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NBA Free Agency 2017: Atlanta Hawks reportedly interested in Nerlens Noel

The Hawks have some flexibility and they might use it in an interesting way.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks have salary cap space in the midst of a rebuild and, while there is no hurry to spend it on the part of Travis Schlenk, a potential target has reportedly emerged. On Wednesday, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype brought word that the Hawks are interested in Dallas Mavericks restricted free agent big man Nerlens Noel.

It is important to note that the Hawks, with Jamal Crawford under contract, do not have the requisite salary cap space to make a “max” offer to Noel. The team could, however, get (much) closer by renouncing cap holds for players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mike Muscala but flipping Crawford through trade or buyout would seem to be a more logical pursuit.

The big picture, though, is that Atlanta could be pursuing a target that isn’t exactly “gettable” on the market. The Mavericks have been reportedly willing to match any offer and the 23-year-old center could command a four-year pact for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.

In terms of the player that the Hawks would be pursuing, Noel is young enough to fit with the rebuild timeline and his upside is tantalizing on the defensive end of the floor. With that said, he has battled injuries in the past and is nothing approaching a finished product offensively. The young center did post a career-best 20.4 PER with a 62.2 percent true shooting mark in 2016-2017, providing a window of optimism in terms of efficiency.

Atlanta can pursue Nerlens Noel and it would be easy to see the rationale for doing so but, in the end, the Mavericks would likely match any offer. Just how aggressive Schlenk and the front office will be in the future will be interesting to monitor.