Earlier this week, the Dallas Mavericks re-signed Nerlens Noel to a one-year, $4.1M deal after acquiring him in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers last season. Noel was the #6 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, selected by the New Orleans Pelicans and then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season after recovering from a torn ACL and has since struggled to stay healthy, playing in just 51 games last season.
Before tearing his ACL, the 6'11", 228 pound forward had all the makings of an elite big man. He could run the floor, jump, etc. He was the perfect big man for the modern NBA that likes to play at a faster pace. Since the injury, he hasn't been the same and has had a very difficult time reaching his full potential.
While he hasn't become the player everyone thought he would be, Noel has still been a solid NBA player when healthy, averaging 13.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes. If he is able to actually log in 30+ minutes per night, he could become a really good player for this Mavericks team.
In terms of whether or not Noel finds a groove in Dallas, a lot of that comes down to whether or not he stays healthy. The Mavericks are getting him on the cheap, so this is a low risk, high reward type of signing for them. If he finds a way to stay on the court, there are good odds that he'll be a very effective player for this Mavericks team. If on the flip side, he doesn't stay healthy, he could find himself playing overseas in a year.
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Noel truly finds himself at a critical point of his NBA career. He's no longer the talented young big man that is waiting to get back on the court. He has a few years under his belt now and can no longer afford to sit on the bench like he has in past seasons. If he doesn't put it together this year, there's good reason to think he never will, making it hard to see him survive one more injury ridden season.
What Nerlens Noel does have in his favor is the fact that the Mavericks aren't very good, making it the perfect place for him to get his career back on track. He doesn't have to worry about being buried on the bench or not getting enough minutes from the coach. The minutes and opportunities will be there. It's just a matter of him not being in a suit and tie every time the team is playing.
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