Kentucky coach John Calipari has yet another jewel at the top of the NBA Draft boards. Big man Nerlens Noel stands 6’10” with a 7’4″ wingspan.
During his 24 games played for the University of Kentucky Wildcats, he displayed impressive athleticism on the defensive side of the ball. His daunting presence around the rim allowed him to averaged over four blocks and 9.5 rebounds per game. His reach presents challenges to offensive post players and also gives him the ability to react to weak side cuts and drives, thwarting offensive players’ shot attempts.
He has tremendous upside and potential to grow into an elite defender in the league. However, his slim frame causes concern about his ability to hang with the league’s heavyweights. If he is unable to maintain a solid base in the paint, he can and will be pushed around. Another worry is that the toll he’ll take in the post will affect his long term durability. He has already suffered a serious injury, as he is still recovering from an ACL tear that cut his freshman campaign short.
In addition, he is very raw and limited on the offensive end. His 10.5 points per game may be a bit deceiving. Sure, layups and alley oops will keep a field goal percentage high, but he has to be able to employ post offense and/or develop a respectable mid range jump shot that will force defenders to defend him, which would help alleviate pressure off of his teammates. He does have the athletic ability to run the break which, as a center, is quite a distinguishable trait. But even as such, much attention must be applied to his growth and development offensively.
Many people believe Noel is the consensus number one draft pick. If so, that pick belongs to Cleveland and Noel would be joining a young team full of players growing together as a unit that is building towards title contention in the future. Cleveland has to ask themselves if picking an injured Noel is worth the risk, assuming he has shown a very limited skill set thus far.
I don’t believe Noel is the pick for Cleveland, but assuming they pick him, he could benefit them by playing off of Tristan Thompson in the post. Thompson can handle the offensive load while Noel assists him on the defensive block.
Teams like the Wizards, Bobcats, and Suns all need a new direction and Nerlens could be a potential step in the right direction. His height alone guarantees he’ll be playing in the post, but because of his frame and athleticism, he could run a power forward/center hybrid position. Younger, smaller teams trying to (re)build would benefit from Noel’s versatility.
I’m looking forward to the draft to see where Noel and the rest of the 2013 draft class land come draft day. Sound off with your thoughts, comments, ideas!
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