Fantasy Basketball 2014: What To Expect From Nerlens Noel
Don’t drink someone else’s cold Powerade on a hot day.
Stay with me here. You are so thirsty, but you don’t have you’re own drink. You sip, you sip, you sip. It’s delicious, but then you realize something– it’s not going to last. Your buddy snatches the drink, and you are left wanting so much more, but you know you have to wait.
That’s how I feel watching Nerlens Noel thus far in Summer League. I want more.
The Philadelphia 76ers must love waiting for their big men to make debuts, but believe me, this one is worth waiting for. This is a guy who was once considered to be the unanimous number one pick of the 2013 draft, but an ACL injury scared teams off. Not the 76ers, however, as they shipped their All-Star point guard to acquire the Kentucky big man, so they clearly are going to have big plans for him in Philadelphia. And although he has yet to play a single regular season game in the NBA, I’m giddy about his fantasy prospects.
Giddy, I tell you.
It’s only Summer League, but if it’s any indication, Noel is going to be very successful in this league. On Wednesday night, Noel had his best game, recording 14 points, nine rebounds and a beautiful five blocks, as he showcased his best skill as a player. Through four summer contests (his first four games in the NBA), Noel has been very productive, averaging 12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and three blocks per game. He’s looked healthy, which is the most important part, but also looks confident, even with his jumper, another positive sign. He’s also been very effective from the free throw line, another positive sign. In four games, he has yet to miss a shot from the charity stripe, just one year after shooting 52.9 percent from the line at Kentucky. He continues to tease fantasy players with his upside, but what should owners expect from the “rookie” in 2014?
City of Fantasy Love
Unless you are new to fantasy hoops, you are well aware of how fantasy friendly the 76ers unit has been lately. The reason?
Pace, of course.
Volume is everything in all fantasy sports, and last year, the Sixers players saw a ton of it. No team in basketball had a higher pace rating than Philly’s 101.6. So they used over 100 offensive possessions per game over the course of the season, which means more shots, more rebounding opportunities, etc. Last year, the 76ers attempted the second-most shot attempts per game (87.2), and because their defense was so atrocious, they were always sprinting up court, looking to get points back in a hurry. Noel, meanwhile, is a great fit for this team. He runs the floor extremely well for a 6’11″, 230-pound big man, and Philadelphia ranked 25th in blocks per game last year (4.0). Noel fits the bill, for sure.
Also, the Sixers don’t really have any ball dominant players on their roster, so Noel should get plenty of offensive touches to make fantasy noise. Michael Carter-Williams, one of just three or four NBA caliber players on the team, ranked just 25th in usage rate from a season ago (25.3). Because of the system, there were far less talented players that made fantasy impacts for the Sixers last year, starting with Henry Sims.
Via CBS Sports scoring, Sims averaged over 21 fantasy points per game in each of the last five weeks of the season. And during the last four weeks, Sims recorded three weeks with 100-plus total fantasy points. That’s more than just serviceable fantasy production– it’s flat out terrific. Noel is a far more talented player, and if Sims can post these numbers, there is no reason he can’t. And remember, Sims isn’t really much of a shot-blocker, so Noel will add that to his arsenal, too. In this system, three blocks per game isn’t out of the question, which would be great for his fantasy value.
Last year, Serge Ibaka, for instance, ranked as a top-10 overall option on the ESPN Player Rater, mainly because of his blocks. His block player rating was a league-high 6.30, and he averaged 2.7 swats per game for the year. Blocks make a huge difference in fantasy circles, as only four players in the league averaged at least two per game last year. Roy Hibbert was the only one that didn’t finish as a top-35 overall fantasy option.
Of course, with Noel, there is a bit of risk here. Coming off an ACL injury, Noel won’t start his first regular season game about 20 months later. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 76ers rested him on back-t0-backs, at least at first, frustrating owners. But he may be the early front-runner for rookie of the year, and if he can stay on the court, he’ll be fun to watch.