February 12, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) shoots a free throw against the Florida Gators during the second half at the Stephen C. O

NBA Draft Profile: Nerlens Noel

So far for our series of Draft Profiles for the 2013 NBA Draft, we have only really covered big men expected to go late in the lottery or past that point. We’re going to switch that up a little bit today and tackle a player expected to go really high, in fact probably first overall, Nerlens Noel.

Background:

Here is a video to highlight Noel’s game.

Originally in the 2013 recruiting class, Noel decided to reclassify to the 2012 class in order to attend school a year earlier. Out of Tilton prep school in New Hampshire, Noel was classified by most major sources as the number one high school player in the country, with Slam being the only one to place him second.

Noel decided not to follow either of his brothers, both of whom play football. His brother Jim, in the NFL with Seattle Seahawks and his brother Rodman at North Carolina State.

While his high school numbers did not stand out, Noel attracted a lot of attention because of his height, his defensive presence and his crazy potential. I’m sure the awesome flattop did not hurt his chances either.

Expected Draft Position:

Chad Ford and Draft Express both have him going first overall. Draft Net has him falling 5th to the Phoenix Suns.

Strengths:

Defensively, Noel is going to be a game changer really quickly. Prior to his unfortunate ACL injury, Noel played in 24 games and averaged 4.4 blocks per game. The fact that he played 24 games is enough for people to gather that this is not just a freak accident. Averaging 4.4 blocks per game at any level is insane. Noel is gifted with the ability to block the ball with both hands, something not many players are able to do. He also has amazing timing and athleticism which facilitates his ability to block shots. As a freshman, he shattered the Kentucky record for blocks in a game by getting 12. The previous record had been nine.

It’s not just the blocked shots though. He is altering many more shots out there on the court with his shear presence down low. He is intimidating for opposing defenders because he is long and has a large wingspan. He is also a smart defender, he doesn’t over-commit himself too much and he knows his strengths.

For a big man, his passing game is underrated. His numbers won’t jump out of you looking at his averages, but Noel has amazing vision from the post and out on the break. He is also a very willing passer which is great for someone who might see a good amount of double teams in the NBA. It also adds great versatility for a young big man, often times Centers don’t really learn how to pass until later on in their career because it isn’t a priority for what they do.

Noel’s athleticism is impressive for his height. He has great length, a good vertical and great speed. There are many big men in this draft that can run up and down the court with no issue, Noel is another one of those guys. He is lanky and tall but his strides are large and he covers the court extremely quickly. I would expect that a lot of his offensive numbers early on in his career are going to be coming off the transition game.

Paired with a great point guard, Noel would benefit from getting touches in the spots where he works best in. That is why if Cleveland does pick him first overall, the Kyrie-Nerlens connection will quickly be a devastating one.

Weaknesses:

One of the biggest issues with Noel comes with his size. Though he is tall, he is extremely skinny. How will that affect him in the NBA? It might lead to him being knocked around a lot by guys who are much bigger and physically stronger than him. Noel needs to counteract that by hitting the weight room on a very consistent basis and putting on some size.

As well, his ACL injury is a bit scary for some teams. Is Noel injury prone or was it just an unfortunate accident? Teams do not know how he will bounce back from his injury, some guys play with a little bit of fear coming back and never really get back to the full aggressiveness they had before. Some guys even get affected mentally and struggle to find their way back on the court (looking at you Derrick Rose).

Both of those issues are not related to his on-court game though. His biggest problems on the court are probably going to be offensively. He is very raw and very limited. He does not have a nice stroke like last year’s UK star, Anthony Davis. He is not able to step outside of the paint and knock down jumpers to free himself up. In the post, he does not yet have any go-to post moves that will allow him to score easy points when his team needs them. Most of his offense is going to come off dunks, put-backs and transition until he gets better. He can be coached though, he is a very agreeable person and with a good coach, his offense will develop in due time.

His rebounding numbers for a guy his length also seem a little suspect. Both in high school and in college he did not average in double digits for boards. That type of school usually translates directly to the NBA, the best two examples currently are Paul Millsap and Kenneth Faried. It might be related to his weight issue or it might just be that he needs a few more minutes per game. Another reason might be that he blocks so many shots that it actually decreases his chances at grabbing boards by a couple per game. Either way, I would like to see Noel hit that double digit average in the NBA to see that he can truly mix it up down low with elite competition.

What to expect in the NBA:

Noel will be able to contribute immediately. His defense should be at the very least good, if not great as soon as he steps on an NBA court. He will block shots, it is in his nature to do so. He won’t have to be coached too much on the defensive side of things.

Offensively, he will definitely be shaky. He will get some easy points due to his height and his ability to run the court but no one is going to be designing plays for him in his rookie season. He is going to have to make a concerted effort at really improving his offensive repertoire so that he doesn’t become a liability to his team.

Given time, I think Noel will become an all star, a defensive player of the year and one of the best big men in the NBA. Provided he gets the right coaching and mentor ship, he is the player from the 2013 draft that I truly believe can become someone great.

Tags: Basketball Kentucky Wildcats Nerlens Noel

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