Nerlens Noel, the 2013 lottery pick out of Kentucky who has bounced around the league, has been suspended by the NBA five games after failing a drug test. As reported on by Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports and others, Noel was caught with Marijuana in his system for the third time through league-sanctioned testing. Also suspended under similar pretenses was the Utah Jazz’s Thabo Sefolosha.
The five-game ban will end Noel’s season, and as some have speculated, his tenure with the Dallas Mavericks. Noel’s career has been disappointing thus far, considering he was the #1 recruit coming out of High School and drew comparisons at the time to Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. His Kentucky team struggled in 2012-2013 during his lone college season, but he still showed enough promise to be selected 6th in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Beginning his NBA journey with the Philadelphia 76ers, Noel didn’t actually see the floor until his second season, due to a nasty ACL tear suffered toward the end of his season at Kentucky. Noel immediately flashed defensive potential during his ‘rookie’ season, averaging 2 blocks a game in just under 31 minutes per night. Since then further injuries have hindered Noel’s development. Still only 23 years old, there remains hope that Noel can put it together and be a productive modern NBA big man.
Noel will hit the open market this off-season after a frustrating year and a half in Dallas.
Sefolosha’s career has been more successful than that of Noel. The Swiss shooting guard was drafted in the 2006 lottery by the Philadelphia 76ers before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. Since then Thabo has garnered a reputation as a defensive stopper on the perimeter. He came to fruition early this decade playing alongside Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant on the Oklahoma City Thunder, making the all-defensive second team in 2010.
After a successful tenure in Oklahoma City, Thabo was traded to the Atlanta Hawks before the 2015 season — a year in which the Hawks would win 60 games. Toward the end of that season, Sefolosha was involved in a controversial brouhaha in New York City when NYPD officers grabbed and threw him outside a nightclub. The result was a fractured fibula and a postseason sidelined on the bench.
Sefolosha now plays for the insurgent Utah Jazz, a team likely to make the playoffs. Once he has served his suspension, he is expected to return to the Jazz rotation in time for round one.