Feb 18, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4) during warmups prior to the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel: Ibaka Doppelganger?

Mar 15, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4) watches the game against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Grizzlies defeated the 76ers, 103-77. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers had a rough season, however these results (19-63) were planned from the get-go so really no one should be surprised; and in fact I know many Sixers’ fans who are pleased with how the season went. Sure the Sixers stunk it up, but they, in all likelihood, will have the Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams and they essentially have three lottery picks coming their way in the upcoming draft in June.

Per tankathon.com the Sixers (if all goes as planned in the lottery) will have the second overall pick and the 10th overall pick (from New Orleans) in that draft. Where’s the third I mentioned? He was on the Sixers’ bench and in their facilities rehabbing all season from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) suffered while he was still at the University of Kentucky in February 2013.

Nerlens Noel is expected to step in immediately and start for the Sixers next season, and honestly this might be the perfect situation for the young “rookie” to be in. As mentioned there will be two other lottery picks coming in and they will have the reigning Rookie of the Year (if all goes as expected in voting) as well. My point is that Noel will not have near as much pressure as a normal sixth overall pick would have to perform well immediately. But what can the Sixers and their fans expect?

After watching game film from his playing days at Kentucky I think the perfect comparison is Serge Ibaka — especially early in his career. Just take a look at Ibaka’s production from years one and two with Oklahoma City and then the rapid progression that followed.

2009-10 20 0 18.1 .543 .500 .630 5.4 0.1 0.3 1.3 6.3
2010-11 21 44 27.0 .543 .000 .750 7.6 0.3 0.4 2.4 9.9
2011-12 22 66 27.2 .535 .333 .661 7.5 0.4 0.5 3.7 9.1
2012-13 23 80 31.1 .573 .351 .749 7.7 0.5 0.4 3.0 13.2
2013-14 24 81 32.9 .536 .383 .784 8.8 1.0 0.5 2.7 15.1
Career 271 27.4 .547 .366 .731 7.4 0.5 0.4 2.6 10.9
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2014.

As you can see, he started slow mainly due to not getting minutes his rookie year but the rebounds and blocks are what gave Ibaka his niche even before his scoring increased. I see Noel playing many more minutes than Ibaka did in that rookie season but still I predict moderate offensive numbers around 10 points a night with eight to 10 rebounds and two to three blocks. That would have to be considered wildly successful for a 20-year-old rookie who just came off ACL surgery; and who we already know does not possess a ton of offensive skill yet.

Here are Noel’s numbers at Kentucky, where he played 30+ minutes a night.

2012-13 24 31.9 .590 .590 .529 9.5 1.6 2.1 4.4 10.5
Career 24 31.9 .590 .590 .529 9.5 1.6 2.1 4.4 10.5
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2014.

The offensive numbers are not eye-popping by any means, however the rebounds and blocks should jump off this page at you. Also, he was very efficient shooting 59.0 percent from the floor; although the 52.9 percent from three throw is very Shaq-esque. The good news is Nerlens can duplicate these numbers (maybe not the outrageous blocks per game) and have a very successful season. He’s obviously eager to get back on the court as he expressed to Christopher Vito of The Reporter in Philadelphia.

“I haven’t played a competitive game in over a year. I’m definitely itching to get back at it, get the feel of the game back, and be out there ballin’.”

It feels weird to say after their franchise only won 19 games this season, but Sixers’ fans should be excited, encouraged, enthralled and any other adjective you can think of starting with an E. Why? They were able to tear their roster down to grass-roots in ONE year and now will add three top-10 players to the roster for the upcoming season. I’m not saying the Sixers will be immediate playoff contenders (although you never know in the East), but they are heading in the right direction.

Who knows if they land Andrew Wiggins and Aaron Gordon they could be much more competitive than we can imagine at this point. One thing we can certainly count on, Nerlens and his high-top fade will be there to protect the rim with awe-inspiring blocks on a nightly basis.

Tags: Nba Draft Nerlens Noel Philadelphia 76ers

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