Betting on oneself can be the ultimate risk-or-reward proposition, especially when you’re a professional athlete.
On Saturday, former Kentucky Wildcats center Nerlens Noel signed his qualifying offer of $4.1 million from the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas acquired him in a trade this past spring from the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that traded for him during the 2013 NBA Draft when we was selected sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Noel reportedly was expecting a "max" contract this summer, but with the NBA's salary cap being a few million lower than projected, the market dried up quick before he could negotiate a deal.
Noel’s former agent, Happy Walters, confirmed reports that Noel passed on a four-year, $70 million contract early in his restricted free agency. That means Noel could be making $17.5 million annually, well short of the max deal that could have paid him around $140 million over five years, or $28 million annually.
Had Noel signed with another team, it would have dipped to around max deal that could have paid him around $100 million over four years, or $25 million annually.
At worst, a max deal is paying Noel over $7 million more annually than the deal he passed on. That means if Noel can get a max deal with another team next year, he could earn himself over $20 million in extra pay.
However, Noel could be losing as much, if not more if next season turns bad. He played in 22 games for Dallas this season, averaging nine points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while missing three games due to knee soreness.
Noel has already had multiple knee surgeries, though they came in high school and his one year at Kentucky. If he has any kind of significant injury next season, that could cause his market to drop well below the $17.5 million annually he passed on.
In other words, Noel taking a huge risk by betting on himself, so we can only hope it pays off for him.
Be sure to read the Mavs Moneyball breakdown of this whole situation.
Here are some highlights from Noel’s stint in Dallas.