SI Ranks Nerlens Noel 97th in NBA


SI Ranks Nerlens Noel 97th in NBA

Sports Illustrated has released the first three parts of their five-part series ranking the top 100 players in the NBA. After not having a player represented in last season’s edition, the Sixers had one player land in this season’s rankings. In the first part of the series, Nerlens Noel was ranked as the 97th best player in the NBA. Here is the write up that had on him in the rankings:

"Over the course of his rookie season, Noel evolved from an empty void of an offensive player to an occasionally helpful one. That shift was enough to let the now 21-year-old’s strengths on defense shine through to top 100 standing. Very rarely do rookies actually help their teams on defense, an area of the game where the only means of consistent success is earned acumen. Noel stands as an exception. Despite his age and inexperience, Noel averaged better than two steals and two blocks per 36 minutes while terrorizing opponents from the three-point line in. Rim protectors have no business being this quick on their feet. That Noel defies the standard allows him to reject shots with lightning-bolt fury and dart outside to repel guards as needed."

The way that Sports Illustrated generated these rankings was based off of how a player is going to perform this season, not taking into effect any future prospects. For instance, it is safe to assume that every general manager in the league would rather have Nerlens Noel over someone like Lou Williams for the long-term, but since Noel is still a developing prospect his impact may not be as strong as Lou-Will’s in 2016.

Also, first-year players were excluded from the rankings. With Jahlil Okafor being ineligible, it was a sure bet that Noel would be the only Sixer represented. To give an idea on his position in the rankings, Nerlens was one spot ahead of Dontas Montiejunas and one spot behind Josh Smith. Andrew Wiggins, slotted at number 91, was the only other second-year player to crack the list.

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The former Kentucky product definitely deserved a spot on these rankings following his strong rookie season. After sitting out a season while recovering from an ACL tear, Noel stuffed the stat sheet by putting up averages of 9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and 1.8 steals. On the defensive end he was one of the top players in the league in opponent’s field goal percentage at the rim and also touted a defensive rating of 100.4. Noel was also able to stay healthy despite having a slender, growing body and after not having played a live game in over 19 months.

Most importantly, the flat-topped rookie made real strides in his development as a two-way NBA player. In the beginning of the season Noel looked like an absolute mess on offense, committing silly turnovers, attempting bad shots, and not knocking down jump shots or free throws. Statistically, he improved in turnovers per game when comparing pre-All Star break and post-All Star break last season. Additionally, comparing pre-All Star and post, he improved his free throw percentage by 9.4%.

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Slowly Nerlens Noel improved, and by the second half of the season he looked like a completely different player on the offensive end.

The progressions he made in his rookie season have Sixers fans ecstatic about the potential of Nerlens Noel, and rightfully so. If he continues to be a dominant rim protector and develop his offensive game, then he could catapult up this top-100 player list heading into the 2016-17 season.

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