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Centers the Mavericks could pursue next summer

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With Noel’s decision to accept the Mavs’ Qualifying Offer, we look at some of Dallas’ best potential options at center next year in free agency.

Basketball - Olympics: Day 1 Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In the words of Taylor Swift, I’d like to say to Nerlens Noel, "Look what you made me do."

By accepting the Dallas Mavericks’ 1-year Qualifying Offer, worth $4.1 million next season, Noel has forced us to think about who could potentially be his replacement next summer. In regards to players accepting QO’s, history is not on the Mavs side. More times than not, when a player goes that route, they usually do not end up back with the same team the following year.

Luckily for the Mavs, they are set to have a decent amount of cap space next offseason, and the 2018 free agent class features some All-Star-caliber centers that would be a huge upgrade for them going forward. We all know how the Mavs’ recent history with "big fish" free agents has gone, but maybe this time can be different, being that Dallas actually has some nice young pieces to build around now in Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry and Dennis Smith Jr.

DeMarcus Cousins

Do you want to give a max contract to a big man that seems to be problematic? Why waste your time with Noel when Cousins will be on the market? I feel like the Mavs would be much more willing to put up with drama if it were coming from an actual superstar, like Boogie.

Although Cousins will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018, there’s no reason, yet, why he wouldn’t re-up with Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. But — it’s a long season, and if the Pelicans can’t make the playoffs, or if Davis and Cousins games just don’t mesh well, you can imagine Cousins looking at other destinations. Also, you have to factor in that Cousins didn’t ask to be traded to New Orleans.

If Mark Cuban can’t kiss and make up with Noel this season, don’t be surprised to see the Mavs getting into the Cousins sweepstakes come next July.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks
If the Mavs decide to move on from Nerlens Noel next summer, DeMarcus Cousins should be on their radar.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Jordan

Ok, everyone please put your pitchforks down for a minute and just hear me out. Before he completely screwed them over, do you remember how you felt that day DeAndre agreed to a deal with the Mavs? Do you remember how Dallas was going to use him as more of a focal point to expand his game? Well, that could still happen now, just three years later than it should have.

Yes, Jordan will be 29 going on 30 years old next summer, but he’s still the same beast down low that the Mavs coveted so bad in 2015. He’s averaged around 13 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in two seasons removed from his infamous "change of heart." It’d be a tough pill for Mavs fans to swallow, but time and all-star performances can heal all wounds.

Jordan would have to first decline his 2018-2019 player option with the Los Angles Clippers before officially becoming a free agent next summer. After seeing his teammate, Blake Griffin, decline his player option to get a hefty pay raise this past summer, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jordan attempt to do the same.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks
After being ditched by Chris Paul this past summer, DeAndre Jordan might want to reconsider joining the Mavs this time around if the opportunity presents itself.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Capela

The Mavs have some experience when it comes to stealing a restricted free agent away from the Houston Rockets. However, this scenario more than likely would turn out a lot better than the Chandler Parsons saga.

Capela is super athletic, great at finishing lobs and like Noel, he’s still only 23 years old. Capela averaged 12.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in only 24 minutes per game for Houston last season. The potential is there, and chances are that some team will be able to pry Capela away from the Rockets, given their current salary cap situation.

With James Harden signing a "super-max" etention, Chris Paul assumed to sign a longer, lucrative deal next summer and Ryan Anderson still on the books for $20 million per season, something will have to give for the Rockets next summer. The Mavs could really cash in here if they wanted to.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets
Clint Capela, athletic big man for the Houston Rockets, fits the exact description of what the Dallas Mavericks want and need at the center position.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid

If one Philadelphia center doesn’t work out, maybe another one will, right? That being said, if you think Noel has some injury concerns, then don’t look at Embiid’s injury history. You’ll be horrified.

Embiid was drafted out of Kansas in 2014 and hadn’t played in a real NBA game until last season. He only played in 31 games for the 76ers last season, but averaged an eye-opening 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in only 25 minutes per game. He also showed enough to secure a spot on the All-Rookie 1st team last season. He’s a surefire star in the making, if he could only stay healthy.

Embiid will be a restricted free agent next summer, so even if the Mavs wanted to sign him, they’d only be able to give him an offer and hope the 76ers don’t match. If Embiid proves that he can stay on the court early on this season, the 76ers could sign him to a long-term extension to avoid retricted free agency altogether. It’s a long season though and literally anything can happen at this point.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
Joel Embiid projects as an all-star caliber center in the NBA, but can he stay healthy?
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel

Out of all the center options next summer, the best-case scenario for the Mavs would be for Noel to come out this season, have a good time with his teammates, prove he’s worth a max contract and sign a long-term deal to stay in Dallas. Although he only averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22 games for the Mavs last season, he also only played 22 minutes per night. Not only that, but Noel only started in 12 games for the Mavs, who had transitioned into tank-mode once they found out they were eliminated from playoff contention.

My point is — with more minutes in meaningful games, more opportunities as a consistent starter and more familiarity with Rick Carlisle’s system, Noel just might show us that he’s worth that max contract he wants so badly. A big key to Noel’s decision could be the play of Dennis Smith Jr. Noel has never played with a point guard like Smith Jr., and I have a feeling the two will be a dynamic duo in Dallas this season.

Eighty-two games makes for long season. It’s a journey, and anything can happen along the way. History tells us that when players sign a qualifying offer, they usually don’t end up back with the same team. If Noel does fulfill his potential this season, let’s hope history makes an exception for the Mavs.