Mac Engel

Dallas Mavericks have found sequel to Rajon Rondo trade

Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel, right, is averaging just over five points and five rebounds.
Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel, right, is averaging just over five points and five rebounds. AP

Not that you are watching, but the Dallas Mavericks are 2-12, and the proud owners of the worst record in the NBA. The lottery can’t get here soon enough.

Missouri forward Michael Porter, start house hunting in North Texas.

The Dallas Mavericks’ playoff chances are essentially over, and the season is entirely about the development of rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and center Nerlens Noel.

In a loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, DSJ scored 15 points and Noel finished with a plus-3 defensive rating.

OK, so technically that last figure may be a bit misleading. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle did not play Noel until the final two minutes of the 112-99 loss. When he cleared the bench, Carlisle was sending a message to a player he clearly is not reaching.

Doing this to Noel is a dangerous move, but at this point Carlisle has nothing to lose. He may have already lost Noel.

This is the rare case of Rick not liking a player, and there is not a single sign to suggest the Noel acquisition is working because the player and the coach are not exactly buddy/buddy.

The Mavs are so bad there is no point in dumping Noel just yet, but we are fast approaching the day when Nerlens Noel is Rajon Rondo 2.0.

In February, the Philadelphia 76ers sent the former lottery pick to the Mavs for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a protected first-round pick.

Noel was supposed to be the rim-protecter/rebounder the Mavs have not had since Tyson Chandler. Noel was supposed to be a screen-and-roll guy who could finish and be an anchor in the middle. Noel is an anchor on the bench.

Since scoring 16 points and collecting 11 rebounds in the Mavs’ season opener, Noel has not hit double digits in either category. Now his minutes are plummeting. Since the start of November, his minutes per game are 17, 13, 14, 6, 0, 2.

Carlisle made a point of saying in regards to Noel that “minutes have to be earned.”

Noel is averaging 5.1 points with 5.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game.

Noel clearly is not dong what Carlisle wants defensively, either because he can’t learn it or because he’s pouting. Both are plausible.

There is a reason the 76ers traded a young, athletic center who had been the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.

In the off-season, the Mavs reportedly offered Noel, a restricted free agent, a four-year, $70 million contract. At the advice of his agent, Noel passed because he he wanted a max contract.

Noel accepted a qualifying deal of $4.1 million for one year. To put a positive spin on this, Noel bet on himself when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

Noel needs numbers to cash in, and he can’t get them if he and his coach are at odds to the point where Carlisle dumps the guy to the end of the bench. Carlisle is one of the rare NBA coaches with enough job security to know he can win a fight against a player.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban will keep Carlisle over Noel.

The last time the Mavs made a trade that generated this much excitement followed by a thunderous dud was Ranjo Rondo. The Mavs dealt for the then-Celtics point guard in December of 2014. He quickly proved he didn’t fit in the offense or with his head coach.

Both Noel and Rondo were mad about money, and the only difference is Rondo openly defied Carlisle. Rondo famously quit on the Mavs in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in 2015, and he never played for the Mavs again.

Noel is only 23, and the schedule for the Mavs is approaching the “easier” portion. Both he and this season are young enough to salvage this deal, but someone outside of the Mavs must get real with Noel fast.

He’s going to have to learn to play ball, both with this head coach and on the floor if he wants to get paid.

If not, we’re looking at another Rajon Rondo.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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