Noel signs with Thunder, Okafor still available

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly Staff 

A number of players have come and gone during The Process, but two of the most notable are centers Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. In the depths of The Process was the big man logjam that the roster had compiled, due to the unknown health of Joel Embiid. We all knew that Embiid could be special, but never knew if he'd be fully healthy, so Noel and Okafor were more or less insurance policies after Embiid started to play and it didn't end well for either of them. Noel was dealt to Dallas and his work ethic was continually an issue while Okafor's no-defense style of play ended up in a deal sending him to Brooklyn, a place where he had the opportunity to get more minutes…but didn't.

With both former Sixers centers on the market for other teams to pluck, Nerlens Noel has found a new home. After one plus seasons in Dallas, Noel is headed to join former teammate Jerami Grant in Oklahoma City. Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports was first to break the signing.

It is a two-year deal with the second year being a player-option year. Charania writes that the Thunder had been very interested in Noel and that he met with head coach Billy Donovan on July 1 that included pitchers from Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Noel will reportedly make $3.5 million over the length of the contract just one season removed from rejecting a four-year, $70 million contract in Dallas. 

After missing his first NBA season recovering from a torn ACL, Noel debuted with the Sixers looking like an athletic, lanky big man with elite rim presence. As his time in Philadelphia progressed though, his offense became one-dimensional and he was unable to out-muscle bigger, strong centers. After drafting Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, Noel was in and out of the lineup due to injury, but when all three of them could play, Noel was the most displeased of them all and was eventually dealt to Dallas for Justin Anderson and two second-rounders.

Noel and Mavs head coach Rich Carlisle banged heads on numerous occasions and Nerlens was never healthy enough to solidify himself a role in Dallas. Noel has played a total of 81 games over the last two seasons. In 30 games during the 2017-18 campaign, the former sixth overall pick averaged 4.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. Most known for his defense, Noel joins a team that already boasts strong defenders in Steven Adams, Paul George and Andre Roberson. 

Meanwhile, all is quiet on the Jahlil Okafor front. After underwhelming performances for the Nets last season, there are not too many teams that are in need of a big man that is only a good post up offensive player. Since his college days, Jah has been a work in progress on defense and while he shed weight and became more athletic in training during the season, he never made his way up the Nets' depth chart.

Okafor was never really the same player in Philadelphia after suffering a meniscus tear at the end of his rookie year and ended up getting dealt to Brooklyn along with Nik Stauskas in late 2017. Despite his shortcomings on the court, Okafor was a true professional throughout his bench-ridden tenure in Philadelphia. In 28 games played this past season, Jah averaged 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds. 

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