The Ability To Be a Defensive Monster
In most cases, the Rookie of the Year is a player that scores in bunches, which separates them from the crowd. However, Noel has the ability to be an absolute terror on defense, which is where he will stand out from everyone else. There hasn’t been a big man to win Rookie of the Year since Emeka Okafor in 04-05 — not counting Blake Griffin — who was classified as a forward/center. The last legitimate center to win the award was Shaquille O’Neal, all the way back in 92-93. The NBA and shot blocking centers are no longer as synonymous as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t impact the game.
Noel averaged 4.4 blocks per game at Kentucky and that shot blocking skill should translate right to the NBA. Besides protecting the rim, Noel also averaged 2.1 steals per game, showing his impact on the defensive side of the ball. His brief stint in Summer League displayed both of these skills as Noel averaged 3.0 blocks per game and 2.25 steals per game. Don’t be surprised if Noel’s ability to cause havoc on defense wins him the award.
Let’s not forget that the 76ers had the WORST defense in the NBA last season. There was no rim protection, there wasn’t much of anything to stop opponents from scoring. With Noel implanted in the paint, things will be very different. People will still be trying to come into the paint, but will be met with a much different force when compared to last season.