The long and anticipated debut of the No. 6 overall pick the 2013 NBA draft is coming. After tearing his ACL during his freshman season at Kentucky, Nerlens Noel dropped down out of the top spot on most scouts draft boards. Noel did not give up hope, and for Sam Hinkie and company, it felt like a blessing in disguise. The New Orleans Pelicans selected him sixth overall and immediately shipped him to the Philadelphia 76ers for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and the 52nd pick in the second round pick, which was Pierre Jackson, who was traded back to the 76ers in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Nerlens Noel endured months of constant rehab during the 2013-14 season and for him it seemed quite hard to sit back and watch his team during their struggles. “The whole off season I’ve really been focused on getting stronger, putting weight on and gaining muscle, and that’s what I’ve been doing. Every aspect and skill point, I’ve been working on too. My shot, I’ve progressed a lot , and I’m working on my technique. Every part of my game I’ve improved on.” said Nerlens Noel as he spoke on his own off season improvements. It is no secret that Nerlens wanted badly to get his feet wet in the NBA waters as soon as he could and he wished it would have come sooner.
July 5 will open a new door for the 6’11″ center and I’m sure he will make the most of the first taste on the NBA hardwood. Noel may have all the jitters that comes with being a rookie because in fact he still is. Besides running pre-game transition drills and conditioning drills, he has yet to showcase his talents on an NBA court. He may play well or may play poor, but coaches and trainers will all be watching for the first hare of contact to see how Nerlens responds. It will almost be like watching a kid take the first big hit in football.
After waiting a whole season, he will be eager to give it his all and showcase his talents. He created a whole new jump shot, which Brett Brown worked with him diligently during the season. While at Kentucky most of his points came off put backs and pick and roll plays. His shooting percentage for his shortened season was 59 percent , which is not bad for a player with limited inside post mechanics. Look for much of that in summer league play as there will be plenty of missed shots and rebounding opportunities. He averaged 9.5 rebounds per game at Kentucky and I feel that if he has put on the weight he says he has, he will have similar numbers this upcoming season.
It will not be only an offensive showcase when Nerlens takes the floor as he is a defensive machine. This kid averaged 4.4 blocks per game as well as a game against the Ole Miss Rebels where he blocked not one, two , three, four, but twelve shots. Twelve blocks in a single game is a Kentucky University record by the way. Finally, the Sixers will get a player who is an enforcer in the post. Done are the years of having a center who is softer than Bed Bath & Beyond face cloths in the paint. Nerlens will have ball handlers double thinking themselves before driving into the post. His long stature and lengthy arms will create havoc for offensive play callers. In fact, Nerlens has a 7’4″ wingspan and is clearly going to be a defensive standout for the Sixers. Look for him to quietly get steals too as he did grab 50 of them in 24 games for the Wildcats. One reason Hinkie was so high on him from day one was high defensive motor and desire to play hard every play no matter what the score board says.
After a year of waiting, Nerlens is about to finally play in the NBA and although its not the season opener for the fans it is for Nerlens. He is going to be one of the most watched rookies this season and for good reason. He will have to play catch up to fellow rookies Micheal Carter-Williams, who won the rookie of the year award last season as well as sophomore Hollis Thompson. Thompson led the team in three-point field goal percentage last year shooting 44 percent. The core of the team is young and Noel will struggle at times just as much as they will show flashes of stellar play. Once again Sixer fans be patient as he has a lot to learn. He has been receptive to the information from the side lines but being on the floor and executing will be fairly different. Saturday is only the first game of a hopefully a long great career for Nerlens in the Sixers organization. So like a not so famous former Philadelphia Eagle used to say, ” Get your popcorn ready, because it’s going to be a show!’