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Saturday, July 5, 2014

76ers Injury Update: Nerlens Noel impresses in Summer League debut

By on 7/05/2014 09:45:00 PM

There were more than a few exciting rookies to watch in the NBA Summer League debut of the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers. Players such as Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon of the Magic, and K.J. McDaniels of the Sixers played in their first Summer League games. But the most anticipated player of the day was rail thin Sixer big man Nerlens Noel, who had sat out all of last season due to a torn ACL.

It's safe to say he has recovered from his injury. Noel did not fail to live up to expectations. He scored 19 points and was a pest defensively, interrupting passing lanes and affecting shots for what seemed like the entire game. There was one play in which Magic guard Victor Oladipo did a nice crossover move only to have the ball poked away by Noel. Analyst and former NBA player Kendall Gill claimed that Oladipo could have gotten away with that move against almost anyone except Noel. He showed that he can rack up the steals almost as quickly as he accumulates blocks.

Not only were Noel's stats impressive, but he managed to get them at a very efficient rate, taking only 11 shots and draining six of them. While some of his layups and post moves were forced and very awkward looking, he displayed good footwork and athleticism, and drew his fair share of fouls. He shot 7-7 from the foul line, making it clear that he is not afraid to draw contact despite his wiry frame. He even took a semi-hard fall at one point and got up pretty quickly, showing that he is not fragile from his ACL tear.

While he was tough and willing to bang bodies with Orlando's front line, he only managed to grab a few rebounds. He was outworked on the glass by Orlando's young bigs such as Gordon, Kadeem Batts, Dwayne Dedmon, and Romero Osby. However, this was just one game, and he will most likely be more aggressive on the boards going forward. 

Noel also pleasantly surprised spectators with his passing ability from the elbows. Twice he found the open man cutting to the block for an easy two points. Noel’s ability to pass will be crucial when playing alongside the newly drafted center Joel Embiid, who will greatly benefit from being able to receive interior passes from the elbows. Embiid sat out this game because of his back and foot injuries, and will likely remain out until next season. 

Granted Embiid recovers from injury, the Cameroonian big man from Kansas will likely be the number one option in the post for the Sixers. As a result, Noel will look to continue to improve his mid-range shot, which was a little off today, to give Embiid more space in the post. Given the fact that he will not be asked to do all of the heavy lifting in the post on offense, was a beast on defense this game, and is working on adding weight so he can fight for rebounds better, the Sixers organization has to be thrilled with Noel going forward.  

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