All things considered, it's not so bad to have a motivated young center in Nerlens Noel back on the books next season for the bargain price of $4.1 million.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban highlighted the positives in how their extended negotiations with Noel played out this summer.
"I’m satisfied with it. I wouldn’t call it happy," Cuban told ESPN Dallas. "We made what we thought was a significant offer."
"Nerlens decided to bet on himself, and now we’re in a position where, if everybody comes out ahead this coming season, he’ll get paid, we’ll be happy, and we’ll go on with life. He’s not going to be the first player to bet on himself, and he won’t be the last."
Dallas handed Noel a four-year, $70-million offer right at the beginning of free agency, but the 23-year-old held out for a bigger deal. It was an understandable decision given that lesser players in Timofey Mozgov and Joakim Noah received similar contracts last summer, but the cap climate had changed.
Noel found himself in the awkward position of being a restricted free agent without viable competing offer sheets from other clubs. It left him with little leverage beyond shuffling agents and taking the qualifying offer to try unrestricted free agency next summer.
Cuban sympathized with Noel's predicament. He noted that the same dynamic is squeezing other players across the league.
"It’s unfortunate for Nerlens and other players. There’s a lot of other restricted free agents, particularly bigs, that are in the same position. Where last year the market was really strong, and guys saw players get paid that maybe they didn’t think deserved the amount they got paid, and everybody expected the cap to go up by another $10 million."
"When the cap didn’t go up that $10 million, everybody got squeezed, and that’s just what happened. I think Nerlens understands that."
The bottom line is that Noel will return to the Mavericks as their starting center with added motivation to earn a contract more to his liking. Cuban praised Noel for maintaining a positive attitude in that regard.
"I’ve talked to him since and he’s like, 'I’m ready to do this. Let’s go out and have a great year.' And he’s just got that positive attitude and that’s been great. Look, the whole time - I’ve got to give Nerlens props - while all of this was going on, he was very positive. It was like 'Look, our agents are our agents, and they’re doing their thing, but I’m excited.' And so I give him a ton of credit."