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Roundtable: Nerlens Noel’s future with the Mavericks

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Many assume Noel is leaving Dallas after this season, but what if this story could have a happy ending after all?

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks and Nerlens Noel have had their fair share of drama this season. It actually started in the offseason, when Noel reportedly turned down a four-year offer from the Mavs, worth around $70 million. Everything seemingly went downhill from there.

Before the season even began, Rick Carlisle announced that Noel probably wouldn't be starting. As the days passed, Noel’s minutes continued to shrink until he was out of the rotation all together. Then, there was the hotdog incident, which lead to this awkward exchange.

Shortly after, we learned that Noel needed to have surgery on his finger, and we haven't seen or heard much of him since. Taking all of this into account, we asked our staff:

How do you see things playing out for Nerlens Noel and the Mavericks this summer?

John (@JohnHowe_NBA): In a weird turn of events, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if Noel came back. The whole situation with praise, with his hot start and welcome at the end of last season, the good-natured response to #HotDogGate, and this weird hand injury surgery issue — I have a weird feeling, with no real hard evidence, that everyone is just playing things out, and they actually all like each other.

Dalton (@dalton_trigg): John’s take is something that’s also crossed my mind in the last few weeks. As bad as the contract negotiations were last summer, the fallout of Noel taking the qualifying offer has been handled peacefully by both sides. Sure, Noel wasn’t getting to play anyway before this thumb injury came up, but even then, there didn’t seem to be any malice involved. Noel and Rick Carlisle, no matter how staged it seemed, even made light of the #HotDogGate saga.

What if the Mavs have accepted their fate as a high lottery team, and this is just a way to maximize their draft positioning (there’s another word for this, but I refuse to say it)? What if, in the midst of what’s been a lost season, the Mavs simply have chosen to not risk any further significant injuries to Noel, while also keeping his value for this summer reasonably low (something I suspect has been going on with Seth Curry’s situation)?

It’s possible, but very unlikely. I think this has more to do with the Mavs trying to keep a good relationship with players’ agents. Noel wanted more than the Mavs were willing to give, but instead of talking bad about each other and causing off-court drama, they’ve handled the situation as respectfully as you could hope.

In the end though, when July 1 comes around, Noel will probably find himself a new home, that is, if he’s not traded somewhere else before February 8. That’s not how any of us wanted this story to end, but to me, that seems like the most probable outcome. And that’s a shame, because I thought we were going to see a lot of performances like this over the next three or four years.

Sam (@SamGuertler): Before we even think about this summer, I think we need to decide if Noel will be a Maverick past the February 8 trade deadline. Ever since his demotion in early November, all the stars have aligned for Noel to leave Dallas in free agency. Why would a team trade for a player that they could sign outright in July? I just don’t see the Mavs finding any suitors for Noel midseason.

Which brings us to the summer. I would be shocked if Noel and the Mavs reached a contract agreement to bring him back after everything that has transpired. I get that the relationship seems amicable, but how else are these parties supposed to act? Noel is trying to mend a strained reputation after he’s seemingly burned through two teams. And the Mavericks are trying to spin this into a positive look after they fumbled away the development of a young player with untapped potential. Players and agents notice these things. Maybe Noel won’t find what he’s looking for in free agency and the Mavs will toss a team friendly deal out there, but I have to believe he is done with the Mavs, and the Mavs are done with him.

Ian (@SmitheeMMB): Some of the responses above have me thinking the relationship between the Mavericks and Nerlens Noel has reached a sort of ‘so bad it’s good’ territory, where an event or sequence of events have spiraled out of control so disastrously they actually represent moderate success in the final outcome. I call this the ‘the Ian doctrine’ because it serves not only as a term I coined but also a personal life mantra.

I give Nerlens Noel credit for appearing outwardly to be taking all this in stride and doing his job. Perhaps he learned a lesson from his brief spat with the coaching staff in Philly over playing time. While I’d certainly like that to mean he still wants to be a part of the Dallas Mavericks going forward, the larger context makes that highly improbable. Whenever the two parties do officially sever ties, I think it will go down as one of the more disappointing chapters in the team’s recent history. Noel was different from Lamar Odom or Rajon Rondo because he was young *and* he had a skillset the Mavs desperately needed.

Whatever ratio of blame you want to assign between Noel himself and the organization is your call, but either way, it’s still a shame.