Six Reasons to be Excited about the 2015-16 Season

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Apr 8, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4) dribbles against the Washington Wizards at Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards won 119-90. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2. The progression of Nerlens and how he fits with JAH

Last season was fun and enjoyable for mainly one reason: Nerlens Noel. At first he won over Sixer fans with his defense. His emphatic block on James Harden in the first week of his NBA career was a telling sign of the kind of force he could be in the paint. His strong defense, both at the rim and in the passing lanes, was a constant for Nerlz all season long. Noel ended the season with a strong list of defensive credentials: defensive rating of 100.4, a defensive block plus minus of 4.5, 1.9 blocks per game, and 1.8 assists per game. The last time a rookie averaged at least 1.5 steals and blocks per game was in 1989-90 when The Admiral, David Robinson, eclipsed those numbers.

His offensive game was not as smooth as his defensive abilities. In the first couple months of the season, Nerlens looked like he was playing blind-folded on roller blades with the ball in his hands. His jumper was not falling, he was committing ugly turnovers, and was forcing a number of bad shots. But when the calender turned to 2015 Noel began to gain confidence and develop his skills on offense. In his 26 post All Star break games, Nerlens averaged 13.1 points, 10 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 2.1 steals. He also improved his field goal percentage(44.5 to 48.7), as well as his free throw percentage (56.1 to 65.5). Finally, the best stat coming from Noel’s rookie season: he played in 75 games after not appearing in an actual game in over 18 months.

Nerlens got a lot of love from Sixers fans following his stellar rookie debut, but he still has a long way to go in terms of developing as a player. He first needs to bulk up a little more, which at only 21 should not be too tall of a task for him. Last year when he defended bigger players in the post, Nerlens would sometimes get moved too easily. He is going to defending a lot more stretch fours this year, but if the Sixers want to go small he is going to have to be able to hold his own against a Demarcus Cousins or Marc Gasol.

In the previous slide I mentioned that I was not yet concerned about how Jahlil Okafor was going to fit in with what the Sixers want to do on the offensive end of the floor. The fit that I am concerned about is him playing alongside of Nerlens Noel. While there was improvements in Noel’s jumper last season, his range is still limited. The Sixers might be able to get away with having two bigs on the court who cannot shoot from beyond the mid-range area, but the court is going to begin to shrink if another player who cannot shoot, such as Tony Wroten, is on the court as well. Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel is certainly a promising offense-defense duo in the front court, but it is essential for one or both of them to expand their shooting range if they are going to fit long term.

Next: Growth of the Youngsters