Nerlens Noel’s career path is difficult to project. He has a very unique skill set and didn’t get an opportunity to play many games in college. By all accounts he can become a dominant defender, but there are question marks surrounding his offensive ability.
Assuming he eventually returns to full form from his injury issues, there are a couple different ways his career could go. He could potentially develop an offensive game to compliment his defensive abilities and become a top-tier two-way player.
His offensive game at this point is at best, serviceable. Even if he doesn’t develop the post presence of Hakeem Olajuwon, building up an aptitude on the offensive end could turn Noel into a very dangerous player.
Noel is already embracing the idea of offensive improvement, and the guy is months away from on-court action. He has been putting in work with Pacers all-star center, Roy Hibbert, who has an extremely polished offensive game, looking to soak up some strategies for an offensive attack.
“With my work ethic and my focus, I can develop an offensive game,” Noel has stated, illustrating his desire to improve on that end. The fact that he is addressing the issue so early on is a good sign, as he is still extremely young and has ample time to develop. If Noel could even just develop a consistent back-to-the-basket baby-hook his overall value would sky rocket. His length and athleticism would allow him to get such a shot off over almost anyone, and if he could convert at a decent rate he could be a very formidable offensive option.
Although his frame is currently super-skinny, Noel’s build is broad and he has plenty of room to add on some bulk, which should help him while banging with other bigs, and basically ever other aspect of his game.
If his offense doesn’t develop along these lines, he should still be able to have an impact. He could then be a defensive specialist who gets his buckets any way be can; put backs, alley-oops, open court opportunities; much like he did at Kentucky. Think Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders or a Theo Ratliff type. Not a terrible worst case scenario.
Of course, this all hinges on his ability to fully regain form. Assuming he does, he has the potential to be a dominant defensive player. If he develops on the offensive end, he could be really special. At the least, he projects to be a solid contributor.
Potential NBA comparisons for Nerlens Noel (in increasing order of career quality):
1. Larry Sanders
2. Theo Ratliff
3. Marcus Camby
4. Tyson Chandler
5. Dikembo Mutombo
Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikekb.
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