Nerlens Noel's Career Projections with Philadelphia 76ers

Tim KeeneyContributor IJune 27, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27:  Nerlens Noel (R) of Kentucky poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner David Stern after Zeller was drafted #6 overall in the first round by the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2013 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 27, 2013 in in the Brooklyn Bourough of New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Move over, Norris Cole and Iman Shumpert. There's another glorious hi-top fade coming to the NBA

With the No. 6 overall selection in this year's draft, the New Orleans Pelicans selected Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel on Thursday.

However, before pairing him with another former Wildcat in Anthony Davis, they shipped him to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade less than an hour later, per USA Today's Sam Amick:

Noel brings with him limitless potential as a player with the perfect blend of size, trampoline-like athleticism, high defensive basketball IQ and relentless energy. 

Although he's coming off major knee surgery and presents quite a bit of a risk, as evidenced by the fact that he dropped all the way to No. 6, there is little question that he brings the talent capable of rewarding the Sixers for their faith. 

Let's take a closer look at his future in Philadelphia.


How He Fits with the 76ers

This seems like good evidence that the Sixers aren't exactly confident about free agent Andrew Bynum returning. 

Throw in Spencer Hawes' inconsistency, and there is very little depth in Philadelphia's frontcourt right now, although Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie have quite a bit of potential.

Nevertheless, it appears Noel will be in line for plenty of minutes once he returns to game action. 


Offensive Projections

Noel's critics are going to point to his highly questionable offensive skill set, and honestly, it's an easy target. 

His back-to-the-basket game is nearly non-existent—not only does he currently lack the weight and strength to bang with the big boys down low, but he has very few reliable post moves.

Moreover, his touch on those shots was almost difficult to watch at times last year—it was like he was mad at the rim and saw the ball as his only viable weapon. 

Don't expect him to ever be a mid-range threat, either. In 24 games at Kentucky, he shot 52.9 percent from the free-throw line and never showed much of a consistent jump shot. 

Nevertheless, while he may never turn into a go-to guy on the low block or in the pick-and-pop game, that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to put the peach in the basket.

Perhaps the most underrated part of Noel's game is his energy. He isn't quite Joakim Noah in that regard, but his motor is always running and he is consistently around the ball. 

He isn't a future 20-point-per-game guy, but Noel will score points by crashing the offensive glass and beating his man down the floor in transition.

This part of his game is undoubtedly his weakness, but contrary to popular belief, he is far from a liability.


Defensive Projections

This is where Noel is going to make his money. 

Blessed with that energy and motor we were talking about earlier with unreal explosiveness, instincts and defensive intelligence, he proved to be one of the best rim-protectors in collegiate history, averaging 4.4 swats per contest. 

But he isn't just a shot-blocker. 

Noel also plays passing lanes, has quick hands and is adept off the ball, which led to an incredibly impressive 2.1 steals per game. 

Throw in his prowess on the glass, and you have a future All-NBA defensive player with the potential for some truly standout seasons once he recovers from his ACL injury and hits his prime—which still could be a ways down the road, mind you.

Best Season: 15.0 PPG, 58.0 FG%, 65.0 FT%, 12.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.9 BPG, 1.2 SPG

NBA Player Comparison: Larry Sanders

Limited to mostly around-the-basket-stuff offensively, super athletic, full of energy and always around the ball, massive difference-maker defensively. 

All of those things sum up both Noel and current Milwaukee Bucks burgeoning star Larry Sanders. 

They are taking similar paths, too. Just take a look at their advanced collegiate numbers coming out of college: 

Noel needs to add some bulk to hit Sanders' 235-pound frame, but remember, that was Noel's freshman year at Kentucky vs. Sanders' junior season at VCU.

Noel has a higher ceiling than that of the 6'11" Sanders—the former is still just 19 years old—but they are going to contribute in very similar ways.