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How the Nerlens Noel contract affects Mason Plumlee

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Nerlens Noel signed a qualifying offer with the Mavericks - how does his decision impact the Nuggets negotiations with their restricted free agent?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel has agreed to the qualifying offer from the Dallas Mavericks and will return for the next season on a one-year, $4.1 million contract, Chris Haynes of ESPN reported Saturday.

Noel was traded to the Mavericks during the 2017 season after having begun his career as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Noel is likely to start for the Mavericks in actual games that matter against the Nuggets, his return impacts the Nuggets right now in their negotiations with their 2017 midseason acquisition, Mason Plumlee.

Plumlee has reportedly been offered a one year, $4.59 million qualifying offer, but has yet to reach a decision regarding that contract. If Plumlee signs the QO, like Noel has done, he would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the next season.

While it may seem like a good idea for Plumlee to do that, giving him more freedom in the free agent marketplace, Noel’s decision to sign his qualifying offer makes it unlikely that Plumlee will do the same with Denver, in my opinion.

Here’s why I think Plumlee will not sign his qualifying offer. In 2018, the NBA free agency market for centers could include the following players: DeAndre Jordan (player option), Brook Lopez, Enes Kanter (PO), DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela (restricted free agent), Greg Monroe, Jusuf Nurkic (restricted free agent), Derrick Favors, and now Noel.

I think it is highly unlikely that Plumlee would garner more interest than any of the players listed above. The number of teams that were interested in Noel was basically the Mavericks, and Noel is a better investment than Plumlee. Noel can afford to take a risk of gambling on a great season next to Dirk Nowitzki and enter the free agency market without the burden of a restricted status. Plumlee can take a gamble that he impresses teams as a backup center playing 15-20 minutes a game behind Nikola Jokic - definitely not as strong of a case for big money.

For the Nuggets, Noel’s signing is great news. They can afford to make a team-friendly offer to Plumlee, paying him under $10 million per year for three or four years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a four-year, $28 million offer be placed on the table for Plumlee. It’s an offer that is well below market value for the skills Plumlee has, but with the competition for value at the center position, may be a smart decision for Plumlee to make.

Either way, it appears the Nuggets front office has to be pleased with Noel’s decision to sign his qualifying offer - that is, until the regular season begins and the players have to actually go against him.