KEY POINTS

  • Nerlens Noel was a potential target for the Rockets last NBA season, ESPN's Tim MacMahon says
  • He could get a new lease if the Rockets revisit a trade with the Thunder
  • The Rockets are expected to start taking in big men

In the last NBA trade deadline, the Rockets tried to swing a deal for Nerlens Noel of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a report said. Nothing came out of it, but seeing as how the small-ball approach hardly worked, revisiting that interest could happen this offseason.

On Zach Lowe's "The Lowe Post" podcast, ESPN's Tim MacMahon said that Noel was a potential target for the Rockets last NBA season. Houston attempted a trade for the backup center, believed to be insurance in case Houston's micro ball tactic did not work.

It would be best to note that even if the Rockets had taken in Noel, there was no assurance that it could salvage their season. However, it would have been a sensible move, with Houston potentially taking in Noel at a bargain.

Noel is set to become a free agent this offseason so the Rockets could target him once more. But looking at his numbers, he will need a lot of work to recall his old efficiency.

As most know, the Rockets are shaking up things. Mike D'Antoni, the man believed to be behind the small-ball philosophy, is no longer around and Daryl Morey is also gone. Fox 6 Houston reported that the next head coach choice is down to three — Jeff Van Gundy, John Lucas and Stephen Silas.

Whoever among them takes over will likely address the team's center needs. A name that could surface is Noel. Though he appears to be more comfortable playing the forward position, his 6-foot-10 frame could be perfect for Houston. He is versatile and could blend in well with James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

The 26-year-old had his best year with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2015-16 NBA season. However, his stock dipped since moving away from Philly and Noel has struggled.

Last season, he played in 61 games with the Thunder but was hardly felt. He averaged 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, per Basketball-Reference. But a move to a team in need of a big man could change his fortunes.

That all depends on who the Rockets name as their next head coach. Van Gundy is the familiar name in the mix and a return to Houston would make sense. The 58-year-old called the shots for the club from 2003 to 2007, leading the team to the NBA playoffs each year except for the 2006-06 season.

The 2005-06 season was the first time that Van Gundy did not make the NBA playoffs. This was the same year when Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady missed a combined 70 games due to injuries.

Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets draws a foul from Nerlens Noel #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets draws a foul from Nerlens Noel #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder Photo: Getty Images | Kevin C. Cox