Where Art Thou, Nerlens Noel?


Ever since the 76ers were dismantled in Dallas last week, it seems that all the energy surrounding this team has dissipated. That night was supposed to be the return of Michael Carter-Williams and welcoming back Nerlens Noel from a three-game absence. That backfired, huh? Since that game, the 76ers have gone tumbling into a deep dark hole that could take a while to climb out of. One of the main players that has disappointed in the past few games is the beloved Nerlens Noel. Athletically gifted, yes, but raw as a piece of steak cut from a live cow.

Noel has shown flashes of being the player that fans have imagined him being, however that player has disappeared lately. In his past three games, Noel is averaging 5.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.o blocks, but shooting 32 percent from the floor, 33 percent from the line, with three turnovers per game. Noel didn’t even make a trip to the free-throw line during Monday’s blowout loss against the San Antonio Spurs. The rookie is struggling to say the least.

His offensive game is raw, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. However, let’s pray that Noel can shoot better than 42.6 percent on shots from less than 10 feet, which accounts for 78.3 percent of his offense per NBA.com. The 6’11” rookie is getting most of his shots off without a dribble (58.3 percent of the time), because most of his offense comes from put backs and quick cuts to the rim. The post game just is not there yet, however he has hit a few jumpers and had a nice fadeaway in the game against the Spurs. It’s not ugly if it goes in, right? The offense is clearly under construction and will be for his first few years in the League. However, his lack of presence on the defensive side of the ball these past few games has been saddening.

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The 6’11” forward was looking extremely fluid at protecting the rim at the start of the season, turning in two three block efforts in the first two games. However, since those first two games, Noel has not recorded more then one block in a contest. Silver lining? Noel doesn’t have an NBA game on his resume — even if it’s only 10 — that doesn’t have a block on the stat sheet.

Keep in mind that Brett Brown has brought Noel off the bench since his return from injury, along with K.J. McDaniels and Michael Carter-Williams. The Kentucky product is typically a starter and may be having a tough time transitioning to coming off the bench.

Is this a cause for concern?

Don’t worry about it too much. He’s having a rough time, just like the entire team is right now. Michael Carter-Williams has been the lone standout player that looks half decent on a night-to-night basis. He’s a rookie and still only 20 years old, which people tend to forget at times. A player as raw as Noel will have lapses and will show flashes at times. The key thing is for these flashes of brilliance to become more consistent from Noel as the season moves forward.

Obviously, everyone is hoping that Noel can average more then six points, six rebounds and one block per game and he will — just give it time. This season is all about development and that becomes much more obvious when watching someone as raw as Nerlens Noel this season. Enjoy the highlight plays when they come, but don’t scream with anger at the TV when he does something stupid. He’s a 20-year-old kid that’s learning the ropes in the NBA. Preach patience, everyone, preach patience.