Storyline: Nerlens Noel Free Agency

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When opening up about his upcoming summer, Noel wants to head into the offseason with a clear head. “Definitely just an open mindset. Different type of free agency. Little more broad now,” Noel said in reference to being an unrestricted free agent. “Once this summer ends I’ll be working harder than I’ve ever worked. Just growing in this league and being older. Getting the priorities right and evolving. My mindset has only grown stronger in what I really want in life and want from this game. Right when the season ends I will strictly be working on my game and staying to myself and just letting things play out.”

“Definitely just an open mindset. Different type of free agency. Little more broad now,” Noel said in reference to being an unrestricted free agent. “Once this summer ends I’ll be working harder than I’ve ever worked. Just growing in this league and being older. Getting the priorities right and evolving. My mindset has only grown stronger in what I really want in life and want from this game. Right when the season ends I will strictly be working on my game and staying to myself and just letting things play out.”

Except Noel rejected the deal. Then in August, he fired his agent, Happy Walters, and replaced him with Rich Paul, whose playbook is to push for larger deals, and to hold off on signing long-term extensions until the player has the leverage, especially with guys as young as Noel (23). There were reports at the time that Noel was pushing for a max deal. A league source adamantly told B/R recently, though, that those reports were incorrect and that there was actually no dialogue whatsoever with the Mavericks after the agency change.

Do he and Paul push for a trade after he returns from injury—and is there even a team willing to surrender assets for a player it knows could demand a $100 million deal this summer? It will be months before we get answers. For now, all Noel can do is sit back and wait. “I most definitely don’t regret anything. I’m not nervous because I know my abilities,” he told Bleacher Report. “I know what I’m capable of. I know what I can get on the court any time, day or night, and do. It’s simply getting the opportunity to show it.”

At the time, Dorcina expressed her love for Dallas and her hopes of moving here to be closer to Nerlens and help him continue to acclimate to NBA life. On Saturday, I phoned Dorcina to ask if Nerlens’ decision to sign for one season might alter her plans. Dorcina had spent most of the last two months in her native Haiti, with a stopover on her way back home to Delaware to check on a sick relative in Miami. Dorcina was unaware of Nerlens’ decision, although he was due to arrive later Saturday to discuss his contract and the ramifications. “He told me two weeks ago he’s willing to sign for four years with Dallas, but they’re not giving him much money for four years,” Dorcina said. “He told me he was asking for about $22 million a year, but Dallas refused to give it to him. “He told me, ‘If Dallas gives me $20 million, I’m going to be there because they love me there. I said, ‘Yeah, I love it there, too.'”

However, the salary cap may not rise next season, likely leading to a depressed free agency market that may prove difficult for any player to garner max offers. Several Mavericks teammates believe Noel should have taken the original offer. “They think he should of taken the [$17 million],” one source close to the team told me. “That’s a good number for him. But if he’s willing to risk it and bet on himself, you can’t knock someone looking for their first big bag of money.”

“He’s so young and so athletic. I’d love to keep him,” Nowitzki said. “I’m sure that is what the Mavs are thinking. … We obviously traded for him last year with the hope he will stay with this franchise for a long time. “I understand the business side of it. He’s a restricted free agent. I’m sure [Mavericks owner] Mark [Cuban] and [general manager] Donnie [Nelson], the leaders of the franchise, are trying to play the right business move. We’ll have to wait to see how it all ends up.”

Noel is a restricted free agent who has yet to sign with any team. If he were to sign a contract sheet with another team, the Mavericks would have the opportunity to match. “He’s so young and so athletic. I’d love to keep him,” Nowitzki said. “I’m sure that is what the Mavs are thinking. … We obviously traded for him last year with the hope he will stay with this franchise for a long time. “I understand the business side of it. He’s a restricted free agent. I’m sure [Mavericks owner] Mark [Cuban] and [general manager] Donnie [Nelson], the leaders of the franchise, are trying to play the right business move. We’ll have to wait to see how it all ends up.”

The only hitch in that outlook is getting Noel signed to a new contract, which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen soon. “We’re looking forward to the future and the whole Noel situation is a little unfortunate I think,” Nowitzki said. “We traded for him to keep him for the long run. I’m not sure what the latest is there, but I’m hoping that things will work out and he’s coming back to the Mavs and we’d have a crew that at times can be very athletic — when I’m out of the game.

Question: Do you think Nerlens just ends up signing a qualifying offer at this point or a max contract or something in between? Sefko: Something in between. I don’t see him taking the [qualifying] offer. That money could be made up on the back end, but still, at his age and with the knee history, that’s a gamble that he doesn’t need to take. The Mavericks will continue to play hardball with their offer since the other options appear to be dried up for Noel.

A source from another NBA team (not the Mavs) tells me that there will be “multiple” clubs willing to pay Noel his max once he hits the restricted-free-agent market on July 1. And just so there is no confusion as to what that “max” is: Assuming the cap at $101 million, as the NBA is expecting, Noel’s contract can start at 25 percent of the cap with eight-percent annual raises. That equals $25.25 mil as his starting salary and about $146.45 million over five years.
1 year ago via ESPN

“I definitely feel like I’m in a position to be a long-term situation here,” said Noel, who admits he was frustrated as part of The Process-created center logjam with the 76ers. “There are a lot of things that come into it, but I’m definitely comfortable in the system. I’m going to continue to grow as this season ends and continue to capitalize on my opportunities and maybe even get more opportunities.” The Mavs see shades of Chandler in Noel: the length, the lean frame, the lift, the finishes on lobs and the knack for doing the little things on defense.
1 year ago via ESPN

But the Mavs are more than willing to pay the going price for a big man who fits well, can protect the rim, provide the vertical element necessary for Carlisle’s pick-and-roll-heavy offense to hum and has plenty of room to grow. “I definitely feel like I’m in a better position here,” Noel said. “I’m trying to maximize it. It’s definitely a good position to fulfill my potential. I’m going to continue to show Coach I can be in the game more and make a difference. I think that will take care of itself in due time.”

Noel has languished for three years in Philadelphia, unable to get consistent playing time with Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid ahead of him. But he showed promise as a D-and-rebounding big man who has a decent midrange shot, and Dallas was able to get him at the low cost of two second-rounders and Justin Anderson. The only reason he was so cheap was that he is an impending restricted free agent who the Sixers did not intend to keep, not with a projected cost of around $90 million, according to league executives. That won’t be the case in Dallas, which has made clear to Noel that it will match any offer he gets this summer.
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