The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly zeroing in on mobile center Nerlens Noel as a potential free-agent target in the summer of 2018. The Lakers were one of the teams interested in signing Noel during the offseason before the purple-and-gold franchise eventually opted for wing stopper Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. A lot of the information in this article comes from a report by Scout.com.

According to a league insider, the Lakers were hesitant to make a deal with Noel at that time because of his restricted free agency which allowed the Mavs to match any offer sheet. After the market dried up, the former Kentucky standout eventually accepted the Mavs’ qualifying offer for the 2017-18 season worth $4.1 million, enabling him to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next year.

LeBron-Nerlens connection

Noel’s decision to sign with agent Rich Paul triggered speculations of a potential free-agent coup involving LeBron James and the Lakers' franchise. LeBron is Paul’s best pal and the Lakers are viewed as the No. 1 destination for the four-time NBA MVP if he decides to leave Cleveland again.

Mike Fisher of Scout.com even thinks Noel and James are already plotting their move for next year’s free agency. “Where is Noel going to have the surgery? In Cleveland, hometown of LeBron James and a headquarters for agent Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron and Noel and yeah, it's kind of an open secret now that the fellas are plotting ways to end up together, maybe next July 1 via free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers,” Fisher writes.

Don’t rule out a trade

With Noel [VIDEO] becoming more and more of a flight risk for the Mavericks, the prospect of trading him to an interested buyer before the midseason trade deadline has certainly become an option.

The Mavs can’t just let Noel walk away without compensation. After all, they did send Justin Anderson and a heavily protected 2017 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the former No. 6 overall pick.

Of course, Noel’s decision to opt for a thumb surgery in Cleveland would make things harder for the Mavs to find a taker for him. According to Noel, the surgery will likely sideline him for at least six weeks with his projected return date set around mid-January.

If he makes a comeback within that time frame, the Mavs will still have roughly three weeks to improve Noel’s trade stock. The situation would force Rick Carlisle to let Noel play extended minutes for that stretch, allowing suitors to evaluate the center for a potential midseason acquisition.

The market won’t be robust for Noel but he will nevertheless draw interest from several contenders making a late-season playoff push. Don’t rule out for the Cavaliers to make a preemptive move by trading for Noel. The Cavs already have a versatile defensive big in Tristan Thompson and getting another mobile big would make the East champ a lot better on paper.

Then, there’s the Boston Celtics [VIDEO] who can use their $8.4 million Disabled Player Exception to beef up their thin front line. It’s going to be an interesting next eight months for Noel’s career. One thing is certain about him, he will leave the Mavs one way or another.