Nerlens Noel, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft all the way up until the actual draft, has the upside and potential to be one of the greatest big men ever for the 76ers. However, that depends on a few big factors and so far, he’s nowhere near ready to take on the mantle of becoming one of the greatest the City of Brotherly Love has seen on the low block.
To begin with, Noel has to get his head on straight to be a productive player in the NBA. Currently, his mindset coming into the league has been questioned ever since he was declared the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2013 going into Kentucky.
Dating back to his senior season at Tilton High School in Massachusetts, he had some problems with a “posse” that’s becoming a topic of discussion following last week’s NBA Draft. Whether Wildcat fans want to admit it or not, the rest of the country is beginning to once again question the 6-10 center’s behavior.
Noel was also investigated by the NCAA in the spring and summer of 2012 about a specific set of people that he was hanging around with in the New England region. Some names are stemming from the Sweeney family that commonly invited Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, Ricky Ledo and other star players into their home because of ties with their son, Ryan Sweeney. The father, Michael Sweeney, is a lawyer and booster of Providence College.
There was the involvement with Chris Driscoll, a former Providence assistant who was a primary figure in Noel’s life. Driscoll, as explained in an article in The New York Times in March of 2012, clarified that Noel was his last chance to score big.
There are also inquiries about Errol Randolph and Reggie Saladin, a former substitute teacher at Everett High in Noel’s hometown that accompanied him on unofficial visits to Kentucky, Louisville and Syracuse, and the latter a close friend of Driscoll. The NCAA also inquired about the unofficial visits because by rule, colleges aren’t allowed to pay for these trips.
If anything, it’s a sign that Noel, like any 19-year-old in college, could be a little immature coming into the NBA. Something to be cautious over in Philadelphia’s case, but if his behavior can be tamed, it is a concern that won’t be a serious problem. This “posse” problem could turn just out to just be premature speculation by national media.
Next, there is the case of Noel’s on-court production on the elite level. Prior to the draft, we took a look at Noel’s profile as a player and deduced that a probable scenario for the big man would be somewhat of a resemblance to Larry Sanders. But there is still some growth Noel has to do to become a great big man.
The New England native is vastly undersized to play the five spot in the NBA, weighing a skimpy 206 pounds and sporting small calves and shoulders. He also has a rudimentary offensive skill-set that leaves a lot to be desired from any elite level coaching staff.
Noel needs to incorporate a low-post game. Implementing a baby hook or possibly a small floater from 5-to-10 feet out could tremendously change how defenses look at his playing style in the half-court.
“Noel and (Michael) Carter-Williams would be helped tremendously if Noel could develop a reliable 15-foot jump shot, but that won’t happen overnight,” says one NBA scout that requested anonymity. “I do think he has potential as both a pick-n-roll finisher and a face-up threat. Developing these two facets of his game is huge, as the probability he develops into any semblance of a reliable post-scorer is remote.”