Comparisons to Anthony Davis for Nerlens Noel were never fair. It’s true that the latter directly followed the former for a season at the University of Kentucky as an all-encompassing defensive monster, but that’s almost where their basketball parallels end. Thankfully, by the time an injured Noel was taken by the Philadelphia 76ers with the sixth pick of the 2013 draft, expectations that he would be a player of Davis’ caliber had completely subsided. He’ll just never be close to the offensive force that the New Orleans Pelicans’ franchise cornerstone is and will become, but that’s not a slight – Davis is a generational talent.
It’s the broad physical profile that made so many believe Noel was the next Davis before he suited up for the Wildcats, and it’s easy to see why. Both big men blend Stretch Armstrong length with speed, quickness, and agility normally fit for players some six inches shorter. Uncanny timing and anticipation on the defensive end only make them more dominant.
Noel put that almost completely unique package of skills on display last night. Watch the Sixers rookie stick with Milwaukee Bucks Swiss Army Knife Giannis Antetokounmpo off the bounce, block the Greek Freak’s layup attempt, and show off world class speed before finishing with a powerful dunk on the other end.
Wow. There’s so, so much to like here.
That Noel would even be tasked with guarding Antetokounmpo – a sometime point guard – is mind-boggling. That he’s able to flip his hips after Giannis tries the step over is amazing. The length to best Antetokounmpo’s at the rim isn’t surprising but still impressive. And the dead sprint to the other end is downright mesmerizing.
Big men aren’t supposed to move like this. We can think of one other player in the league capable of duplicating this sequence. You guessed it – The Brow.
That’s high praise for Noel, obviously, but is indeed the type of influence he can have defensively due to his natural gifts and overall knack. Once plays like this become relatively routine, anything Noel gives the Sixers on the other end will be icing on the cake. And though he’s not Davis in that department, Noel certainly has the skills to be an effective, if limited, offensive piece.
What do you think?
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