Nerlens Noel has already been tabbed by many as a potential top 3 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. It is very early in his freshman campaign, but games against #9 Duke, Maryland, Notre Dame, and Baylor have already put the 6-10 Noel to the test. His excellent defensive and rebounding abilities have been on display since Kentucky’s opener. He is averaging 3.6 blocks, 2.7 steals, and 9 rebounds, but his offensive game and how it develops could determine how high Noel’s ceiling can truly be.
Offensively, Noel is very raw right now. When receiving the ball with his back to the basket, Noel has yet to show the ability to execute moves in the post that will translate to baskets against NBA caliber defenders. Instead, he relies on his aggressiveness and superior athleticism to score when receiving the ball on the block. His offensive aggressiveness is a very good sign for such a young post player. But to become a low post threat in the NBA, Noel will need to develop a go to post move he can rely on and a counter move to it. These are two things he currently does not possess.
Through nine games, Noel is averaging 11.1 points per game while shooting 53% from the field. His free throw average is slightly above that at 54%. Although his shot form is not completely broken, do not expect to see Noel becoming a threat from 18+ feet in the near future.
Noel’s capability as a pick and roll man is one way he’ll be used immediately upon entering the NBA. His ability to rise above defenders to catch an alley-op pass and finish, even with traffic, will be very valuable in a league that is pick and roll heavy. In this way, Noel will be used much like how Tyson Chandler is currently with the Knicks and how he was previously used while playing alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans. This ability also highlights Noel’s great hands, a very important attribute for a post player.
Overall, it is still very early to fully gauge Nerlens Noel’s potential, but he is already showing signs of having a chance to blossom into a special player. With SEC play around the corner, experts and fans can both look forward to watching how Noel continues to develop.
Alex Varlan covers the SEC for NetScouts Basketball.