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Yes, Nerlens Noel is suiting up for a team miles away from sniffing the playoffs. Yet, somehow, this is a pivotal season for him.
More than a year after drafting the big fella, the Philadelphia 76ers will finally get to see him compete in regular-season games this fall. The highly touted prospect out of Kentucky is expected to bring defense, energy and athletic offense to his talent-starved franchise.
Philly had the worst defense in the league during the 2013-14 campaign, surrendering 109.9 points per game. Noel is expected to give the Sixers an upgrade on that end of the floor by supplying his shot-blocking and superb instincts.
The 2012-13 SEC blocks leader is also an accomplished thief, as he averaged 2.6 steals per 40 minutes. He can cover a ton of ground with his speed and length, and he's always looking for ways to disrupt opponents.
The coaching staff, front office and fanbase will want to see those skills, along with his improving offense, on display this season. Noel knows it, and he's holding himself accountable to lead Philly out of the basement, as he explained to ESPN's Kevin Pelton (subscription required).
"We have a young team, but I want to establish myself as a young leader of this Philadelphia 76ers team and be able to help the coaches as we bring a lot of talent to Philadelphia in the near future."
No one is confusing this with the pressures on LeBron James or Kevin Love in Cleveland. But the City of Brotherly Love also wants a title eventually, and it hopes Noel is a key part of the process.