When Nerlens Noel first arrived in Dallas, there was some talk that maybe the Mavs would be able to retain Noel this summer on a slight discount.
It wasn’t a crazy scenario — Noel has a poor injury history around his knees and his value in Philadelphia plummeted so much the Mavs were able to pry Noel from the 76ers without having to give up a first-round pick. That’s an awfully low return for a former top-10 pick who had great per-minute numbers over three years, never mind how much the Sixers undermined Noel with bad rosters and weird lineups.
So maybe, just maybe, with that trade value combined with the Mavericks obvious intent to keep Noel no matter what would scare teams from giving him an offer sheet and allowing the Mavericks to basically negotiate against themselves. Unfortunately for the Mavs, that doesn’t appear to be happening. From Mike Fisher at DallasBasketball.com:
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.
Like they say, all it takes is one team. If one team falls in love with Noel and wants to get screwy/optimistic, they can force the Mavericks to give Noel his max, which would be about $25 million a year. The Mavs can offer higher raises, so if another team does give Noel a max contract, the Mavs wouldn’t technically be giving him the most money he could possibly make. Still though, that base annual salary of about $25 million will be same no matter who offers the contract.
Any chance of some sort of “hometown discount” will probably be off the board, if there’s already a team sniffing around. And of course Noel should chase as much money as possible, especially after what he’s endured in his NBA career so far.
There’s always the chance that this is more of a smokescreen to perhaps keep the Mavs on their toes, but the Mavs have been on both ends of the restricted free agent tug of war and know that anything can happen (Marcin Gortat in 2009, Chandler Parsons in 2014). Noel is probably getting the max, whether the Mavs like it or not.
And like it or not, the Mavs will have to accept that. As our own Kirk Henderson has pointed out, that will mean a lot of the Mavs cap will be tied up in Noel and Harrison Barnes. That’s going to be the Mavs core post-Dirk, plus whoever they take with the ninth pick in this June’s draft.
Dallas has to do it, because the alternative is trading away Justin Anderson for nothing, letting Dirk rot with an even worse roster than last year’s and delay the rebuild by another two or three years. Dallas would kill to be able to draft a player close to Noel’s talent over the next three years and they already have him right in their lap, right now — he’ll just be more expensive. You pay for what you know.
Blame the NBA’s crazy salary cap spike, crazy-low rookie salary scale and CBA for forcing the Mavs to give Noel 25 percent of their cap before he’s even made an All-Star team, but don’t blame the Mavs. That’s just the business of acquiring and keeping young players.