Signing of Nerlens Noel solidifies Mavs at center position for ’17-18 season

Noel Highlights 2016-2017

2016-2017 Nerlens Noel Highlights

DALLAS — He was a much-needed presence inside for the Dallas Mavericks after a mid-season trade that sent him from Philadelphia to Big D during the 2016-17 season. Now, the Mavericks hope the free-agent signing of big man Nerlens Noel on Monday is the final piece of the puzzle that helps the team return to the playoffs during the upcoming season.

Last season, the 6-foot-11 Noel was acquired by the Mavs from Philadelphia in a trade-deadline deal on Feb. 23 in exchange for former first-round pick Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut (who was later bought out) and a pair of second-round picks. The former Kentucky standout then went on to average 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 1.1 blocks during 22 appearances with the Mavericks, clocking 21.9 minutes per outing and making 12 starts. He entered restricted free agency from there on July 1, hoping to ink a long-term deal with the franchise to keep him in Dallas. But after a long negotiation that reportedly led to him signing a one-year qualifying offer from the Dallas front office worth $4.1 million, the 23-year-old is expected to anchor the Mavs’ center rotation prior to entering unrestricted free agency next summer.

“That’s a trade that made a lot of sense for us, because we had an overload at the wing position,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of the initial deal for Noel’s services shortly after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season.

“You know, he’s going to gain more strength as time goes on,” the coach added. “You know, we put a big emphasis on the development of players’ bodies, keeping them healthy and keeping them strong. I talked to him about it in detail, and he’s on board as a guy that’s had an ACL (injury) and stuff like that. He understands at age 23 that your body is your vocation. It’s what earns you your living and stuff, so I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s a very likable guy. The guys in the locker room took to him, and he’s an exciting young talent. And I do think he can expand his game, but we’ve got to be careful about doing too much too soon. So much of success in this league is really geared towards a group of guys being tied together in the locker room and having a set of definable skills. We want there to be an element of positive predictability within the team, so everybody knows what everybody can do.”

Signing former Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey, 27, the Mavericks added depth to a center position that only had Tunisian big man Salah Mejri on the roster for this season. The Mavs now believe that Noel can solidify the middle of the lineup by anchoring a front line that features leading scorer Harrison Barnes and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. Meanwhile, Carlisle and the Dallas coaching staff will attempt to tap into Noel’s full potential during the ’17-18 season, hoping the athletic big man continues to grow his own individual game.

Suffering a torn ACL during his lone collegiate season at Kentucky, Noel missed the entire ’13-14 NBA schedule after garnering First Team All-SEC, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and SEC Rookie of the Year honors. The three-year pro now holds career averages of 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks in 193 total games with the Sixers and the Mavericks, shooting 51.1 percent from the floor during that span. Noel quickly showed no effects of the ACL injury during his rookie season, averaging 9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks in 75 games to earn a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He’ll now attempt to eclipse those numbers in Dallas, hoping to build on his production during a short stint with the team last season. And with a full year in Carlisle’s season, Noel believes he and the team will see a lot of success together.

“You know, I learned a lot,” Noel said while summing up his time with the team last season. “I met a lot of great people and I started a lot of great relationships. And being around all the vets they have around here, it’s definitely something I took in with all the knowledge and all the small habits that help you succeed in this league for the duration of time that you’re in it. It’s been great. I love Dallas. You know, in my short time here, I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’s been a great time. And with the pieces that we have and the opportunities that will be seen in the near future, I think there’s a lot to be excited for.”

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