The I-76ers

What Nerlens Noel Brings to Philly

Clay Jackson/cjackson@amnews.com

(image via Clay Jackson)

The Philadelphia 76ers shocked the basketball world at the 2013 NBA Draft. Midway through the first-round, it was announced that the team had traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for a 2014 first-round pick and arguably the best player in the draft, Nerlens Noel.

Noel had slipped to the Pelicans as the sixth pick due to the fact that he’s recovering from a torn ACL. As for the other five teams that passed on him, Noel says he’ll “make them pay.”

The Sixers then went on to also draft Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams, solidifying a young core of potential stars for years to come. If the 2014 pick the team received from the Pelicans turns out to be in the lottery, or close to it, then trading Holiday will have been worth it.

However, the risk in going through with that deal was unreal.  Holiday is 23 years old and already an All-Star, while Noel, although he has a high ceiling, is limited offensively and is coming off of a serious injury. Nonetheless, first-year GM Sam Hinkie made a splash and began to enact a plan that could pull the Sixers away out of the quicksand of perennial mediocrity.

Now, let’s talk about Noel as a player.

He’s one of those “not-up-in-here” kind of shot blockers—the kind that doesn’t just try to block you, he swats it with such disdain that he seems offended that there was a shot on his basket. He averaged 4.4 blocks per game in just one season at Kentucky, but blocked five or more shots 12 different times this season and even had a game where recorded 12 blocked shots.

ESPN lists him at 6’10” and Draft Express lists him as a seven-footer. The bottom line is that Noel is a big dude and will be able to play center in the NBA. He snagged 9.5 rebounds per game last season and has drawn comparisons to fellow University of Kentucky standout Anthony Davis of the Pelicans.

Unlike Davis, though, Noel is offensively limited. Although he put up 10.5 points per game this season and shot 59 percent from the field, he was wildly inconsistent with his offensive production—in the game where he had the 12 blocks, he only scored two points. Within the right environment, however, Noel could develop into a decent offensive player for Philadelphia.

Noel has a ton of heart, a high motor, and some things (freakish athleticism, enormous wingspan) that just can’t be taught, not to mention that his flat-top fade just might be the coolest ‘do in the NBA.

The Sixers made a wildly bold move in trading their best player for Noel, but it was one that simply had to be made for the team in order to contend down the road. Although Holiday was great and will continue to blossom into an elite point guard, the potential trio of Noel, MCW, and a 2014 lottery pick is the future of the revamped Philadelphia 76ers.