When Nerlens Noel suffered an ACL injury in 2013, it changed the course of his career and the Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen Noel grow into a player who truly qualifies as a “a piece” for the Sixers.
Philly is a very proud franchise with a exceedingly rich history but the 2010s have seen them devolve into a really bad joke. The last two-three years have been the most painful as the franchise has show zero legitimate direction, and instead plenty of tanking. Evan Turner not living up to the hype was a huge setback.
With each trade, it seems like Philadelphia is only moving the goal posts further on their rebuild. The Michael Carter-Williams trade especially left a lot of NBA pundits scratching their heads
They do have something special in rookie center Nerlens Noel however.
Nerlens Noel entered the University of Kentucky on the heels of Anthony Davis winning the national title, sweeping the national player of the year awards and becoming the first pick overall in the NBA Draft. It was to be a blueprint for what his future might hold in Big Blue Nation and beyond. Some people in the BBN called him “Anthony Davis 2.0.” However, that was a turn-off for Nerlens Noel who was expected by the outside world to step right in and be the next Davis.
Instead Noel got to experience the NIT and serious injury. The sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Noel’s convalescence and rehabilitation meant his rookie year would be delayed.
It was worth the wait, as the chase for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award is a three horse race with two co-favorites (Chicago Bulls Forward Nikola Mirotic, Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Andrew Wiggins) and one longshot (Nerlens).
If you like defense, then you believe the award should go Nerlens Noel. His defensive numbers are astounding. He’ll come close, but likely just miss setting a record as the first rookie ever to average 2 blocks per game and 1.5 steals per game. The man often compared to Noel, Anthony Davis, is the only current NBA player who’s pulling off the feat right now.
It doesn’t happen that often because reaching that statistical milestone requires a stellar ability to provide an elite defensive presence in both the paint and the passing lanes. It means getting after it versus the bigs and the guards. The only players to do it with regularity in the modern era were Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.
76ers Coach Brett Brown on Nerlens Noel:
“All in all you have to step back and look at what he’s done, post all-star break, his numbers are historical in many perspectives on many levels and he’s had a hell of a first year.”
Indeed since the All-Star break Noel has been outstanding. The Sixers have ascended from 27th to 26th to 11th in the NBA in defense. Yes, the Sixers of all teams are 11th in the league in defense with Nerlens Noel leading the way. They’re actually a better team than you think they are.
Paul M. Banks owns, operates and writes The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with Fox Sports Digital. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes to the Chicago Tribune RedEye edition. He also appears regularly on numerous sports talk radio stations all across the country.
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