One of the newspapers recently wrote that restricted free agent Nerlens Noel "could command $13-to-$15 mil'' as a starting salary.
Meanwhile, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle labels the center a team "priority.''
It would seem that both of the above things cannot be true.
A source from another NBA team (not the Mavs) tells me that there will be "multiple'' clubs willing to pay Noel his max once he hits the restricted-free-agent market on July 1. And just so there is no confusion as to what that "max'' is:
Assuming the cap at $101 million, as the NBA is expecting, Noel's contract can start at 25 percent of the cap with eight-percent annual raises. That equals $25.25 mil as his starting salary and about $146.45 million over five years.
Competing bidders can offer restricted free agent Noel a four-year max deal, also worth 25 percent of the cap and also starting at $25.25 mil, but with just five-percent annual raises, equalling about $108.575 million over four years. Dallas can match any offer and retain.
So, if my league source is correct, Noel is about to get a $108.575 payday if Dallas balks at paying him ... because somebody else will do so.
Inside Mavs HQ, folks are being coy about the team's plan here. I'm going to hope that the Mavs have a tricky or warm negotiating tactic that persuades the 23-year-old center to sign for something less than his max, because that would aid Dallas in buying other pieces. But "$13-$15 mil'' instead of $25.25 mil? I am not going to waste time hoping that happens. That's not a "hometown discount''; that's financial suicide on the part of the player.
Even as the Mavs are now being coy about the subject, my contention has always been that the cost of doing business here is something the Mavs have planned on all along. Noel was acquired at the trade deadline not to be part of a meaningless run to 33 wins, but rather to be a gifted defensive talent who can be coached into stardom here. Signing someone else's blossoming star as a free agent for $25.25 million? That's a difficult task for NBA teams, and it's been virtually impossible for Dallas. So you don't "sign someone else's'' ... you sign yours.
The Mavs/Noel summer is off to a good start in one regard: He's working in Dallas, says owner Mark Cuban.
“I’m not allowed to talk about (negotiations),’’ Cuban told our guys "Ben & Skin'' on 105.3 The Fan, “but all I can tell you is he’s one of a bunch of guys who came in, they all got together and said ‘Let’s go down to the practice facility and start working out together. So they’re down there now and so that’s exciting to see, and he’s part of that group.”
Short of owner Cuban engineering some master plan that has Dallas passing on Noel at $25.25 mil because the Mavs have a better player lined up to supplant him at the same money (as Dallas did indeed do last summer with Harrison Barnes in for Chandler Parsons), I think the Mavs understand ... or should understand ... that the cost of doing business at this level is costly -- $146.45 million worth of "costly.''
NEXT: In Part 2, We examine the notion that Dallas must "outbid'' other teams for Noel's services ... with a team-by-team dissection of the candidates. ... and word from one NBA exec that the Mavs have been "ingenious'' in engineering their way to Nerlens Noel. Click here.