Sixer Nerlens Noel Upgrades For New Season


Apr 5, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center

Nerlens Noel

(4) shoots over New York Knicks center

Andrea Bargnani

(77) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Sixer Nerlens Noel Upgrades For New Season

“The Beacons of Minis Tirith! The Beacons are lit. The Beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!”
“And Rohan will answer! Muster the Rohirrim!”

Similar in urgency to the epic moment in Lord Of The Rings, a call for aid rang loud and clear as soon as the organization realized that it had a glut of big men at the center position. Nerlens Noel was the Philadelphia 76er starting center, but the team anticipated the return to health of Joel Embiid.  Meanwhile, the 2015 NBA draft arrived and the team found they in selecting the best player available, they had a new center to call their very own, Jahlil Okafor.  Therefore, the team had to shuffle the roster, and moved Noel to the power forward spot. There, he was out of his natural position, and did not play nearly as effectively in his last six games of the season. It was clear to the coaching staff and to Noel, for 2015-16 season to succeed, the Sixers needed Nerlens Noel upgrades to be installed before the start of the new NBA season.

Of the group of Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, and Nerlens Noel, Noel is the player who is more skewed to defense.   He hasn’t  developed a good mid range shot, yet.  But while he is the worst of the bunch on offense, he is the most athletic of the three.  The obvious conclusion to a glut of Embiid, Okafor, and Noel is that if Noel does not develop enough offense to become a solid power forward, his name will be tied to the trade when Embiid is certain to take the basketball court.

To avoid that inevitable, Noel must find the range to score away from the basket.  We have identified this as a critical need for the new season.

Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reports that Noel is doing just that.   Noel has traveled to Newport Rhode Island to get away from the distractions and focus on himself and his game.   However, he is not alone.  He’s working with former Boston Celtics coach John Caroll.  Why Caroll?  John Caroll has a great reputation in NBA circles as a skill-development coach, has been in contact with 76ers head coach Brett Brown to determine the type of work needed.

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The Newport training is not strolls on the beach, nor a continuous buffet of New England clam chowder.   This training is intense,  scheduling two hours a day five days a week in form shooting drills.   Subtle differences in shot mechanics can make a huge difference.  He’s already been coached to use his hands differently when he shoots.  The change was minor to his shooting right hand, but the change to his mechanics were major to his guide left hand.  Progress in shot accuracy was nearly instantaneous.     To maintain the improved mechanices, Noel is slated to make 500 jump shots a day.  After the shot workout, he works out in the weight room, and then finishes off the days training with post position drills.  In moving from the center to a power forward role, he now will have a new arsenal of post moves to work on to free himself to get the ball, and then convert that possession into points.

So far the training has exceeded player and trainer expectations.

"“It’s a pressure year for me to show what I am capable of and definitely show what I worked this hard for,” Noel said of the coming season. “So I think I’m in a good position to showcase it all. My ceiling will be better at the four position. We worked hard this summer. I think I’m in a good position to help this team move in the right direction. Individually, I think I’ve worked on the things I’ve needed to work on. I just need to continue to show potential and continue to start producing at a high level.” – Nerlens Noel"

The pressure is on Noel this season, to adapt to a new power forward role with the Sixers. If he cannot do so, he is vulnerable to a trade which will place him onto a team in need of his defensive abilities at center. If he can do so, he could add offense to his already stellar defense.

"“It’s a pressure year for me to show what I am capable of and definitely show what I worked this hard for. So I think I’m in a good position to showcase it all. My ceiling will be better at the four.”"

And so, the heat is on.

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