Someone Please Rescue Nerlens Noel

I don’t know if Rich Paul is up to the job. But someone needs to rescue Nerlens Noel. He has been hijacked by his ego, taken hostage by a familiar NBA crime: thinking he is better than he is.  A 10 point per game player with no jump shot to speak of and an extensive injury history thinks he is Blake Griffin. He wants max dollars and is looking for Paul to get it to him. But Paul fell short of the max threshold two years ago when Tristan Thompson wanted the max. No one else bid on Thompson knowing they were being used to up his value and the same with Noel. No one is going to give Noel a max deal. It’s almost September.  Noel has lost his leverage and perhaps his mind.

Currently he is a man without a team.  The Dallas Mavericks who were crazy to even offer him $17 million (according to Steve Kyler) are excited as they look forward to the Dennis Smith Jr. era starting in October. Many pencil Smith Jr. in as a dark horse ROY candidate. It’s not that no one is thinking about  Noel. But no one is thinking about Nerlens Noel. Except Rich Paul and Noel.

Rich Paul has a strategy that works well for him. He lingers in free agency hell until a week before the season is about to start, mid-October. Then both sides will figure out a number they both can live with, and take the credit for their skill at compromising.

When the summer started, with a lot of money floating around, it seemed likely that Noel would be handed a nice payday but only by the Mavs.  Things turned icy pretty quickly and Noel’s agent, Happy Walters, wasn’t smiling when negotiations stalled. He wasn’t smiling when Noel fired him and replaced him with Rich Paul.

Noel wants to stay in Dallas and if past history is anything to go by for Rich Paul clients, he will remain a Mav. It’s not like any other teams are knocking at Noel’s door ready to throw him a lifeboat.

If Nerlens actually turned down $17.8 million-no one is saying much- it reeks of greed.  If the dollar figure is wrong, the rejection still is right. The Mavs offered him something. He said no. He is asking the Mavericks to take a flyer on his potential. Most of the league passed on Noel because they didn’t see the value. His time with Dallas was a small sample size. To invest that kind of money and have his body break again is economic purgatory.

For a player like Noel, a role player who only started 19 games this past season, his numbers aren’t going to tell you much and are probably why he is unsigned in an analytics market.  8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds is blah. He did have a defensive rating of 102. But he doesn’t space the floor and this is a tough market for bigs if you are not versatile.

He is not an offensive player. He can’t stroke the three. He doesn’t space the floor. His value is limited.

With Dallas, he was slightly more productive than with the 76ers who jerked him around before trading him. It was an open secret that the 76ers had no use for Noel once Joel Embiid showed the league his true worth. Embiid made Noel expendable and Noel sulked about his change in fortune. Dallas was a new start for Noel, a long and lanky rebounder with average offensive talent who can defend but still needs to get stronger. He’s a weak passer and should block more shots than he does because he is a leaper. At best, he is a complimentary player who can somewhat protect the rim, finish in the paint but he’s been on bad teams that have never made the playoffs so it’s hard to get a good understanding of how he operates under pressure.

If you compare his third season to Tristan Thompson’s third season, Noel is a better defender and shot blocker and Thompson is a better offensive player which pretty much is the Noel book: defense first.

Year Three Points FG% Rebounds Blocks Defensive Rating
Tristan Thompson 11.7 47.7% 9.2 0.4 108
Nerlens Noel 8.7 59.5% 5.8 1.0 102

Tristan Thompson made $15,330,435 last year and is due to make $16,400,000 this year. But if that is not enough bank for Nerlens Noel, even as Thompson is a better player, he needs a shrink.

The lingering question about Noel is can he stay healthy, and if he cannot, then how much of a financial investment should the Mavs committ to.  Already, Noel has missed 38% of his NBA career. At 24 years old, it is impossible to project into his future.

The Mavericks, with Noel and Harrison Barnes, can be formidable; they already are athletic, particularly with the league trending so young. It comes back to Nerlens Noel and what is he worth?

The Mavs were gambling on Noel regardless of the offer. No one is fooling anybody, Noel isn’t a special player. He can do some things but he lacks versatility; he is pretty one-dimensional. Offense is an issue away from the rim. That is a negative, particularly in the fast pace, scoring West. The Mavs like Nerlens Noel. They appreciate him. They want to coach him. They just aren’t in love with him enough to pay him a max deal.

Mark Cuban is the master negotiator. Expect him to wait Noel out. And for Rich Paul to blink first.


photo vial llananba