Reports: Nerlens Noel takes $4.1M qualifying offer from Dallas Mavericks

The free agent crop continues to thin. Center Nerlens Noel has signed a one-year qualifying offer with the Dallas Mavericks to return next season, according to a report from ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

Signing the qualifying offer will allow Noel to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

The Mavericks acquired Noel at the trade deadline last season. The 23-year-old Noel averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22 games with the Mavericks.

The Mavericks envision Noel as an athletic rim protector who can also guard away from the basket, and they have hopes that he can become more of a scoring threat. He’s potentially part of a young core alongside 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki after Dallas used a rare high draft pick on former North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

Dallas made another commitment to youth a year ago by signing Harrison Barnes to a max deal as a restricted free agent out of Golden State. Barnes became expendable when the Warriors reached a deal with Kevin Durant.

Barnes, who turned 25 in May, led the Mavericks at 19.2 points per game last season, and undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell emerged as a viable point guard. The Mavericks see Ferrell as a better fit as a backup, which he is likely to be along with J.J. Barea and Devin Harris behind the newcomer Smith.

There are still questions about how Noel fits in the rotation because Barnes was most effective at small forward, which meant Nowitzki had to play center when they were on the floor together. But Smith’s arrival will make for an intriguing question of how good Noel can be as his pick-and-roll partner.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.