Nerlens Noel: Phoenix Suns 2013 NBA Draft profile

Editor’s note: This is the first entry in our 2013 NBA Draft prospect profile series. We’ll be focusing on all three of the Suns’ draft picks by alternating between in-depth prospect profiles for players that could be selected at the fifth and 30th picks and on all posts throwing out second-round options that could make sense for Phoenix.

Strengths

Noel’s best attributes come in his length, athleticism and defensive instincts. He should immediately be able to contribute as a rim-protecting big man who uses his explosiveness and timing to block shots – he averaged 4.4 per game as a college freshman – and rebound the ball. Averaging 10.5 points and 9.9 rebounds in 24 games for the Kentucky Wildcats, Noel proved in a decent enough amount of college minutes that he has a consistent motor and basic fundamentals to grow into the elite defender that many people expect.

Already, Noel should be the counter to the pick-and-roll heavy offenses of the NBA; he can hedge and recover because of his fluid mobility on the perimeter. And because he’s an excellent rebounder and shot blocker, the 19-year-old will be able to use his speed to run the floor and score easy buckets in transition.

Noel could also be a decent pick-and-roll finisher off the bat, and his ability to put the ball on the deck once could be a tad underrated at this point. He’s also already a very good offensive rebounder who like Tyson Chandler can get many of his points in that way.

Question marks

For the purposes of this draft, Noel’s ACL injury doesn’t seem to be a big issue in the long term, but it’s obviously going to keep him from a good number of games. Basketball Prospectus and ESPN writer Kevin Pelton notes that there is a strong relationship in a player’s age and their ability to recover to full stretch off an ACL tear, so the injury shouldn’t do much to unseat Noel from the first overall pick.

At 6-foot-11.75 in shoes at the draft combine with a 7-foot-3.75 wingspan and 4.2 percent body fat, Noel’s biggest physical issue is his strength. He checked in at 206 pounds, which will hurt him in playing the center position if not the power forward slot. Lower body strength especially will hurt him hold position in the paint – and finish through contact when attacking the basket.

X-factor

Noel’s offensive identity is the one undeveloped part of his game. He’s not a good back-to-the-basket player at this point and will most likely have to develop a jump shot to truly become an offensive threat. While that doesn’t mean he has no offensive game, he’s young enough where the development here certainly could turn him from important role player to elite-level talent – remember, Amare Stoudemire didn’t have much of an offensive game either.

How would he fit with the Suns?

As unlikely — and as much of a pipe dream — it is for the Suns to either move up to select Noel or for the big man to fall in the draft, it’s hard to say he won’t fit on any NBA team. The Suns could use a developmental type of player with such upside, and considering he’ll be out a good portion of this next year as is, it won’t matter much that the Suns have big men Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat coming back next season – that list doesn’t include Channing Frye, who could also be back from his heart ailment. We expect a roster makeover will happen and more than two of those players could and should be elsewhere within the next year.

In short, a lucky nabbing of Noel would bring the most excitement to the Valley since Stoudemire was selected in 2002.

And 1 … A second-rounder to consider

To get my Arizona bias out of the way, the Suns could get a solid player in Solomon Hill with their 57th pick. On a very similar track as Jared Dudley – high basketball IQ, above-average shooter, played out of his NBA position in college – the former Wildcat swingman could become a great role player in time. Plus, he could find time to develop if the Suns ship off Dudley or any of the other 2s or 3s.

Tags: 2013 NBA Draft

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