Since the beginning of the Mark Cuban Era in Dallas, the Mavericks have had three diagnosable weaknesses with their franchise. 1) Missing on ‘big fish’ in free agency, 2) inconsistency in the draft, and 3) the lack, usually, of a franchise-caliber center to protect the rim. Obviously, those are three pretty important areas of franchise-building. But over the last year, it appears that Dallas has made steps to rectifying all three those issues.
First, the Mavs made a franchise-altering free-agent acquisition last summer when the signed Harrison Barnes to a max deal. They also have been adamant that they are fully committed to drafting a young star this summer in the upcoming draft, even spurning the chance at landing Hassan Whiteside from the Heat in exchange for their first-round pick. That commitment continued to the deadline, as they declined to give up this year's probably-lotto first-rounder in any real way.
On Thursday the Mavs eventually continued that building trend when they made a deal that sent Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a top-18-protected 2017 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for coveted 22-year-old center Nerlens Noel. And as Fish states in his trade story here, that pick is a virtual certainty to convert into two second-round picks, rather stay a first.
On the surface of the NBA landscape, this deal is more of a tremor than an earthquake for many, but for the Mavs it has the potential to begin something far more seismic.
On Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan, at 7:20, in reviewing the trade, Fish called Noel a "Tyson Chandler Starter Kit.''
Two-and-a-half-hours later at the AAC, in a press conference, Mavs boss Donnie Nelson used the exact same terminology.
"He gives us an element we haven't had here since Tyson Chandler," Nelson said. "Shot-blocking, rebounding, energy, big steals guy as well. He's able to get out in the court and guard the pick-and-roll, which is a big asset these days, to be able to keep the smaller guy in front of you. So it gives us a dimension that we haven't had here in a long time so we're really more than ecstatic and excited about him.
"Nerlens is really a ‘Tyson Chandler Starter Kit.’ I think that’s going to work out really well for us.’’
We here at Dallasbasketball.com are fully aware that with all due respect to the fine accomplishments of other Mavs bigs over the years, TY stands alone as a franchise-caliber center. Despite all of his contributions to the Mavs franchise in his two stints in Dallas, he was let go, twice, in moves that owner Mark Cuban is on-record as regretting. The moves, though, had their reason at the time. Among them: Tyson was nowhere near young.
Noel is both "franchise-caliber'' (at least potentially) and at 22, young. He has the talent and upside to be far far more than he presently is. He also brings things to the table that Dallas is in immediate need of, namely rim-protection, length, athleticism, and rebounding. He also racks up steals at an alarming rate for an NBA center, averaging nearly 2.7 steals per 36 minutes.
On the offensive end, Nerlens can be a nice fit in Rick Carlisle’s pick-and-roll-heavy scheme, where the floor will be spaced for him to attack the rim and catch lobs from the Mavericks guards. He’s also a decent enough free-throw shooter at 68.3-percent, which is far superior to Bogut’s career mark of 55.6-percent, to avoid a ‘hack-a-whomever’ situation.
Most importantly however, the addition of Noel brings a future hope of a young core that includes Harrison Barnes, 24, and maybe more, while also risking essentially nothing in the process for Dallas.
Let’s be real: with 26 games left to go in the regular season, the chances of Dallas’s first-round pick (currently tabbed at No. 7 in the lottery right now as the Mavs play at Minnesota tonight) turning into a pick outside the top 18 (where the likes of Oklahoma City, Atlanta, and the Washington Wizards currently sit) are almost non-existent. Moreover, Andrew Bogut, who has had a rough season in Big D, is a buyout candidate with Philly, and will end up elsewhere.
So, in a sense, the Mavs essentially traded Justin Anderson and a couple of second-round picks for a budding star in Noel. And a star who they fully plan to sign to a big-money summer deal.
But what does this trade mean for the Mavs in regards to Otto Porter Jr. or Jrue Holiday this summer? Maybe those sort of players can still be in play. As Fish points out yet again in his in his trade story here, Noel’s summer cap hold is $11 million, which we speculate could be opened up back up by the trade of Dwight Powell.
So, imagine for a moment my personal DBcom ‘Dream Scenario’: Dallas drafts French point guard sensation Frank Ntilikina with the seventh overall pick, and moves Dwight Powell for a future second-rounder. Then, with Powell off the books, and Dirk resigned to a lesser contract, Dallas signs Porter in free agency. (Again, David Lord is working here in the DBcom Boards laboratory on this stuff as you read this. I'm playing with round numbers and big dreams.)
That would field a potential starting lineup for Dallas consisting of: Ntilikina, Wes, Porter, HB, and Noel, with Dirk moving to a sixth-man role off the bench. Meanwhile, the buyout of D-Will allows Dallas to carve out bigger roles for Yogi Ferrell (as the co-starter at the 1) and Seth Curry (joining Dirk as supplementary firepower. That’s a very dynamic, largely young lineup on both ends of floor.
They haven't drafted the next guy yet. They haven't signed the next guy yet. But this a start. A big start. The acquisition of Nerlens Noel gets Dallas one-third of the way there, and comes five months sooner than we might've hoped. ... and creates a "starter kit'' toward where the Mavs once were, and need to be again.