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Could Nerlens Noel be headed to the Lakers with LeBron James?

First, let me just say this situation is entirely theoretical and I did not come up with it.

This theory is the intellectual property of 105.3 The Fan’s Jeff “Skin” Wade (follow him at @skinwade) and he’s one of a handful of Mavericks voices who when he speaks, I listen.

He correctly predicted, along with Mike Fisher last year, the “bloat” trade that brought Andrew Bogut to Dallas after the Mavericks had acquired Harrison Barnes and Golden State has to get rid of the injury-prone center for “air.” He’s well-connected so, to say the least when he posted this cryptic tweet on Saturday night after Nerlens Noel signed his $4.1 million qualifying offer, I was a bit disturbed.

To understand the breadth of this, you have to rewind the Noel saga back to its genesis on July 1. Mark Cuban himself confirmed that Noel was initially offered a four-year, $70 million deal, but it’s been Dallas’ stated position that the Mavericks would match any maximum offer by other teams. Noel clearly expected this and declined the initial offer in search of the elusive max deal that never came. Here’s where it gets fuzzy.

Noel is on his third agent in eight months. He went from Andy Miller to Happy Walters to Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who is also famously close to LeBron James. This is important.

As the free agent market dried up and no maximum offers came in, Noel switched from Walters to Paul. It wasn’t a week later that Noel signed the qualifying offer, shocking everyone involved. In essence, the 23-year old left $66 million on the table to “bet on himself.”

Or is it that simple?

There was an initial debate on whether the Mavericks even offered the initial $70-million deal. See this initial tweet from ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

A direct quote from Hayne’s piece here makes the picture even murkier.

A reported $17 million offer from Dallas was nonexistent in any form, according to sources close to Noel, though league sources say a four-year, $70 million contract was offered to Noel on July 1.

On Monday during Wade’s segment on The Fan, he mentioned that it’s rumored Haynes has close ties to Paul. Wade posits Haynes could be being deliberately ambiguous about the existence of the Mavericks’ initial offer because it doesn’t paint the picture of Paul potentially costing his new, impressionable client $66 million if things go bad. I’ll leave that to you figure out.

You might be asking at this point, “What rapport does Noel have with LeBron anyways? What does this matter?”

These things don’t just happen. LeBron is smart.

Wade finally mentioned that risking your client $66 million dollars in a year when he’s about to become an unrestricted free agent barring injury history (if you haven’t checked, Noel’s isn’t good) is an incredibly risky move. So what’s Paul’s play here? Wade says a package-deal with Noel, a center custom made for the modern NBA, and LeBron could be Paul’s main negotiating chip for the Lakers next season. When you think about it, it makes sense.

There are signs all around that Dallas might be preparing for the worst when it comes to Noel next season. He was notably absent from the team’s ticket advertisement.

Exhale. What do you do with all this information? If you’re still pining for a Noel long-term commitment next season, there are still reasons to hold out hope. Dallas can still offer the most years and the most money of any team, and do you really think Noel would walk away twice from a huge contract with the second time motivated by a desire to stick it to Dallas? No way.

Either way, Wade’s theory definitely brings a sobering reality a little closer to home and that’s that Noel’s future in Dallas is indeed far from certain.

Might I recommend Mohamed Bamba, DeAndre Ayton and Nick Williams?

I'm Zack Cunningham, a broadcast journalism major from Abilene Christian University's class of 2008. I've lived in Texas for 28 of my 31 years on this Earth and I've followed the Mavericks since 1998. My first memory of them was the 2001 playoffs and being extremely happy when they beat the Jazz, but sad when they lost to the Spurs in five games in the conference semifinals. However, seeing Dirk drop 42 stands out to me, punctuated by his dunk in garbage time. I covered high school sports for the Cleburne Times-Review from 2008-12 before moving into the tech industry. Most recently, in 2015 covered the Mavericks for the Fanatic briefly before moving to work with Mike Fisher at I am married to my beautiful wife, Jessica, and have been for just over five years now. We live in Carrollton with our dog, Zara, and cat, Drake. I'm looking forward to covering them again this season with the Fanatic!

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