Which Philadelphia 76ers Player Has the Most Upside Right Now?

Zachary Arthur@Zach_ArthurSLCCorrespondent IIMarch 8, 2014

Keep smiling, Mr. Noel, good things are coming soon.
Keep smiling, Mr. Noel, good things are coming soon.Associated Press

We could probably make a strong case for Philly's towel boy when looking at which Philadelphia 76ers player has the most upside right now.

The season has been that bad.

If we're going to leave the jokes at the door, then looking closely at the Sixers' roster shows us that there actually is some potential for future talent. Philadelphia has the youngest team in the NBA with a ridiculous average age of 23.8 years old. If that wasn't enough, then the fact that Jason Richardson is the only player over the age of 26 should really be an eye-opener.

The bottom line is that the Sixers are overflowing with youth. It's just a matter of who has the highest ceiling and if they'll ever get there.

There's one player on Philadelphia's roster whose name sticks out more than anybody else's, though. He's a 6'11", slightly over 200-pound center who has yet to play in an NBA game.

His name is Nerlens Noel.

Let's take a look at why he has more upside than anybody else on the Sixers roster.

Wouldn't it be nice to see Noel come back with a jumper.
Wouldn't it be nice to see Noel come back with a jumper.Michael Perez/Associated Press


Missing the entire 2013-14 season has probably felt like the longest year of Noel's life. The former University of Kentucky standout tore his left ACL in February of 2013 and has yet to see time in a game since.

The previous paragraph was all about time lost, but the fact of the matter is that Noel has plenty of time to accomplish any of his NBA goals and become a standout player.

As far as the current season goes, it's almost safe to say that Noel will continue to be sidelined. Christopher Vito of the Delaware County Daily Times heard this from Sixers head coach Brett Brown:

With this season out of the way, we can all look toward the future and what's to come. Noel will turn 20 on April 10, 2014, meaning he'll be playing his rookie season one year removed from being a teenager.

We all know Michael Carter-Williams is having a great season and is a likely candidate to win the Rookie of the Year award. Still though, the main reason for him not being the subject of this article is because he's already 22 years old. Now, that's not close to old, but—assuming he's healthy—Noel will have played two seasons before he turns 22. That's a big advantage over a 22-year-old in his rookie season.

Noel went through a major setback when he injured his knee. Hopefully it will be a small footnote in his time playing if he's able to stay injury-free for the rest of his career.

It appears as though he's nearly healthy enough to play. Now he has a chance to use the rest of his time in the league to turn into something special.

It's almost time for Noel to suit up. Get it?
It's almost time for Noel to suit up. Get it?David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Defensive Ability

Noel came out of college known as a defensive specialist and it was well warranted. He averaged 4.4 blocks and an under-the-radar 2.1 steals per game. On top of his stats, his physical measurements of a 9'2" reach and 7'4" wingspan mean that his body is built to be a defensive force.

His best defensive traits are his instinct and motor.

There are shot-blockers who wait for the ball to get to them before getting a block. An example of this would be a post waiting for his man to receive a post entry pass, then blocking the six-foot jump hook. The other kind of shot-blockers are those who go find the ball and make a play on it. This is the category Noel falls into.

His motor allows him to not only go after the basketball, but it gives him the ability to continually do it over the course of the game, sometimes multiple times in one possession. It's rare to find someone his size who's so willing to dive on a loose ball or hard-hedge on a ball screen. Both are areas where loads of energy is required.

Look at the video for only a couple of plays and his defensive ability becomes more than obvious. Continue to watch it and you see that not only is Noel great at looking for his next block or steal, but he also takes pride in it.

Finding a player who enjoys playing defense is incredibly rare and refreshing to see.

The Sixers are the worst defensive team in the NBA and are giving up more points per game than any team in the past three seasons. Being able to put a guy on the floor who can change the game with his defense is one of Philadelphia's biggest priorities.

Noel has a real shot at being that guy.


Supporting Cast

How good would the greatest NBA players of all time have been if they didn't have their sidekicks playing alongside them? Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Karl Malone had John Stockton. Batman had Robin.

Comparing Noel to players or superheroes of this caliber is way too early and completely unfair, it's just worth noting that a quality supporting cast can really boost the star of the show.

When it comes to Philadelphia, Noel will be playing next to Carter-Williams who is a pass-first, playmaking point guard. It also looks like the Sixers have a chance at getting a scorer in the 2014 NBA draft, which would only help their roster and Noel. 

There likely won't ever be a time where Noel is going to be the team's leading scorer. He won't garner much attention on the offensive end, so having players who can pick up the slack will be important for him to focus on what he does best.

Philadelphia is currently a very young team with a lot of potential in certain areas. Nerlens Noel stands above all else when it comes to who has the most upside, though.

The 2014-15 season will most likely be the beginning of what many hope can be a great career.


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