By Michael Bennett

Looks like the Sixers trade of Nerlens Noel last February was a leading indicator for the 6-11 rim protector who has no offensive game!

Noel remains unsigned, and the Mavs’ big man has until October 16 before any decisions need be made. There’s always the $5.8 million qualifying offer the Mavericks extended his way in June. But he was never meant to still be on the table, seemingly alone in betting on himself.

Dealt to Dallas from a Philly storage unit of NBA bigs in February, Noel finished the season projected to become a sought-after restricted free agent. His ho-hum stats (8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game) are filled with caveats — with the 76ers he was never healthy; with the Mavs he sacrificed floor time for the greater tanking good — but Noel’s shot-blocking and rim-running still make him glow with modern big-man upside.

Teams want him, or so reports said. He’ll be offered maximum contracts, or so reports said. He’s someone Dallas has “got to get signed,” or so Rick Carlisle said. But nearly a month in, the prized 23-year-old hasn’t accepted an offer sheet from any organization. To borrow a line from ’90s PBS, where in the world is Nerlens Noel?

It could be that Noel is still holding out for a maximum deal, or just refusing to accept less than what comparable bigs got last season, when the cap was still skyrocketing and offers were inflated. Or maybe the Mavericks are lowballing, taking full advantage of Noel’s limited choices. Both sides technically have time, but nothing fades conviction like a waiting game.

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