Nerlens Noel

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are in a curious position as an NBA franchise, suspended in a unique limbo between rebuilding and (sorta) contending. Thank Dirk Nowitzki for most of it, as team owner Mark Cuban seems to have insisted that the Mavs field a semi-competent roster in the future Hall of Famer’s final years.

While the club has seemingly acknowledged the writing on the wall and started to amass long-term building blocks – most recently, ninth overall pick Dennis Smith Jr. – it’s unlikely that the Mavs will fully give into an outright rebuild so long as Nowitzki is on board for 2018/19 (which, for reasons discussed below, we’re going to assume to be the case).

Seth Curry verticalSeth Curry, PG, 27 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $6MM deal in 2016
Curry has yet to see the court this season on account of a leg injury that may now require surgery. Even at full health, however, it’s not likely that Curry would have siphoned minutes away from either lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. or several other niche players in Dallas’ backcourt rotation, a reality that casts doubt on his future with the franchise.

Devin Harris, SG, 35 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $17MM deal in 2014
While Harris has produced admirably off the bench for the Mavs, it doesn’t make sense for a team attempting to usher in a new era to retain a 35-year-old reserve in an already crowded backcourt. Harris could be a sneaky value add for a contender late in the free agency process next summer.

Yogi Ferrell, PG, 25 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Ferrell carved out a role for himself as a rotation piece on the Mavs last season but he probably won’t garner much interest as a restricted free agent next summer given that his ceiling seems somewhat capped. Still, he could provide solid long-term value in Dallas if the team does decide to part ways with Curry and/or Harris.

Wesley Matthews, SF, 31 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2015
The Mavs poached Matthews from an elite Trail Blazers squad hopeful that the swingman’s two-way game would help keep their aging core relevant in the West. Through three seasons, Matthews has posted a relatively uninspiring 12.9 points per game but will almost certainly return to Dallas considering how unlikely it would be for him to exceed his $19MM 2018/19 player option on the open market.

Josh McRoberts, PF, 31 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $23MM deal in 2014
The Mavs absorbed the final year of McRoberts’ contract over the summer, yielding a future second-round pick from the Heat in the process. Considering that the 30-year-old has been sidelined with a knee injury since joining the organization, he’ll be hard-pressed to earn a significant contract after this season. McRoberts may be able to fill a rotation spot somewhere – maybe even in Dallas – but he’ll presumably have to do so on a minimum salary.

Salah Mejri, C, 32 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3MM deal in 2015
While Mejri has played a modest role for the Mavs in each of the past three seasons, he won’t command much on the open market as a 32-year-old free agent with career averages south of five points per game.

Nerlens Noel, C, 24 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $4MM deal in 2017
It’s been less than a year since the Mavs plucked a disgruntled Noel away from the Sixers, but any notion that the team was eager to include the 23-year-old in their long-term plans has quickly faded. It’s hard to picture Noel commanding the big money he supposedly aspired to land last summer but even harder to picture him back in Dallas next season after how head coach Rick Carlisle has handled his minutes so far this season. Realistically the 2016 lottery pick’s value falls much higher than his $4MM qualifying offer and, once the free agency dominoes start falling next summer, he should find a team happy to throw him a more significant long-term offer.

Dirk Nowitzki, PF, 40 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2017.
Nowitzki has said that his decision (yes, his decision, even though it’s formally and contractually the team’s) will be based on how he feels over the course of this season. For what it’s worth, Cuban hopes to see him return and thinks there’s good chance that he does so in order to break the record for most seasons with one franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texas Notes: Noel, Curry, Gay, Capela

Once Mavericks center Nerlens Noel recovers from thumb surgery, he may see increased playing time in an attempt to build his trade value, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Noel had fallen out of the rotation before the procedure, which was conducted over the weekend. He is expected to be sidelined three to six weeks.

Noel has played just 18 games and is averaging 12.5 minutes per night as Dallas tries to work out playing time for all its big men. Noel’s salary is a little less than $4.19MM on an expiring contract, and Sefko notes that he won’t provide much cap relief for any team that might trade for him. Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Morning-News suggests that the most the Mavericks can hope for in return is a second-round pick.

