If Howard doesn’t pan out for LA, OKC Thunder center Nerlens Noel offers perfect fit

Nerlens Noel #3 of the OKC Thunder, (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nerlens Noel #3 of the OKC Thunder, (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Nerlens Noel, Steven Adams OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder has frontcourt decisions to make:

So, the Lakers will start the season with Howard looking to erase the image he has in the Association on and off the court. As mentioned the Lakers have time to see if his addition will help the team and whether he’ll deliver on the things he says without having issues about his touches.

If not then Noel sure seems like a good economical fit and someone the Lakers could look to pay next season if he melded with the team. However, now the question becomes what could the Lakers offer the OKC Thunder that they would covet to exchange Noel for.

Looking at the roster the only player who fits the Thunder future plans is Kyle Kuzma and that won’t be a player LA will be keen to part with even to solve their big man issues. Especially when they only need to get through to the playoffs when Davis says he’ll forego his aversion to playing center.

If the Lakers can make it through the year they could once again spend time next summer looking to fill the five spot and Noel could be reexamined as an option since he’s inexpensive with a one-year contract of $2,028,594 on the books.

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In terms of draft picks the Lakers don’t have much leeway given what was jettisoned to the Pelicans in order to nab Anthony Davis. New Orleans (excluding the protections) has the Lakers 2021, 2022 (if not conveyed in 2021), 2023 swap, 2024 (unless deferred to 2025) first-round picks.

This means the earliest first-round pick the Lakers can offer would be 2026 and it’s not likely they’d be willing to cough up a first-round pick for Noel.

What the Lakers do have to offer is second-round picks owning all of their 2023 through 2026 picks. That might be something which could sway Sam Presti depending on where the Thunder are ranking by December 15 (or prior to the trade deadline).

Ultimately, Noel seems to make sense for the Lakers. The question is whether a few second-round picks and lowering salary would be enough for Presti to make the jump. More importantly, does Sam Presti look at these same stats and ask himself if Nerlens Noel might be the logical more economical center to retain.

If that’s his decision then it could free up the prospect of trading Steven Adams, but the Thunder would need to feel confident Noel would re-sign next summer. Losing Adams will feel like a similar gut punch as to what was experienced with the loss of Westbrook.

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But with the Thunder looking toward the future, this is an inevitable question the franchise will have to examine this season.