When the Sixers traded away All-Star Jrue Holiday last season for Nerlens Noel, I scratched my head. I was a Holiday fan and didn't understand why in the world you would part ways with someone with his talent. Clearly, he wasn't in the future plans of Sam Hinkie. The Sixers drafted Michael Carter-Williams, who had a great rookie year on a Sixers team that was clearly at the start of a rebuild process.
Tonight, Sixers fans will get to see the prized Nerlens Noel make his regular season debut...on television. Standing at 6-11 and weighing in at 220 pounds, Noel is ready to go despite sitting our three preseason games with an upper-respiratory infection. Coach Brett Brown also expressed that Noel won't be limited in his play, but yet seeing what he can do will be a learning experience in itself. (via CSNPhilly.com)
"I am coming in with no restrictions like any other player would be," Noel said.
"I don't expect to rest him in one of those games," Brown said when asked if three games in four nights this week was too much for the rookie. "I hope I don't have to rest him in one of those games. Him playing legitimate basketball and minutes in real NBA games is uncharted territory for all of us.
"The preseason you can judge a little bit but now with three games in four days, the rules change. Whether it is fatigue or foul trouble or soreness, I just feel we are going to learn a lot on how better to use Nerlens."
In the four preseason games Noel played for the Sixers, he averaged just over 30 minutes and ranked second in the NBA with 2.5 blocks per game and ninth in steals with 2.25. His rebound numbers came in at 12th through his four games, grabbing on average 8.5 per. Noel was an all-SEC Defensive Team pick and averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks in 24 games for the Wildcats in college.
His offense left much to be desired, shooting 35.1% (13-37) from the floor and making just eight of his 18 free throws. While it is no doubt Noel's game is a work in progress, seeing him perform at full speed in the preseason without restriction was a positive. Noel averaged 8.5 points per game over the four contests.
In tonight's opener against the Pacers, Nerlens will start at power forward with Henry Sims at center. Even though he will start at the four spot, that doesn't mean we won't see Noel at center as well. (via CSNPhilly.com)
"You are not hamstrung to play just those two [Noel and Sims] together," Brown said. "You can sub early and then have Nerlens play some five. I said from day one I never intended playing Nerlens as a four. I anticipated getting Andrew Wiggins as our pick and Noel is back at the five. All the sudden you get Joel (Embiid) and I said this is a great opportunity to try something and see if they can coexist.
"I think it is possible. That doesn't make him only a four man this year. He can go back to playing some five with screen-and-roll and let Brandon (Davies) and Malcolm (Thomas) play some four alongside him."
Henry Sims, the Sixers starting center envisions other teams having a difficult time scoring in the paint and at the rim with him and Noel protecting the inside. Sims averaged 11.1 points an 6.3 rebounds in eight preseason games for Philadelphia.
"We are going to be most effective defensively," Sims said. "I will handle the bigger, stronger guys and Nerlens can handle things at the rim, blocking shots and getting those over-the-rim rebounds that may be out of my reach."
The Sixers open their season tonight in Indiana against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers at 7pm on Comcast Sportsnet. Indiana will be without their leading scorer, Paul George, possibly all season, while David West (ankle) and George Hill (knee) are both recovering from their respective injuries.
Brandon Apter is a writer for Sixerdelphia.com