There;s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Mavericks guard Seth Curry, who hasn’t played yet this season because of a stress fracture in his left leg, could be a long way from returning, Sefko writes in a separate story. Curry called it a “couple week by couple week situation” when he talked to reporters before Tuesday’s game. “The path I’m on right now, the MRI shows it’s gotten a little better,” he said. “But there’s a chance [he could need a procedure]. It’s a tricky situation and hard for me to say. It’s very frustrating. Recovery-wise, I get out there and work out and feel OK, and it’ll bother me the next day.” 
  • The offseason signing of Rudy Gay helped the Spurs survive the injury to Kawhi Leonard, notes Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports. Gay is the latest in a long line of veterans who have opted to come to San Antonio even though they could have gotten more money elsewhere. Gay is making slightly more than $8.4MM this year and has a player option worth more than $8.826MM for next season. “It’s a situation where, you have to pay a lot of attention to detail and it’s a winning mentality,” Gay explained. “That’s something I was away from, for so long, you kind of create bad habits. I’ve had to re-teach myself. And I’ve had to continue to do it every day.”
  • Rockets center Clint Capela is putting together his best season as he heads toward restricted free agency next summer, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Capela is averaging career highs in points [13.7] and rebounds [11.0] and leads the NBA in both field goal percentage [.677] and dunks [75], many as the pick-and-roll partner of James Harden“I know exactly when to roll,” Capela said. “I know exactly how to make the big go on James and just get behind the big. I know the details of he goes quick. I just love it. I love it.”

Texas Notes: McRoberts, Noel, Gay, Nene

Mavericks center/power forward Josh McRoberts doesn’t know when he’ll be able to play again, but he hopes to start practicing soon, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. McRoberts, who was acquired from Miami in an offseason trade, has been diagnosed with a “lower extremity injury” that has kept him out all season. It’s the latest in a string of mishaps that limited him to 81 games over the three seasons before he came to Dallas.

“Basically, it’s just my foot having been broken three different times,” McRoberts explained. “That’s pretty much what it is. I’m trying to get my foot healthy and feeling good and get it to a place where Casey [Smith, athletic trainer] and the staff feel comfortable with where we’re at to be able to get out on the court and stay out on the court and not have any setbacks.” 

McRoberts hopes to be able to practice in the next week or so and says there’s “no doubt” he will  play at some point this season. He is making a little more than $6MM in the final year of his contract.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Mavericks center Nerlens Noel is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing thumb surgery Friday at the Cleveland Clinic, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Noel had a torn ligament repaired and should return in four to six weeks. The 23-year-old, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July, is averaging 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18 games.
  • Rudy Gay was considered an odd fit when he signed with the Spurs this summer, but the move has worked out, notes Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype in a Twitter video. Gay has accepted a reduced role in San Antonio, playing just 23.5 minutes per night, and is averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. He has also adopted the Spurs’ language, as Kennedy includes a recent quote of Gay saying, “For us to be successful, we have to find the open man and pass up a good shot for a great one.”
  • The Rockets can’t find enough minutes for veteran center Nene, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Going into the season, the team hoped to play him 19 minutes per game, but he has reached that total just once and is averaging 14.4 minutes. “I don’t know how important it is right now,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The biggest thing is just to make sure he’s healthy going into the playoffs. That’s the biggest thing we want to do and getting his rhythm before that happens. But that’s a long time from now. I’m not worried about that right now.”

Pacific Notes: Teodosic, Sampson, Walton

It may not be long before the Clippers see Milos Teodosic back in action, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. The rookie point guard has been sidelined with a plantar fascia injury since the second game of the season but is nearing his return.

There’s no set date for Teodosic at this point but he practiced without limitation on Friday. The 30-year-old international free agent practiced previously with both the big league club and its G League affiliate earlier this week.

