Kentucky Basketball: 5 Things Nerlens Noel Can Do to Improve His NBA Stock
Kentucky basketball star center Nerlens Noel arguably has the best combination of current skills and upside out of any big man in the 2013 NBA draft class.
To say he is a well-rounded big man, however, is incorrect.
Noel struggles on offense. He struggles with foul trouble. He struggles with turnovers.
All are reasonable problems for an 18-year-old basketball player. Noel is young, and he's maturing at a rapid rate.
But his position at the top is hardly secured, and although he may be a lock as a high lottery pick, the monetary difference between each pick is substantial. Last year's No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis, makes nearly $1 million more than the No. 3 pick, Bradley Beal (via HoopsHype.com).
Here are five things Noel can do to improve his draft stock to potentially be the No. 1 pick.
All statistics via Wildcat Review.
Develop a Right Hand
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
This is a rare picture of Nerlens Noel.
He's using his right hand to finish at the rim, something that he'll use primarily with the jump hook he's executing here.
Aside from that hook shot, you will hardly ever see Noel use his right hand in the post, even though he's right-handed.
Noel looks to position himself for tip-ins with his left hand, not right. He's able to use both, but clearly has more touch and finesse with his off hand.
As he becomes comfortable scoring the ball with both hands, his draft stock will rise.
Stay out of Foul Trouble
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This improvement is twofold.
First, Nerlens Noel needs to stay on the floor more often. He's continuing to better himself when it comes to biting on pump fakes, but he can still improve.
Secondly, Noel needs to work on removing the "silly fouls" from his game. These are fouls that come away from the rim—fouls where Noel was hustling for a loose ball or reaching in for a steal.
His fouls have been sporadic all season. He has only fouled out once, but has reached four fouls in three of the last four games.
Noel's current average of three per game is enough to earn him 30 minutes per game, but if two of those three fouls come in the first half, he'll lose minutes.
Focus on the Free-Throw Line
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All Kentucky fans know that Nerlens Noel struggles at the free-throw line. He's 26-of-48 (54.2 percent) from the line.
Big men generally struggle when shooting from the charity stripe, and Noel is no different. He's actually much better than teammate Willie Cauley-Stein (36.7 percent) from the line.
Noel will likely struggle from the foul line his entire basketball career. It takes practice, patience and focus to consistently hit the freebies.
His draft stock would skyrocket if he were to develop a semi-consistent jumper from 15 feet—both from the foul line to the short corner.
He doesn't have to be great at shooting from that range, but right now he's not a mid-range shooting threat.
The 2012-13 team would benefit from having a high-post player that could hit shots against a 2-3 zone. Noel is the ideal solution to that problem, and he'd be boosting his draft stock along the way.
Slow Down on Offense
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This picture epitomizes what happens when Nerlens Noel moves too fast on offense.
Like most freshmen, Noel tries to do too much at times. He'll get out of control. Part of this problem is simply because of a faster-paced game at the collegiate level.
Noel has done a solid job at limiting turnovers. He has an even 1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, both at 1.7 per game. This is primarily due to his superb passing ability out of the post.
He'll limit turnovers and offensive fouls if he plays at the correct pace.
Command the Ball
Note that he's shooting with his left hand here.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
If the previous four improvements come to fruition, Nerlens Noel needs to want the ball.
That can come from traditional post-ups or lobs around the rim. Either way, Noel needs to call for the ball.
Right now, he's earning his shots through offensive rebounding and lobs. His shots from designed post-up plays are limited, partly due to his inconsistency from the paint.
His improvement in the post should result in more touches on offense.
He shoots 55.7 percent from the field, a strong mark for a big man with a limited offensive game. And, as his offensive game progresses, he should be a viable threat on offense.
Kentucky should continue to work Noel into the offense. He's a threat to score in the low post and has the hands to finish lobs near the rim.