NBA free agency begins July 1. Until then, you’re going to see free agent profiles from all over the league. Where will the most notable names land? Why will they land there? For all the profiles we’ve already covered, click here.
This post could be as simple as “both players deserve the max and will get it, their teams will match any contract.” It probably should be. There’s nothing interesting about Nerlens Noel and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope heading into free agency. Their teams would be crazy to let them go at any price. If they really don’t want to back up the Brink’s truck for them then they should match anyway and trade them in December. I have to imagine that even at the max, plenty of teams would offer real assets to get either. They are going to be valuable players for another decade.
So there’s nothing to say there. Here’s how we’ll fill the space instead: which one would you rather have?
Both are excellent defenders, and when they reach their primes will be All-Defensive Team mainstays. But neither is exactly what teams are looking for either. Caldwell-Pope is the league’s prototypical Curry-stopper, but anyone bigger than Steph presents some problems. KCP is 6’5” and somewhat skinny. He can handle most guards, but he’s not someone you want switching across multiple positions.
Noel is better situated to do that, at least relative to his position, but we don’t know how far that extends yet. He isn’t Draymond Green. He can’t cover all five positions. The Mavericks hide their defensive weaknesses as well as anyone, but as the league continues to downsize it’s fair to wonder how wise it is to pay any center max money when it might just be impossible for them to do the things necessary defensively to stay on the floor against great offenses.
If KCP continues to shoot like he did last year, or even improve slightly to hit the league average, he’ll stay on the floor against anyone. The same can’t be said for Noel, whose offensive use has yet to be determined. That might just be Philly’s fault. They had too many bigs and no guards to help them. Rick Carlisle will try him out in the Brandan Wright trampoline role where he sets screens and then jumps really high and dunks a lot. Brandan Wright thrived there… in a bigger league.
How many true dive-bombers make the max? DeAndre Jordan is the obvious comparison, but he’s bigger and stronger. Teams can’t hack Noel like they do Jordan, so he’ll be easier to keep around. But there really aren’t many bigs getting that high a percentage of the cap who can’t do more than that. Paying Noel max money is making a serious offensive concession. Hoping that he becomes good enough at that specific task to keep opponents from downsizing is ambitious to say the least.
That’s why I’d lean towards paying KCP max money over Noel if I had to choose. I have a clearer sense of what he’ll be in five years no matter what the league turns into. I suspect his shooting would improve on a remotely offensively competent team. Noel will get better on offense too now that he’s escaped the kill-shelter that is Philadelphia, but without a three-pointer his future is just more uncertain.
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