NBA Free Agency 2018: 5 potential destinations for Nerlens Noel

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 30: Nerlens Noel
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 30: Nerlens Noel /
1 of 5

Nerlens Noel’s roller-coaster career currently lies at a trough. Will the enigmatic free agent find a good home this summer? These five teams would qualify.

Unless you’re a shooting star of talent traversing the basketball galaxy, success in the NBA relies heavily on timing and situation.

Draymond Green likely wouldn’t have become the do-it-all axis of small-ball death lineups if it wasn’t for a progressive coach and an injury to David Lee. Clint Capela surged into the upper stratospheres of centers this past season mostly because he’s quite talented. However, he certainly benefits from playing in Houston’s wide-open system and getting fed a diet of easy buckets and lobs from James Harden and Chris Paul.

Of course, these things cut both ways. The 76ers landed Nerlens Noel back in the 2013 draft during the dawn of The Process. In his developmental days, Noel found himself on a roster flush with young, high-pedigreed big men and a dearth of guard talent to help bring them along.

Now, after a tumultuous stint with the Mavericks, Noel’s a free agent and ripe for a mid-career resurgence. (He wouldn’t be the first mercurial talent to clash with Rick Carlisle and revive their reputation in another location.)

While his scoring is raw and limited, he always was (and could still be) a defensive maven. As a rookie, Noel finished eleventh in the entire NBA in defensive win shares, nearly averaging a combined four steals and blocks per game. With most teams going to a four-out model featuring one rim-protecting big who can roll to the hoop, Noel should be a target for anyone looking to fill that archetype.

Noel’s still just 24 years-old. Allusions have been made that a poor attitude’s what’s held him back. Eating a hot dog at halftime of a Mavericks game this past season wasn’t the best look. But you know who tend to sometimes have attitude problems? Guys in their early twenties. People mature. Noel can too.

The best part of taking a flyer on Noel is that it shouldn’t cost much in the way of commitment – both in years or money. Any investment should reap a profit for those willing to take the chance.

5. Denver Nuggets

High in the Rockies, Noel would slot perfectly as the third big man behind Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. Bringing to the table what they both lack, Noel’s athletic abilities and defensive prowess fit alongside either one when the other needs a break.

The Nuggets’ frontcourt depth appears crowded, so let’s break it down: Kenneth Faried is perpetually on the verge of getting traded and his contract expires after the upcoming season. Mason Plumlee might be the best of the Plumlees, but that still doesn’t make him a good NBA player. Darrell Arthur spent the past two years as mostly an afterthought. Juancho Hernangomez is a tweener forward. Trey Lyles shows flashes, but he’s not much of a rim protector.

Denver found themselves in the middle of the pack last year in both blocks (12th, 4.9 per game) and steals (17th, 7.6 per game). Noel would immediately buoy both categories for the Nuggets.