The 2014 NBA Summer League is officially underway, and Day 1 has seen a few first-time NBA appearances, including one from center Nerlens Noel.
Noel was traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2013 NBA draft for point guard Jrue Holiday and the Pelicans’ first-round selection in the 2014 draft. Noel was sidelined all of last season due to recovering from an ACL injury, but he is now healthy and ready to compete at a high level, as was evidenced in the 76ers’ first summer league game against the Orlando Magic.
Despite the 83-77 loss to the Magic, Noel still shined in his debut, and was able to show off a lot of offense. In 26 minutes, Noel scored 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field including a remarkable 7-of-7 from the free throw line. One of the biggest things Noel was going to have to work on during his time in the NBA was his free throw stroke, and it seems as though his work with 76ers head coach Brett Brown while he was sidelined seems to have paid off so far. Noel looked confident at the line, knocking down the shots with ease, which is something that will really give him more minutes going forward, as he will not be a liability late in games if he can continue to consistently knock down those shots.
Noel was very active on the offensive end of the floor, looking for easy scoring opportunities, including lob passes and put backs. Noel showed some good footwork in terms of getting himself into position to score, which is another thing that will really help him get good looks his rookie season. Noel is not skilled enough just yet to be able to score off of an established move in the post, but his bounce and athleticism will carry him for his first few years in the league and allow him to make a solid impact while on the court. Noel also passed the ball exceptionally well for a player his size, able to pick up a few assists in the process. Noel found his teammates cutting in the half court, which is something that will help the flow of the offense when the regular season rolls around. It is always a bonus to have a big who can see the floor and either kick out to open teammates or find someone cutting or rolling towards the basket.
Defensively, Noel was a hound, changing and blocking shots and racking up the steals. Noel’s long arms and solid defensive instincts allowed him to get four steals total in the game, which is a huge positive for a big man who hopes to have a defensive impact early on in his career. Noel showed a lot of hustle on both ends of the floor, which is sure to give him a lot of minutes going forward.
Noel did make some mistakes today as all rookies do, but that is okay. He is trying to learn the game on a very high level, and it is going to take some time for him to adjust to the speed of the game. Noel looked comfortable out there for the most part, letting the game come to him and not trying to force too many things. In order to be more effective in the half court, he will have to get better passing out of the double team, as that was the biggest area of concern today. I have no doubt, however, that Noel will be able to do so and keep moving forward as a solid NBA prospect.
The 76ers’ front office and fans breathed easier today as Noel looked sharp and full of NBA promise.