a fairly productive season albeit without jaw-dropping stats for the Thunder in his single season with the team. He appeared in 77 games and provided solid rim protection and defense in his 13.7 minutes per game average.

To suggest he could replace the load of Steven Adams or provide all the intangibles the big Kiwi affords the Thunder may be a stretch. That said having him back is a plus. The Thunder like to keep the pace brisk and cleaning the glass to ignite quick transitions up the court has been a mainstay of the squad which both Adams and Noel do effectively.

Regardless of the role, he’ll fulfill in his second season presumably Noel will be afforded more playing time. If Adams returns that would help ease the load he’s carried which may have led to fatigue and what appeared to be a myriad of injuries the big man nursed all year. Alternatively, if Presti does elect to pursue trade options for Adams at least Noel could fulfill some of the duties Adams absence would create.

Just in case you fall into the category of once bitten, twice shy – today’s Noel Instagram video should appease your concerns.

So, grab your popcorn Thunder Nation as surely there is more drama and intrigue coming this summer — just not from Nerlens Noel. Welcome back Nerlens – let’s do this thing!