Revisiting Nerlens Noel’s Free Agency

Mavericks big man Nerlens Noel headed into restricted free agency with expectations of walking away with an long-term max deal, or something close to it. Instead, it turned into a contentious and drawn-out odyssey, with Noel eventually signing his one-year qualifying offer. He’ll head back into the free agent market next summer as an unrestricted free agent, hoping to the secure the contract he was hoping for this summer.

Noel was offered a four-year, $70MM contract by Dallas when he entered free agency at the beginning of July, Chris Haynes of ESPN confirmed to Hoops Rumors on Sunday, but the Mavericks soon pulled if off the table after Noel – represented at the time by agent Happy Walters – rejected it. That offer was not on the table for Noel later in free agency.

Let’s look at the timeline of events during Noel’s foray into restricted free agency:

JUNE 27: The Mavs tender the qualifying offer of $4,187,598 to Noel, making him a restricted free agent.

JULY 1: Mavs owner Mark Cuban has a “great call” with Noel and puts the $70MM on the table. Noel expresses a desire to re-sign but decides to wait and see what the market will bear. The offer is soon pulled.

JULY 5: The Hawks reportedly show interest in Noel after trading Dwight Howard and allowing free agency Paul Millsap to walk. They ultimately decide not to extend an offer sheet.

JULY 18: Noel and the Mavs remain far apart in negotiations. Walters tells the Dallas Morning News that his client is “very disappointed where things stand” and hasn’t received a “serious offer.”

AUGUST 21: Agitated how the process played out, Noel fires Walters and hires Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul is the agent for LeBron James and John Wall, among many other NBA players.

AUGUST 26: Noel signs the qualifying offer, gambling that he’ll find more success in the open market next summer. The Mavs now need Noel’s approval to deal him before he becomes a free agent and he’ll have to surrender his Bird rights if he agrees to a trade. Meanwhile, Walters confirms that his former client turned down a four-year, $70MM offer from Dallas earlier in free agency, adding, “You can only advise. You cannot force people to do things they feel strongly about.” (Twitter links).

Noel’s situation is a prime example of how restricted free agency doesn’t work out for every player. While some – like Otto Porter and Tim Hardaway Jr. – benefit from a system that forces rival teams to overpay for an RFA to increase their chances of landing him, others can be left out in the cold once cap room dries up around the NBA.

Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), Alex Len (Suns), Mason Plumlee (Nuggets), and JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) are still restricted free agents, and it will be interesting to see whether any of them sign lucrative, long-term contracts this summer, or whether their free agency sagas ultimately end up looking more like Noel’s.

View Comments (5)