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NBA PM: Nerlens Noel’s Max Deal and Stan Van Gundy’s Draft Deal

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Is Nerlens Noel a Max Player?

It has always paid to be an NBA payer, just not as well as it has lately.

As NBA superstars prepare to request contracts that will pay in excess of $200 million, the rich continue to get richer. And the trickle-down effect is real.

Depending on who you ask, restricted free agents such as Otto Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Nerlens Noel all stand to cash in this summer. Of those four, however, the thought of Noel being paid in excess of $25 million per season may be a bit curious, but here we are.

According to Mike Fisher of Dallas Basketball, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, as Fisher cites a source from another team as claiming that multiple teams will be willing to pay Noel max money this summer. As the NBA continues to readjust its financial and economics to the new reality of the league’s new television deal, Noel represents a very interesting case.

After being drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans with the sixth overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, the Pelicans agreed to trade him, on draft night, to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a package featuring Jrue Holiday. Noel would miss the entire 2013-14 season, however. In February 2013, during his lone collegiate season at Kentucky, Noel sustained a torn left ACL and, despite undergoing surgery shortly thereafter, wouldn’t make his NBA debut until October 2014.

Noel joined a Sixers team that was obviously facing some challenges, and along the way, found himself competing with the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric for playing time, to name a few. The Sixers eventually traded Noel to the Dallas Mavericks this past February in exchange for a package whose shiniest piece was a “protected” first round pick that was certain to eventually convey as two second round picks. Noel was the odd man out in Philadelphia and was traded for spare change.

In 22 games for the Mavericks, Noel averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. After four years in the NBA (three of which he played), Noel has appeared in 193 games and will bring career averages of 10 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game into restricted free agency this summer.

To this point, Noel has shown promise, but teams lining up to pony up that kind of money for that type of production is something worth watching. Rarely do teams get better by letting talented players leave them for free, but most successful teams in the NBA prioritize return on investment. Traditionally, the Mavericks have been fiscally conservative, but after agreeing to terms with Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan on hefty contracts, it seems that even Mark Cuban may be getting a tad antsy in Dallas. Despite the approach and reputation as being a brilliant owner, free agents haven’t necessarily been flocking to Dallas. Perhaps that will enter Cuban’s thinking when it comes time to decide what to do with Noel.

Just a few months ago, the thought of him being the recipient of a max contract offer seemed farfetched.

His scoring one may be a major indicator of both what is to come for the restricted free agents of tomorrow and how high (or low) the bar to be one such recipient is.

Pistons Trading The No. 12 Draft Pick?

It wasn’t too long ago that Josh Smith was a highly coveted NBA player that was able to impact both sides of the basketball court. He was regarded as one of the most talented players to never make an All-Star team, which is why it was somewhat befuddling that Stan Van Gundy opted to waive Smith shortly after taking over in Detroit.

Since then, Van Gundy has turned over his roster in Detroit, saying goodbye to the likes of Brandon Jennings, Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe, as well. With a young core featuring Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and Marcus Morris, the Pistons were thought to be on the ascent out East. Then, this past season happened, in which Pistons won just 37 games.

As a result, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, Van Gundy appears to be somewhat open-minded about the prospect of trading his No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in exchange for a veteran that can help to show his youngsters how to win.

With this year’s draft thought to be one of the deepest in recent memory, it probably won’t be too difficult for Van Gundy to find a deal to his liking.

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About Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and international basketball.