Chances are no NBA rookie will have more impact on the defensive end. That should count for something.
Nerlens Noel was taken sixth overall last summer by the New Orleans Pelicans and subsequently traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal for Jrue Holiday. He never stepped on the floor during the 2013-14 campaign while recovering from an ACL injury, so this will be his real rookie season.
It could be a good one. Noel has essentially waited a year to show what he's got.
"I was so frustrated," he told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix. "Being on the road, being so involved in the film sessions, working out before the game and then having to put on a suit and sit on the bench, that was really tough. Thinking back, though, it was probably the best thing for me."
The wait is over.
Noel tallied 19 points, four steals and three assists in his first summer league game. Over his next two games, he scored a combined 22 points, collected 15 rebounds and notched eight blocks. He averaged just 25 minutes over the course of those three games in Orlando.
In his first Vegas outing, another four blocks.
According to NBCSports.com's Kurt Helin, Sixers summer league coach Chad Iske framed Noel as an energetic contributor with plenty of work to do:
He’s active, he’s all over the place. He’s trying to do everything, he’s trying to do too much on both ends. The hard part is do you want to just settle him down or do you want him to play with that aggressiveness? I don’t want to give him too much and cloud him, and then he’s thinking instead of playing. I think we just have to get out there and find the happy balance between him being within our rules and him being himself.
Mannix described Noel as a "defensive-minded human pogo stick."
As of late June, only Wiggins, Parker and Randle had better Vegas odds of winning Rookie of the Year, per Philly.com's Justin Klugh.
But a careful analysis suggests that Noel's chances should be even better. The 76ers are still deep into a rebuilding effort that will afford Noel plenty of time. Fellow big man (and rookie) Joel Embiid will miss most if not all of the season. Minutes will be there for the taking.
Philadelphia also plays at a break-neck pace, ensuring that Noel will have plenty of opportunities to rack up stats—including the defensive statistics that are likely to define him. There will be plenty of blocks and double-doubles in Noel's near-future, perhaps enough to claim Rookie of the Year recognition.