Nerlens Noel Watch 2.076ers, BREAKING NEWS, News Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
The NBA Summer League may be an afterthought for most basketball fans, but in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, these offseason scrimmages down in Orlando are the fans’ first opportunity at catching a glimpse of the team’s 2013 first round pick, Nerlens Noel.
After a debut that left the fans eager for more, Noel didn’t disappoint. But as should be expected in someone who is coming back from a season-ending injury, there is still plenty of room for improvement for the Kentucky product — mainly on offense.
Let’s breakdown each quarter:
Starting at center, Noel waited about two minutes before making his presence felt. The Rockets were running a 2-on-1 with Noel being the lone man back. To the excitement of every Philadelphia fan, the 7-footer stood his ground and got in the way of the pass, recording a steal and sending an outlet pass to Ronald Roberts which eventually led to a foul.
A few possessions later, Noel made yet another defensive impact on back-to-back drives. On one drive, he greatly altered a Nick Johnson layup attempt that rimmed out. On the following series, Johnson went back to the paint but was fouled on his way in; as he went up, though, Noel came over top and quickly swatted the ball before it got to the rim just to make sure no and-one situation occurred.
He made some more standout plays on the defensive end, including an aggressive block just outside of the rim — he got so high up that his forearm actually knocked the ball away.
Offensively, Noel never really established himself. His lone points of the quarter came as a result of his stellar defense. He stripped away the ball just as his man was driving across the foul line. With his momentum moving forward he took it all the way on the breakout and slammed it in. This play really stands out because it showed just how dangerous of a player he can be with his long strides in transition.
With just two points in the quarter, the big man did show some strength when backing down his defender, most notably at the 1:30 mark when he caught an entry pass just outside of the paint. With a 1-on-1 situation, Noel turned his back on his man, bodied his opponent and proceeded to make a strong back-down move that led to a very easy hook shot inches from the rim; however, the ball rimmed out.
Lastly, perhaps the most exciting non-play of the quarter, Aaron Craft heaved up a halfcourt pass with time winding down. Noel caught the pass as he glided in mid-air and went up-and-under the rim but didn’t put enough on his shot to get it to fall in.
Noel sat for the first half of the quarter, making his first appearance at the 5:08 mark. When the halftime buzzer sounded, his numbers weren’t all that enticing. He just never looked comfortable nor confident with the ball in his hands. He finished the first half with four points and two rebounds while turning the ball over three times. Defensively, though, he was stout with two steals and two blocks.
Noel, like he did in the opening quarter, made a strong move on his man with his back to the net, but this time around, his defender was able to strip it away from him.. About a minute later, he was called for three-seconds in the key after having three men collapse on him just as he received the ball. He tried kicking it out but wasn’t able to get it out in time.
His only basket came in the final 30 seconds when Craft drove to the net with five seconds on the shot clock. He found a wide open Noel who took the pass and slammed it with ease. Unfortunately for him, he did have an alley-oop dunk called back after Casper Ware was called for a charge. The play was beautiful and is something Sixers fans should definitely expect to see a lot of when Michael Carter-Williams is handling the rock.
One final thing to note about his performance this quarter was his hard-nosed plays. All eyes will be on his knee this season, but don’t tell that Noel. He went down to the floor to fight for a loose ball with multiple players on the offensive end. Later in the quarter with just about 20 seconds remaining, he took a charge. It’s plays like these that really show how healthy he is.
General Manager Sam Hinkie joined the broadcast in the third quarter. He noted the team’s patience with Noel, how he still “has a long way to go” and just how good the Noel-Joel Embiid combo can be. He said Noel “wants to defend the rim and be involved defensively” to the point that sometimes the coaching staff has to hold him back at how aggressive he wants to be.
On the court, Noel picked up right where he left off. In the opening minutes, he altered yet another shot in the paint; this was to the delight of Hinkie who was on the mic at the time. A few possessions later, he stood at the foul line, received a pass coming from the baseline and quickly redirected the pass to set up a wide-open three-point shot.
Houston could not figure out how to attack the rim whenever they saw the flat-top-haired center. As he did all night, Noel turned away shots. At the five minute mark, Noel came over top of a few bodies and demolished a would-be and-one attempt, sending the ball ferociously out of bounds. Seeing plays like this really make Sixers’ fans excited; it’s been a long time since Philadelphia has had someone so defensive-minded and talented like they have in Noel.
He came out a few possessions later and remained on the bench for the rest of the third quarter.
At this point in the game, Noel entered the final 10 minutes with four points, three rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two turnovers. In the first three quarters, he proved just how superb he can be when defending; with one quarter left, it was his offensive game that many fans were waiting to see on display.
In his debut, he totaled 19 points, which was actually more points than he had ever scored in his only season at Kentucky. So thinking he was going to duplicate that was a bit much, but it would have been nice to have seen him produce a little more.
Clearly, the team had this mindset, as they looked to showcase their prized possession early and often in the final quarter. On back-to-back possessions in the first few minutes, Noel caught entry passes down low – he tried kicking it out on one but had it deflected out of bounds and on his next touch he gave a hand-off that led to a layup attempt which didn’t connect.
He finally found success down low as he drew a foul. He continued his perfect touch from the charity stripe, hitting both of his attempts. A few minutes later, he shouldered his way down low to pick up another basket. Within minutes, he had scored as many points as he had in the first 30 minutes. He also doubled his rebound total in that time span.
This was what everyone was waiting to see – Noel using his size and wingspan to create scoring chances.
After a very entertaining few minutes that saw Noel make plays on both ends of the floor, he came out of the game with the Sixers holding a double-digit lead over Houston. The lead eventually got out of hand with the score 89-70 in favor of Philly and the coaches decided to keep Noel on the sidelines for the final minutes.
With the Sixers blowing out Houston, 92-71, it’s safe to say that Noel is nothing but fun to watch on defense. He is a human pogo-stick and he literally tries to get involved on every defensive play. Any shot that comes from the paint is guaranteed to see Noel in the area. There were numerous times he seemed to be out of the play but found his way over at the last second to alter the shot. At one point, the broadcasters joked that the league should start tracking altered shots as an official statistic because of how effective Noel was on defense.
Of course, though, he still has a lot of room for improvement on the offensive side of things, but he started to get more comfortable as the game went on. He definitely has the capablility of using his body and wingspan to get good looks up close, which he utilized in the fourth quarter. If he can figure his hook shot out, his offensive game will dramatically improve. That won’t be many players who will be able to get up as high as Noel can so he should get a good amount of uncontested looks.
After his second game, Noel has clearly demonstrated his defensive prowess. Now it’s time for him to figure out his offensive game and work on fine-tuning his hook shot. He also needs to get a little more comfortable with the ball in his hands away from the basket; he had a few lackadaisical passes that resulted in turnovers. Aside from that, Noel sure looks like he has the tools to be everything he was hyped to be coming out of college.
There’s a reason names like Anthony Davis and Ben Wallace come up so often when talking about Noel.
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