A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Draft Prospect Friday: Is Nerlens Noel overrated?

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Nerlens Noel is currently in contention for the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Chad Ford of ESPN.com has him ranked #1, Draftexpress #2. He is thought to be the heir to Anthony Davis at Kentucky, a shotblocking specialist and elite athlete in a skinny frame.

Noel is indeed a great athlete. But I have a lot of concerns after watching a few of his games. Most shocking was how much he wanted to play like a guard offensively. He hung outside of the 3pt line on offense more often than not and tried to bring the ball up and facilitate like a point forward. Essentially, he was playing much more like Andrei Kirilenko than Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, he didn’t appear to have the skill or feel for playing offense to make this game work. His touch appeared poor near the rim and from range and was prone to turnovers. Defensively, while he is a great athlete, I didn’t see anything that impressed me from a positional perspective. I didn’t see a player who understands how to protect the rim positionally like a big man. His feel for the game as a whole looked very very poor. Anthony Davis was amazing defensively at Kentucky because he understood the positional game and space on the court beautifully, being able to read the court as players drove towards him. Noel struck me more as a defender who used his physical tools to jump at a player, not recognizing space and time like Davis can.

It bears mentioning that Nerlens Noel wasn’t even that prolific in high school. He averaged 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.9 blocks a game. While I’m the last person to care about high school and college production when evaluating a prospect, with the way most elite prospects dominate high school competition, such weak production is a concern – and it doesn’t surprise me with the games I watched where he failed to produce for large stretches as he floated on the perimeter.

My 33pt score for Nerlens Noel, for a power forward, would be:

Physical impact – 10: Shotblocking is rare enough for a power forward, that I give a high score to the players who can do it.

Skill – 3: I didn’t see a player comfortable shooting the ball, nor in the post. It’s possible this score could be higher, but for now I will leave it here. He looked like a decent passer for a big man.

Feel for the Game – 2: This seemed like a major weakness for Noel on both ends.

A score of 15 is fairly average for a PF. Now I could be undervaluing his skill and feel and Noel could be more of an 18-19 player eventually. As a whole however, Noel’s scores really reminds me of 3 players: John Henson, Serge Ibaka and Marcus Camby. All 3 players have length and shotblocking and Ibaka and Camby proved to have useable but not great perimeter games, while John Henson is headed in that direction as well. None have a tremendous positional IQ or feel for the game but rely on physical tools for shotblocking. Turning out like Serge Ibaka and Marcus Camby would be a great result for Nerlens if he gets there and he can have a very productive career. However, there is risk as well as a player resembling Anthony Randolph and Tyrus Thomas, two long PFs who had a skill and feel game too low to be starting players.

Until he proves otherwise, Nerlens simply does not have the positional IQ or skill level that Davis had, which turns him from a decent prospect to a superstar one. There’s nothing wrong with being a shotblocking specialist in the NBA, but I don’t believe Noel has the talent or star upside to be ranked as a #1 pick caliber prospect right now.

Twitter: @ASFW_jrodger

email: julienrodger@gmail.com (Send me a question, if I get enough I’ll do a mailbag)

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Written by jr.

October 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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