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- Measurables: 6-foot-11, 215 pounds, freshman center from the University of Kentucky.
- Key Stats: 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.3 steals and 4.4 blocks per game; shot 59 percent from the field.
- Projected: Top-5 pick.
- Hickory High similarity score
Nerlen’s Noel is probably most known for his shot-blocking acumen and tearing his ACL in a national TV loss to Florida mid-way through the season.
What he’s also known for is eraser-top haircut. The dude’s hair rivals Kid from Kid ‘n Play, and when he announced his decision to attend the University of Kentucky last season, he of course did it in the most “look at me” way ever done with hair. Via Deadspin:
Yes, he shaved the UK logo into his head. There’s no joke to make because that is too perfect.
Fits with the Pistons because …
He’s a really good basketball player. The Pistons may have a developing core group of young frontcourt players, but they still aren’t good enough to pick for need and not value. They should not forgo drafting the best prospect in this draft just because he doesn’t fill an immediate need.
Noel doesn’t have a polished offensive game, but at 19, he already has an NBA-ready skill in shot blocking. He’s one of the best pure shot blockers to come out in recent years, perhaps even better than Anthony Davis last year.
The difference between Noel and Davis is on the offensive end. Both are mighty thin (Noel is 215 pounds), but Davis has some semblance of a face-up game. Noel’s got very little. He improved as the season went on, and had he not been forced out of action early, he was only going to get better.
Perhaps he even can serve as a trade-igniter for the anti-Greg Monroe crowd. But I digress.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
He’s still recovering from the torn ACL, and Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois recently reported that Noel hopes to be back ready to go by Christmas. The knee injury shouldn’t scare teams away because he’s a 19-year-old who is ahead of schedule on his rehab.
The Pistons need a wing or point guard much more than another big man, even if Noel is just too good to pass up. There are major questions how Noel would play with Andre Drummond, considering both are so similar and, at this point, limited. Offensively, neither has range or the ability to handle the ball, and they might just clog the paint and prevent each other from the lobs they’re so great at finishing. Defensively, both could be elite rim protectors, but if they’re just duplicating that skill, it could leave a void in defending outside the paint.
From the Experts
Noel’s season ended on Feb. 12 when he tore his left ACL. However, the injury has done little to hurt his draft stock. Noel has been atop our Big Board all year with the exception of a brief slip to No. 2 after the injury. He has great size and athletic ability, and he proved to be one of the hardest-working players at Kentucky this season. Although his offensive game is a work in progress, he has as much upside as anyone in the draft. We currently project him as the No. 1 player on our board and he goes No. 1 in most mock draft scenarios.
Any discussion about Noel’s potential as a NBA prospect should start with his phenomenal physical attributes. Measured at 6-10 without shoes, with a 7-4 wingspan and exceptional athletic ability, Noel is a rare specimen. He runs the floor like a guard, is extremely nimble and quick, and has pogo stick leaping ability. This allows him to cover ground unbelievably well both vertically and horizontally, which helps him impact the game in numerous ways. It’s safe to say that, should he make a full recovery from his injury as expected, he’ll be one of the most athletic big men in the NBA.
What is the best thing Noel does for his team?
When Kentucky fans think of Nerlens Noel, one image will forever be galvanized in our brains — the image of Noel running 94 feet to block a shot in a game that was almost surely lost while most of his teammates barely made it past half court, only to be injured when he landed awkwardly. What most of us forget is that he actually did block the shot. That’s the kind of competitive determination that defines Noel, and the lucky NBA team that gets him will never regret the pick.
Yes, Noel is extremely raw. He isn’t very good at the game of basketball yet, but he is an athletic marvel, perhaps the quickest 6’10″ player to ever enter the NBA draft. Defensively, he needs very little work to have an immediate impact. Almost everyone knows about his prodigious shot-blocking, but what most people don’t know is that Noel blocks shots equally well with either hand, an extremely rare skill that is almost absent from any level of basketball. It matters — a lot. He also averaged over two steals per game, something almost never seen in combination with great shot-blocking. Offensively, he’ll take some time to develop, so a team needing immediate low block scoring or a face-up game might want to look elsewhere.
Finally, Noel is a genuinely good person who deeply involved in the community. He loves the game of basketball and is completely coachable at any level. He has a few potential negatives with his body type from a sports business standpoint, but from a personal standpoint, any team will be lucky to have him in their locker room. I cannot recommend Noel highly enough, and the value of his intangibles, though overshadowed by his astonishing athletic gifts, are almost reason enough to draft him by themselves.
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