I am ecstatic about the Nerlens Noel trade.
I just want you to know my (Dylan Duell) personal feelings on the deal before the title of this article, or the rest of it, lead you to believe anything else.
*Falls back into aspiring journalist writing style; without the use of “I” or “we.”*
Two games with Nerlens Noel. Two wins with Nerlens Noel.
It has been a fun couple nights at the American Airlines Center. The Mavs victories over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday and the red-hot Miami Heat on Monday night allowed MFFL’s to feast their eyes on the young big man as he collects rebounds, catching lobs and sending Hassan Whiteside’s soft shots straight into the ground.
It’s all fun and good now, but the Mavericks front office and fanbase will likely find themselves taking a deep breath and biting down hard when it comes time to resign the then 23 year old in free agency this summer.
Noel will enter free agency as a restricted free agent this summer after playing out his rookie contract with the Mavericks this spring. That’s significant meaning Dallas will have the option to match any big offer any team throws his way. With the NBA salary cap rising last summer and then even more this summer to a projected $103 million, Mr. Noel simply could not be entering free agency at a better time.
As it stands, the free agency big man market this summer will not be very fruitful. With that being the case, the Mavericks incumbent starting center is going to be one of the most heavily sought after players at ANY position. If teams looking for a young big man don’t find one via the draft or a trade before Noel signs, GM’s across the league will be prepared to offer well beyond the typical value of a player that produces the numbers that Nerlens Noel has put up throughout the first few years of his careers.
On ESPN’s Advanced Stats page, Noel is considered a power forward. His 20.31 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is well above league average for all positions and ranks 7th in the entire league among power forwards. That puts him behind the likes of Anthony Davis (27.44) and Kevin Love (20.5), but ahead of former All-Stars like LaMarcus Aldridge (18.92) and Paul Millsap (18.26).
The lowest salary this season of any of those four mentioned is Paul Millsap’s measly $20.1 million this season. Will a team come in and force the Mavericks to match an offer that pays Noel something near that salary for four seasons? Absolutely. That’s not even that close to what will be a “max” salary for Noel this summer.
For players with up to six years of NBA experience, like Noel with four entering free agency, the max salary per year would $25.8 million.
One would have to think that if any team really wanted to test the Mavs’ willingness to match an offer in order to pry Noel away, they’d have to give him a max offer. That would mean Dallas would have to be willing to give well over $100 million and about 25% of the salary cap to a player that has never averaged more than 11.1 points per game and a center that has never averaged more than 8 rebounds per game.
Also account that Harrison Barnes is already going to account for an average of $24 million over the next three seasons, Wesley Matthews making about $18 million each of the next two seasons and if Dirk Nowitzki wants to play next year, the team might only be able to get him back by exercising the option for $25 million . There’s the potential that a quartet of Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, Nerlens Noel and Dirk Nowitzki will be taking up about $91 million of a $103 million cap. Add in other smaller contracts that will carry over to next season as well and the Mavericks could possibly have little room to make even minor improvements to their team via free agency this summer.
*Slips out of aspiring journalist role*
I want the Mavericks to do whatever it takes to resign Nerlens Noel. No matter how costly. It’s not often that a 22 year old big man with substantial potential falls into your possession and you have the chance to lock him up for good. Dallas has let a franchise center go twice this decade, Tyson Chandler in 2011 and 2015, but you’d have to think that they won’t let him happen a third time.
With the way the salary cap has increased and then will suddenly stop, it’s likely that most teams will have overspent like the Mavericks might be about to do and will only be able to improve their team via trade. Bloated contract for bloated contract. It’s just a matter of fitting each other’s needs.
Basically, the Mavs are going to have to break the bank to keep Noel this summer. They knew that when they traded for him. There’s no reason to worry about them letting someone else pry him away, but it’s important to shed some light on the financial implications it would have for next season and beyond.