Biggest Benefits of Nerlens Noel Sitting out 2013-14 NBA Season
It pretty much came out of nowhere, though it should have been expected. I wrote back in July why the Sixers should explore the idea.
Noel tore his ACL back in February, an injury that typically takes eight to 12 months to recover from. However, coach Brett Brown admitted that "progress was slow" according to Dei Lynam of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.
While it might be disappointing, considering there isn't much else to get excited about in Philadelphia, the decision to sit Noel has its benefits—both for him and the team.
Time to Add Muscle and Strength to Slender Frame
Even with a perfectly good knee, Nerlens Noel would have had trouble making the physical transition to the pros. At least as a rookie.
He maxed out his weight last year at 228 pounds, and it slipped to 206 pounds at the time of the NBA combine. The lightest starting centers in the NBA in 2012-13 were Larry Sanders and Chris Bosh at 235 pounds.
Considering Noel doesn't play outside the paint, he'd likely take a beating on the interior as a 19-year-old kid.
With a year off, he'll be able to build some upper body strength and better prepare himself for contact. Noel is fragile as it is. You don't want to send him out there without some extra armor.
This is a perfect opportunity for Noel to focus on improving his body in the weight room.
Guarantee Fresh, Healthy Start to New Era in 2014-15
The goal for the Philadelphia 76ers is to enter the 2014-15 season with two potential rookie superstars and a healthy Nerlens Noel in the middle.
The only way the Sixers can guarantee themselves that is by eliminating the chance of risk. They can't lose Noel if they don't play him.
And in a throwaway year, there's just no sense in taking any risk at all.
Noel entered the draft, and ultimately his rookie season, with uncertainty. Nobody likes uncertainty—not the player and not the team that has to figure out how to use him.
By sitting out the season, Noel would end up getting in around 20 months of rehab from the time of his surgery to his first NBA game. That should be enough to guarantee he'll be ready to roll by the start of the new era in Philadelphia.
Time to Build Confidence, Improve Explosiveness in Knee
The Sixers don't want Nerlens Noel returning to action without having full trust in his own capabilities. The extra time will allow Noel to build confidence in his knee so that he's not second-guessing himself in the middle of traffic.
It will be easier for Noel to progress when he can just think about basketball instead of protecting himself from injury.
The other obvious answer is that the longer he rehabs, the stronger his knee will get. Even when players are cleared to return after ACL tears, it takes them months to regain that explosion in their legs.
Given that Noel's core strengths—shot-blocking, running, finishing above the rim—are all powered by the explosion in lower body, it probably wouldn't hurt to let it fully charge.
Since this team is in no rush to win, there's no point in throwing him out there until he's completely locked and loaded—Derrick Rose 2013-14 style.
Time to Improve Touch
Touch is acquired over time, which Nerlens Noel should have plenty of in 2013-14.
What he doesn't have is touch. On the few opportunities he got at Kentucky to drop-step into a jump hook, Noel would seemingly throw the ball at the rim instead of gently finessing it over the cylinder.
You don't need game action to improve in this department.
It's likely that Noel has been working on his touch throughout the entire rehab process. And while he's waiting to be cleared for contact, there's no reason he shouldn't continue to throw up a few hundred touch shots a day.
He also shot a horrid 52.9 percent from the free-throw line last season. With an entire year away from game action, this is a great chance for Noel to improve his shooting.
Unstoppable Tank Mode
God forbid Nerlens Noel came in and helped this team win some games.
The Philadelphia 76ers traded their only All-Star in an attempt to throw away the season and build through the upcoming drafts—which requires losses. A whole lot of losses.
Adding Noel to the lineup could be counterproductive towards the future goal.
By keeping Noel on the shelf, the Sixers can stand proud and throw out the lowest-quality product possible. Some call it unethical; others call it strategic. The fact is, the plan was clear when Philly traded its only All-Star for an injured rookie. It activated tank mode.
And if the Sixers are going to tank, they gotta tank hard.
There's no sense in seeing what Noel can do for the team when the goal isn't to win games.
With Noel out, the Sixers are in unstoppable tank mode. No team in the league will challenge Philadelphia for the No. 1 lottery seed. And that should be the idea.
Whether it's right or wrong is a whole separate issue.
Time to Refine Low-Post Game
Just because he can't play in games doen't mean he can't continue refining his skill set. Nerlens Noel doesn't need a clock, whistle or play-call to work on his low-post repertoire.
He can still focus on improving his shot creativity and footwork, even if it's against a short dude in a T-shirt holding a broom to simulate defense.
Noel didn't show much at Kentucky in terms of generating offense in the post. He's a threat off pick-and-rolls, dump passes and lobs above the rim. But Noel wasn't a guy the team looked to feed the ball to in the half court.
This will be a time for Noel to master a few go-to moves so he can enter the NBA with a little something to lean on.