He’s ready. He’s close,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “Milos will be playing in a couple of games, for sure. I just don’t want to say what game because I don’t know.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • There have been no shortage of proven winners for Lakers coach Luke Walton to take lessons from over the course of his NBA journey. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN explores his path to where he is now.
  • The Kings have given JaKarr Sampson a chance to show what he’s capable of providing and the versatile 24-year-old hasn’t disappointed. “He has a body that we need – an athletic, 6-foot-8 guy who can play a couple of positions,” head coach Dave Joerger told Alex Kramers of the team’s official website. “It’s a little easier for him to stand in front of some versatile dudes, some drivers and some physical guys … He was ready for the moment and I think we’ll be seeing more of him.
  • There’s growing speculation that Nerlens Noel could end up in Los Angeles, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes. The big man shares an agent with LeBron James who has been linked to the Lakers over the course of the past year.

Nerlens Noel To Miss Several Weeks

DECEMBER 8, 1:29pm: Noel has officially undergone surgery on his left thumb, the Mavericks announced today in a press release. The team didn’t provide a recovery timetable for the center.

DECEMBER 6, 5:50pm: Nerlens Noel will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, Mavericks team writer Bobby Karalla relays (Twitter link).“He’ll be out for several weeks,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know how long.”

Noel hurt his thumb earlier in the season and he hasn’t played since November 23. The center told the media that he expects to be out four to six weeks after undergoing surgery, as Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com passes along via Twitter.

Noel, who ‘s making slightly under $4.2MM this season, missed a total of six games so far this season and has only played 12.5 per contest on the nights he has suited up. He’ll be one of several players to become trade-eligible on December 15 and while there was a decent chance that he would have been switching teams prior to the injury, the latest news puts a hold on any movement.

Five Notable Players Who Become Trade-Eligible In December

Nearly every NBA team has at least one or two players who will become trade-eligible this month, starting on December 15. In total, approximately 100 players around the NBA who aren’t currently eligible to be moved will have those restrictions lifted before the end of the month. That’s nearly one quarter of the league’s players.

Those trade restrictions apply to players who recently signed new contracts, so in most cases their teams probably aren’t clamoring to shop them. After all, by mid-December, those players will only have spent about two months of regular-season action on their new deals — even rebuilding teams may want a little more time than that with their recently-signed players to assess whether they’ll be part of the club’s future.

Still, a look through the list of players who will become trade-eligible in December – either on the 15th or later in the month – reveals a few interesting names. Here are some players worth keeping an eye on when their trade restrictions lift:Nerlens Noel vertical

  1. Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): As a player who signed his qualifying offer, Noel would lose his Bird rights if he’s traded, so he has the ability to veto any deal the Mavericks might want to make. Still, the situation in Dallas has turned out to be even more unfavorable for Noel than the one he experienced in Philadelphia, increasing the odds that he’d waive his no-trade clause if the opportunity arose. Noel has averaged just 12.5 minutes per game this season, and with unrestricted free agency looming in 2018, a long-term union with the Mavs no longer appears likely.
  2. Alex Len, C (Suns): Len is in a similar situation to Noel, having settled for signing his qualifying offer after failing to find a suitable multiyear deal. He also has veto rights on any deal, but might be willing to accept a trade to a team that would give him more consistent playing time — his minutes have fluctuated significantly in recent weeks and he expressed frustration after not playing at all in a couple games. Trading Greg Monroe or Tyson Chandler would help clear the Suns’ logjam at center and could save the team more money, but it might be easier to find a deal involving Len and his inexpensive expiring contract.
  3. Derrick Rose, PG (Cavaliers): After accommodating Rose’s recent stint away from the team and working to reintegrate him, the idea of trading the point guard may not appeal to the Cavaliers. But it may be the best move for his career. The Cavs have thrived in Rose’s absence, and with Isaiah Thomas due back soon, it’s no longer clear how the former MVP fits into Cleveland’s rotation. If Rose is satisfied with sitting on the bench and waiting for an opportunity, the Cavs could keep him around, but if he wants to play, a trade may be his best path to consistent minutes.
  4. Amir Johnson, F/C (Sixers): There’s no indication that the Sixers are in any way dissatisfied with Johnson or have any interest in moving him. However, his contract makes him an intriguing trade chip if the Sixers want to make a move before the deadline. At $11MM, Johnson’s salary is an ideal mid-sized amount for potential salary-matching, and because it expires at season’s end, it would be more appealing to a trade partner than Jerryd Bayless‘ deal, which is guaranteed through 2018/19. I’m not expecting Johnson to be moved, but if the team tries to make an impact trade, his name figures to pop up in rumors.
  5. Dewayne Dedmon, C (Hawks): Dedmon, currently sidelined due to a tibia stress reaction, should be healthy and back on the court well before the trade deadline, barring any setbacks. The veteran center had been enjoying a career year before he went down, with 11.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG in a modest 24.4 minutes per contest. The 5-18 Hawks clearly aren’t contenders this season, making them probable sellers at the deadline, and Dedmon could be the club’s most appealing trade piece. He’s not expensive, at $6MM, and if he continues to play well, he’s a good bet to turn down his $6.3MM player option for next season, which means now would be the time for Atlanta to get something for him. His rim-protecting and rebounding ability could make him a nice, lower-risk target for a team that misses out on an impact center like DeAndre Jordan.

