What does Nerlens Noel's cryptic post about Sixers mean? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The NBA's free agency window is scheduled to open Nov. 20, and rumors are already flying left and right.
And an intriguing - and maybe far-fetched - rumbling entered the fray on Friday involving the Sixers, and a former Process-era player.
One enterprising Sixers fan connected a couple of head-scratching dots from former Sixers big man Nerlens Noel, who posted a curious photo/caption combination on Facebook this week:
Thanks to Ricky listener Ian who points out that Nerlens Noel may have leaked that he's coming back this season on his Facebook page pic.twitter.com/xwJSgg3ltO
— Rights To Ricky Sanchez Podcast (@RTRSPodcast) November 14, 2020
Now, when Noel says "can't wait to be back", does he mean in Philadelphia? Or just playing basketball? It's pretty hard to tell. There doesn't seem to be much of a reason for Noel to go back years in the photo archive for a picture of him playing ball; he's played 168 NBA games since being traded away in 2017.
So is he trying to send a message about where he'll play next year?
I have some doubts. The main reason this connection was drawn is because an unreliable Twitter account started drumming up the possibility of Noel returning to Philly this offseason, and NBA Twitter, desperate for any rumors as we approach free agency, ran with it. Otherwise, we wouldn't be bending over backwards to connect Noel to the Sixers.
But I'll admit it's not impossible, either. Last month, ESPN's Tim McMahon reported that the Houston Rockets nearly traded for Noel under then-GM Daryl Morey's watch. With Morey now in Philadelphia, there's a chance he still likes Noel as a player, and sees a fit with the Sixers, particularly if Morey is able to move Al Horford and the team needs more big men.
Noel had his best year since being traded by the Sixers in 2019-20, averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 18.5 minutes per game with the Thunder. He shot a career-best 68.4% from the field, made a career-best 75.5% of his free throws, and averaged 1.5 blocks per game, his highest mark since his rookie season.
I like the idea of bringing Noel back into the fray if he's available at a reasonable price. He's still somehow only 25 years old (!?) and would provide solid depth in the frontcourt.
We'll see what Morey has in mind.