Nerlens Noel excited to play with Gilgeous-Alexander and his expanding leadership role

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) /

As Nerlens Noel prepares to don the OKC Thunder jersey for his second season the center offered positive commentary on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his own leadership role.

Entering his sixth season as a professional in the National Basketball Association and his second with the OKC Thunder Nerlens Noel is excited. Although his key stats don’t jump off the page the center can arguably cite last season as his best overall performance since entering the league. This because his contributions were vital for the Thunder reserve unit.

In Noel’s case what he did on the court which doesn’t show up on the stats sheet had a great impact on his squad. To wit, Noel showcased tangible assets in his defensive abilities particularly in rim protection and steals.

Moreover, without superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the squad there should be more opportunities for other members of the roster to contribute.

Per Game Table

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It’s also likely Noel can visualize how he could assume a major role in the future of the club especially if General Manager Sam Presti decides to move on from large contracts such as center Steven Adams.

Even if Adams remains with the club, Noel can conceivably fill an important role especially if Head Coach Billy Donovan manages Adams minutes better this season given the big man looked absolutely spent by the time the playoffs rolled around last year.

Per 36 Minutes Table

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A scan of Noel’s numbers per 36 minutes stat line points to his potential to produce a double-double given more opportunity. However, the numbers which should excite OKC Thunder fans in this scenario are the 2.2 blocks and 2.2 steals.

With training camp set to begin on October 1st Noel spoke with the media about his excitement and specifically praised a certain new acquisition — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Some might think Noel’s comments could be viewed as him throwing shade at Russell Westbrook. It seems more likely he’s encouraging his young point guard and recognizing his own opportunities in this new iteration of the Thunder.

The other positive takeaway is how eager Noel is to become a voice on the team and provide leadership for the youngsters on the club. As Brady Trantham noted Noel sees himself as a bridge between the youngsters and vets on the club.

As the year progresses it’s likely many of the veterans set to start the season won’t last the entire campaign as GM Sam Presti wheels and deals to add more assets and draft picks.

In this scenario, it could bode well for Noel and his future role with the OKC Thunder franchise. After injury issues derailed his rookie campaign and questions of his character arose in Dallas, could it be the 25-year old has found his home in Oklahoma City?

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It sure sounds like he feels that way!