After negotiations didn’t go as planned for Nerlens Noel in free agency, his new contract could be the Steph Curry version for the Dallas Mavericks.
It was the spring of 2012 and Stephen Curry was about to undergo surgery on his banged up ankle…for the second time.
Stephen Curry came into the NBA in the 2009 NBA Draft after being selected 7th overall by the Golden State Warriors. The skinny, position-less combo guard was known for his shooting, but had question marks all around his game.
His first few seasons in the league didn’t go as planned.
Even though he came in as a starter, he was a weird fit alongside of Monta Ellis in the back court and the Warriors won a combined 62 games in his first two seasons in the league. After that, Curry’s ankles dominated his career.
Curry had his first ankle surgery and played in just 26 games throughout the 2011-12 season. In those 26 games, Curry sprained his ankle five times in the first season after his first ankle surgery.
The Golden State Warriors went in to the summer of 2012 with a decision to make on how much to pay Curry that fall when he would be extension eligible. After three years in the league and a sketchy injury history, Golden State decided to invest in Curry, but only to an extent.
In October of 2012, Curry signed a four-year, $44 million extension with the Warriors…$16 million less than an open market max contract if he hit free agency. It would go down as one of the best value contracts in NBA history.
That very next season, Curry was selected to his first All-Star game and averaged 24 points a game. In the second and third year of that extension, Curry would be named the league’s Most Valuable Player in back-to-back seasons.
All while making around $11 million a year.
Curry remained healthy, but more importantly, his extension at such a discount price allowed Golden State to strategically build their potential dynasty. Both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were able to sign four-year extensions and the team could afford role players such as Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala.
Then came Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016…in the last year of Curry’s extension where he was getting $11 million a year. Could you say that Curry’s tender ankles in the first few years of his career changed the landscape of the NBA?
Could the Nerlens Noel contract with the Dallas Mavericks this summer provide Dallas with a similar situation?
Nerlens Noel tore his ACL in his freshman season at the University of Kentucky and decided to come out into the 2013 NBA Draft anyway. He was drafted 6th overall and would sit out his entire rookie season as he recovered from his ACL injury.
Noel would miss seven games the next season, 15 games the season after that and 31 games last season between Philadelphia and Dallas.
Now, Noel is in the middle of restricted free agency looking for a big contract, but he might not get what he wants. Bad news for Nerlens Noel personally, but great news for the Dallas Mavericks.
In what many people around the league thought would be a max contract, Noel could be signing on a bargain deal in Dallas worth much less than a max contract.
For Dallas, this would be HUGE financially, especially if the deal is for three or more years. If Noel turns into the player many assume he will be, Dallas could have the financial foundation to add not just one, but two future super stars over the next few years.
I’m obviously not saying he will perform at the same level as Steph Curry during his contract, but it would provide the same roster flexibility it gave Golden State.
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Take, for instance, if Noel signs for a bargain deal for around $15 million a year. If Dallas somehow sheds the contract of Dwight Powell or Wesley Matthews at the trade deadline without taking on a long-term contract, they could get close to $40 million in cap space next summer.
Then you look at the cheap contract of potential Rookie of the Year, Dennis Smith Jr. for around $3 million a year and suddenly you could have your two youngest cornerstones under contract for a combined $18-20 million a year.
You could even add another potential top ten pick to the mix and suddenly Dallas has built a young core, surrounded by veterans, with a ton of cap space.
Bottom line, if Nerlens Noel signs a bargain contract for three to four years, it would allow Dallas to add multiple pieces to the puzzle over the next couple of years that could be the beginning of another title contender down the road.
Just like the extension of Steph Curry in 2012 did for the Golden State Warriors.