The Philadelphia 76ers obtained the rights to Nerlens Noel after completing a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans during Thursday night's NBA draft. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reported the details.
Noel inexplicably slipped to No. 6 because of concerns about his injured knee. Despite the fact that Noel recently met with doctors who have said the knee looks in great shape, per Kyle Tucker of The Louisville Courier, at least five teams were still uncomfortable.
Noel told the Associated Press in May that he was ahead of schedule and a Christmas debut was a realistic goal. The 76ers can only hope that ETA is accurate. After the Andrew Bynum debacle, it would understandable if Sixers fans were nervous.
As a rookie, Noel will likely play 50 to 60 games—if he has no setbacks in his rehab—while averaging around 10 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game.
He will have an instant impact as a shot-blocker.
At 6'11" with a 7'3" wingspan (Draft Express), his length is more than appropriate for the center position. Although he couldn't work out at the NBA Draft Combine, watching Noel during his 24 games as a freshman at Kentucky proves he's an elite athlete for his size.
His 4.4 blocked shots per game are a product of his length, athleticism and timing. None of these talents can be taught, but they offer Noel a great foundation as a defensive stalwart in the NBA.
As a low-post defender, he will have some issues early on. He weighed just 206 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, which is lighter than many 2-guards in the NBA. He'll have to add some bulk to hold his ground against physical post players.
Luckily for him, there aren't a ton of players in the NBA who excel playing with their backs to the basket.
As a defensive rebounder Noel should make an immediate impact. He averaged 6.8 defensive boards for the Wildcats and he should be able to make his presence felt in that area in the NBA.
Though he and last year's No. 1 overall pick and fellow Wildcat alum Anthony Davis aren't identical players, there are clear similarities. Beyond playing one year for John Calipari in Lexington, the two players' physical stature and defensive mindset also links them.
As a rookie, Davis pulled down 8.2 rebounds per game. Considering Noel will probably play even closer to the basket than Davis, it seems logical to expect his rebounding numbers to reach that level.
On offense, Noel's ceiling is unclear. As of now, the extent of his contributions as an offensive player are restricted to offensive rebounds, outlet passes and the occasional good look from the low or high post.
While that profile would get him a successful 10-to-12-year career in the NBA, he won't be a star unless he adds a weapon that makes him a better-than-average scorer. Things like a 15-foot jump shot, right and left hand hook, footwork to create the space to use his athleticism would help Noel's game a ton.
These improvements won't happen for Noel as a rookie and may never happen throughout his career.
That wouldn't make him a bust, though. He could average a double-double, with two blocks per game with the skill set he possesses now and adding more strength to his frame.
However, making these offensive enhancements will decide if he becomes good or great.
Had he not gotten hurt as a freshman and continued to improve the way Davis did in his lone year in Kentucky, Noel would be in position to make a bigger initial impact. As it stands, the 76ers should be happy with the aforementioned stat line from Noel.
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