Nerlens Noel looks unhappy in Dallas.
He rejected a contract from the Mavericks last summer that would have paid $17.5 annually to take his qualifying offer, and nearly every player who has accepted his qualifying offer has changed teams at first opportunity. Noel was out of the rotation, furthering the divide between him and the team. Now, he’s having surgery for a thumb injury some players keep playing through.
That has people connecting dots from Noel to his agent, Rich Paul, to Paul’s biggest client, LeBron James, to rumors of LeBron leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers next summer.
Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com:
Where is Noel going to have the surgery? In Cleveland, hometown of LeBron James and a headquarters for agent Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron and Noel and yeah, it’s kind of an open secret now that the fellas are plotting ways to end up together, maybe next July 1 via free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Maybe LeBron, Noel and Paul really are conspiring on a league-altering shakeup. But people love to speculate on LeBron’s free agency and Paul’s power. It’s juicy. It isn’t always reality. Remember when everyone sent Eric Bledsoe to Cleveland because Paul represented him?
Noel would be an interesting fit with LeBron on the Lakers. They don’t necessarily have a long-term answer at center, and Noel’s defense and athleticism would complement LeBron’s and Lonzo Ball‘s transition skills. It’d become even more important for Ball to fix his outside shot, though, as Noel, unlike Brook Lopez, is a non-shooter. Another positive: Noel probably wouldn’t command a max deal – even with a LeBron/Paul boost – meaning maybe the Lakers could actually afford both.
But wouldn’t it be so Lakers like if they sign Noel to a lucrative contract to impress LeBron and Paul and LeBron still signs elsewhere? That’s the type of fun speculation I can get behind.