Free Agency Miss #2: Nerlens Noel
Before free agency began, I wrote about three free-agent centers the Wizards could realistically sign. They were never in the running for Christian Wood, but they didn’t have to settle for Robin Lopez. They definitely did not have to give Robin Lopez nearly the full mid-level exception, either.
Lopez played below average as a backup center last season, and the Wizards almost doubled his $4.8 million salary he made with the Bucks. Instead, the Wizards should have targeted Nerlens Noel. Noel was one of the realistic targets I suggested, and he ended up signing with the New York Knicks on a one-year deal worth $5 million. The deal is just as long as the one Lopez signed with Washington and significantly cheaper.
But money aside, Nerlens Noel would have made more sense at the center position than Lopez. Not only is he cheaper than Lopez, but he’s also younger and much more mobile than Lopez, a 12-year veteran. Plus, Noel is a better rebounder and a better defender. Noel is just better across the board at this point.
The Wizards missed a golden opportunity to get better at the center position by failing to sign Nerlens Noel in free agency.