Jun 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Nerlens Noel poses for a photo at the Westin Hotel prior to the NBA Draft. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel Should Play Key Role in Sixers Rebuilding Phase

Just over a month removed from the 2013 NBA Draft, the debate continues: which draft picks will have the gloomy “bust” term overshadowing them throughout the remainder of their careers, and which will turn out to be the potential face of their franchise? According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com and other bright basketball minds including James Herbert of Hardwood Paroxysm and Jack Winter of Warriors World, the Philadelphia 76ers may have landed the closest thing that this draft class had to offer to a franchise-changing player.

Nerlens Noel entered the night of June 27th at the favorite to be taken first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. After Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers shocked the majority of the basketball world by selecting UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Noel’s draft night slip began. Eventually, the newly named New Orleans Pelicans used the sixth overall pick on the shot blocking extraordinaire from Big Blue Nation.

In the first of many moves by the Sixers new general manager Sam Hinkie, Noel became a Sixer in exchange for the team’s lone All-Star Jrue Holiday and the rights to the No. 42 pick Pierre Jackson out of Baylor. Given Philadelphia’s recent history of 7-footers with knee issues, the trade was all that more shocking. Take Jrue Holiday’s production, potential, and youth, and Hinkie had successfully shocked the world.

Despite the fact that the 76ers gave up their best player, a 23 year-old point guard, the deal gave the team, the city, and the fans a much needed direction. In the blockbuster deal that brought Noel to Philadelphia, they also managed to land an ever so coveted 2014 first-round draft pick. Next year’s draft class has been labeled as loaded and deep. Given Noel’s presence, the potential of a top-five pick of their own next year, and New Orleans’ firs-rounder as well, the possibility that Hinkie may have pulled off the move that lands the Sixers three future superstars hangs in the balance.

With the uncertainty of where the Sixers’ two first-round picks will come next season, there focus should remain on developing Nerlens Noel. Noel played just 24 games at Kentucky before tearing his ACL on a block attempt during a game in Florida. Regardless, Noel’s defensive ceiling is a once-in-a-decade type attribute.

A 7’4” wingspan and world-class athleticism allowed Noel to be one of the most feared rim protectors that college hoops has seen. His ability to block shots with either hand and track down opponents in transition from behind make him rare, as opposed to the prototypical 7-footer that just anchors the defense from the paint. Noel is raw offensively to say the least, but a rim protector of his caliber should be cherished.

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