3. Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel nearly became a member of the Houston Rockets during the 2019-20 season and is now an unrestricted free agent, so he could very well be one of the most likely players on this list to don a Houston Rockets uniform next season. Noel has bounced around the league since he was drafted in 2014, as he’s played for three teams in just six seasons.
At 26-years-old, the Kentucky product still presents upside, and his prior experience with Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook would make for an easy transition for Noel. At 6-foot-10, Noel’s 7-foot-4 wingspan provides great rebounding and rim protection, which a team can never have enough of.
Noel has mostly been relied upon to be a situational big man of late, as he averaged fewer than 19 minutes per game during each of the last three seasons. But Noel would provide James Harden with a great lob threat, which has proven to be a successful formula.
Noel averaged 14.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes, which is a clear indication of the value he could bring to the Rockets. Noel gambled on himself in 2018, as he was offered a $70 million contract by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, which would have paid him $17.5 million per season.
Noel rejected the offer, stating that he wanted a max contract, which he never received. Noel was signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018, and made $3.7 million over the last two seasons combined, as he was signed on a veterans minimum deal.
The Rockets figure to make a similar offer to Noel, and it could pay dividends, at a fairly low cost. In addition, Noel could be tempted by an increased role on a team with championship aspirations.
Next: No. 2