Nerlens Noel and the Dallas Mavericks’ organization are in complete agreement on one important task the wiry center must accomplish in the offseason.
He needs to gain weight.
Noel, who was drafted out of the University of Kentucky in 2013, carries only 220 pounds on his lithe 6-foot-11 frame. While that package has enabled him to be effective, both he and the Mavs believe his game could soar to greater heights with a few more pounds.
That prospect led Noel to say: “I’m looking to put 15-20 pounds on over the summer to get started and come back physically and more devoted.”
Told of Noel’s desire to add some weight, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said: “I do think he can gain weight. Some guys have certain metabolic features to their bodies that you’ve got to have a nutritionist to figure out exactly how to do it through the grind of NBA season.
“He definitely is going to get stronger.”
While gaining weight may be an offseason priority for Noel, it will be for naught as far as the Mavs are concerned if they’re unable to retain his services.
Noel becomes a restricted free agent July 1. By rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, the Mavs will have the right to match whatever offer he receives.
And the Mavs do plan to exercise that right and match an offer.
“We traded a guy who was a first-round pick for him with an additional couple of draft picks, a future second,” Carlisle said. “I do know (signing Noel) will be a priority.
“You never know for sure. We’re extremely happy with him.”
My belief is that he’s stronger than he appears because he has wiry strength. If you watch him on the court he’s extremely quick, and you can’t move that quick without being strong. I’m excited about him.
Rick Carlisle, Mavericks head coach
On Feb. 23, the Mavs sent Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Noel. The trade was widely considered a steal by the Mavs; Bogut was injury-prone and 32 years old, and Anderson had been inconsistent in his two seasons.
Noel, meanwhile, hopes he can remain with the Mavs and be one of the team’s young cornerstones as they try to return to the championship conversation.
“I love Dallas,” Noel said. “In my short time here I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I think we had a great time with the pieces that we have and the opportunities that’ll be seen in the near future. I think there’s a lot to be excited for. Obviously there are some things that will be worked out most likely, and we’ll go from there.”
Carlisle was adamant about Noel’s value to the Mavs. He knows how critical it is to have someone in the middle who can control the paint, and also be a huge factor on the pick-and-roll play.
“Noel is going to be a guy that we’ve got to get signed,” Carlisle said. “That trade made a lot of sense for us because we had an overload at the wing position.”
In his 22 games with the Mavs, Noel averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just 22 minutes per contest. He shot 57.5 percent from the field and also proved that he can protect the rim.
“My belief is that he’s stronger than he appears because he has wiry strength,” Carlisle said. “If you watch him on the court he’s extremely quick, and you can’t move that quick without being strong.
“I’m excited about him. From afar he was always a guy that I was enamored with — with his ability to deflect balls and make plays at the rim at both ends of the floor — and he’s done a lot of good things here.”
Noel, who turned 23 on April 10, sounds like a man convinced he’ll continue playing for the Mavs beyond this season. And that prospects lights up Noel’s eyes.
“I think it’ll be a big offseason for me,” Noel said. “I’ll be looking to spend a lot of time with Coach Carlisle.
“The work that we’ve gotten over this last month is something that if you get a whole offseason in, I think you can make really big strides. So I think this is probably the biggest offseason of my career being with a new team and being in a new environment to really build on some things that I wasn’t really capitalizing on.”