Note: Len becomes trade-eligible on December 23, while the other four players listed above become trade-eligible on December 15.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Noel, Carlisle, Paul

Anthony Davis will undergo further examination on his groin injury when the Pelicans return to New Orleans tomorrow, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He will be held out of tonight’s game in Portland.

Davis suffered the injury Friday night in Utah, collapsing under the basket while going after a rebound. He had to be helped off the court and later used crutches as he left the locker room. He was still on crutches as he arrived at the Moda Center tonight, according to Mike Richman of The Oregonian (Twitter link).

Davis has been among the league’s top young stars since being taken with the first pick in the 2012 draft, but durability has been a persistent problem. He appeared in 75 games last season, which marked the first time he was able to play in more than 70.

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks center Nerlens Noel didn’t get off the bench for the fourth straight game today, but he got some attention in the media dining area, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Noel stopped in for a hot dog at lunchtime, which is an unusual act for a player in uniform. He explained that he got hungry during the afternoon game and needed “fuel” in case he was called on in the second half. Whether it was an innocent gesture or an act of protest, it’s clear that Noel is unhappy being stuck on the bench. “I’m doing everything I need to, staying in shape, continuing to work on my game and working on the little things,” Noel said. “It’s frustrating at times. But I think I got laser focus right now for what I want to do and where I want to be. I’m anxious to play. When that comes, it comes.” But when asked if he expects that to happen in Dallas, he replied, “I honestly have no idea.”
  • Today’s win was number 700 for Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, Sefko notes in a separate story, which underscores how long he has been with the organization. He spent two seasons as head coach in Detroit and four years in Indiana before coming to Dallas at the start of 2008/09. “It means I’ve been very fortunate to have three great owners and a lot of great players,” Carlisle said. “I’ve never been one to count that kind of stuff. As time goes on, I count those things even less.”
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul and forward Luc Mbah a Moute will make their first trip back to Staples Center tomorrow since leaving the Clippers over the offseason, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Both say their emotions will be lessened because they are facing the Lakers instead of their former team.

Texas Notes: Noel, Leonard, Anderson, Weber

Nerlens Noel will regret turning down the Mavericks‘ four-year, $72MM offer this summer, states Newy Scruggs in a chat for The Dallas Morning News. Scruggs contends Noel is not viewed as a hard worker by the organization, which has lowered his standing with coach Rick Carlisle. Noel has slipped into a reserve role, starting just six of the 17 games he has played this season.

Noel was hoping for a maximum offer, either from the Mavs or another team, when he entered restricted free agency in July. But nothing in that neighborhood materialized and Noel opted to accept Dallas’ $4,187,598 qualifying offer and try his luck as an unrestricted free agent next year. Scruggs said he expects Noel to be traded before the February deadline.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters he has never seen an injury like the one that is keeping Kawhi Leonard out of action, relays Michael C. Wright of ESPN. Leonard is dealing with quadriceps tendinopathy, which has prevented him from taking the court all season, even in practice, and there’s still no definitive timetable for his return. Popovich had better news about Tony Parker, who also has a quadriceps injury that dates back to last season’s Western Conference semifinals. Parker has said he hopes to return in November, and it sounds like that may be possible. “For real, sooner than later,” Popovich said tonight. “And I’m serious. I’m being honest.” 
  • Leonard’s injury has created an opportunity for fourth-year swingman Kyle Anderson, who is getting serious minutes for the first time in his career. Anderson has started all 18 games, and Popovich plans to keep him in the rotation even when Leonard returns, tweets Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “When Kawhi does come back, I’ve got some figuring out to do,” Popovich said. “[Anderson] should still be on the court, somehow or another.”
  • After signing a two-way deal with the Rockets last month, Briante Weber is eager to make the most of his latest shot at the NBA, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Weber, the leading scorer for Houston’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, was called up to the Rockets today for the first time since joining the organization. He previously played for the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors and Hornets, but never spent more than 13 games with any of those teams. “I’ve been prepared,” Weber said. “It’s just about the opportunity. That’s all it’s about, me taking advantage of the opportunity when I get in. I’ve always been prepared. It’s just basketball.”

Southwest Notes: Conley, Mejri, Noel, Rondo

The Grizzlies provided an update on injured point guard Mike Conley after Friday’s game, saying treatment and therapy will be used to lessen the pain in his left heel and Achilles tendon, according to an Associated Press story. The team plans to re-examine Conley in two weeks, and coach David Fizdale is optimistic that he will be ready to play by then.

“It’s unfortunate, but watching him play in pain like that and really trying to push through that stuff was worse to watch,” Fizdale said. “For whatever reason, this thing is just not going away on its own.”

While Conley is sidelined, the starting role will go to Mario Chalmers, who signed with Memphis in July after a year out of the league following a torn Achilles tendon. Chalmers is averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 assists through 14 games. Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden may also see increased playing time.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Moving Dirk Nowitzki to center has worsened the logjam in the middle for the Mavericks, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The other four centers on the roster, Salah Mejri, Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell and Jeff Withey have all gone through games where they didn’t get off the bench. The problem will work itself out eventually — Withey’s contract is non-guaranteed, Mejri has a player option for next season and Noel will be an unrestricted free agent next summer — but for now there’s frustration over a lack of playing time. “It’s almost like we went to Costco and got a forklift full of centers,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “They’re all good players, but there are a limited number of minutes and with more teams playing hybrid centers, it makes it even harder.”
  • Mejri is sympathetic toward Noel, who expected a larger role after being acquired from the Sixers in a February trade, relays Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News. Noel was in a similar situation in Philadelphia, where he was competing for time with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes“I’m trying to tell [Noel] … hey, just go out there and play as hard as you can when you come to practice,” Mejri said. “Practice as hard as you can and then they will see that you’re trying to compete and they have reason to say, “Ah, we didn’t play Nerlens or we didn’t play Salah.’ It goes to everybody, you know?”
  • A healthy Rajon Rondo will turn the Pelicans into a different team, claims Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. Rondo returned this week from a sports hernia and made an immediate impact with 8 assists in 14 minutes in his first game in the starting lineup.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Noel, Black, Rondo

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said injured superstar Kawhi Leonard is “gonna be back sooner rather than later” as he recovers from a right quadriceps injury, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. Leonard has not played this season due to the injury but the Spurs have performed well — they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference with a 9-5 record.

San Antonio has relied heavily on role players while Leonard recovers. Popovich explained the Spurs’ need to operate as if Leonard does not exist because other teams will not feel sorry for their temporary loss. Thus far, at least, the team has made good on that goal.

“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich said. “Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”

Below you can find additional news coming out of the Southwest Division:

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