The Dallas Mavericks have traded for Nerlens Noel. We all know that by now but I need to keep typing it out to make sure it’s real. But what do we really know about Noel? I’ve not see him much as a professional and my memory of him at Kentucky is hazy at best.
What does Noel do well as a NBA player?
First and foremost, Noel's a really solid, versatile defender. He spent a lot of time playing the four last year, went back to the five this year (where he's much more natural), and is pretty solid in both spots. He's a really good rim protector. He's got great bounce and super long arms and has been one of the league's best shot blockers for the past couple seasons. Noel also moves really well, and one thing he's really good at is help defense. He can trap the ball, help out on a rotation, and then fly back to his original assignment. He just constantly makes plays on that end. Offensively, Nerlens is a really good pick and roll threat. He attacks the rim with a certain ferocity, and the spring he shows on the defensive end translates to really impressive alley oops.
Where does he need to improve?
Strength has always been a real issue for him. He hasn't put on a lot of muscle since coming to the NBA, and it shows. Bigger centers have a tendency to bully him around a little bit. So I think that's probably the biggest issue I have with him. His offensive game still doesn't have a ton of polish, and I think Philly kind of messed him up in that regard. They tried to make him a back to the basket big, then wanted him to shoot jumpers with Embiid and Okafor in the mix, and he's not really good at either (although the jumper does look better).
Is he injury prone or has it been bad luck so far?
I've never really thought of him as injury prone, maybe because he hasn't had a lot of re-occurring injuries, but he does seem to be banged up a lot. The ACL is no longer a concern, and the surgery he had in October doesn't seem to have limited him at all, so those aren't things I'd be worried about. Partly because he's a skinny dude playing a pretty rugged position, he's gonna pick up some nicks and bruises that cause him to miss a game or two. I wouldn't be worried about anything longterm though.
Is there anything that would surprise fans about Noel?
I think people who don't watch Nerlens on a regular night aren't aware of how good he is at getting steals. He's an elite ball poker; one of his patented moves is stripping guys who are posting up. But he's got really active hands and loves getting into passing lanes. He's good for a couple breakaway dunks because of it. Nerlens also has a really nice running left handed floater. That's about his only offensive move that isn't finishing a lob.
Do you think he fits with Dallas?
I've seen a lot of people say he could be like Tyson Chandler, and while he isn't that much of a monster, he's gonna fill a very similar role. If you can give him a good point guard who can command some attention in the pick and roll, then he's gonna be a terror. I'm not sure if Dallas has that guy right now, and it's something that certainly held him back in Philly. But if you can pair him with a good lead guard, I think the sky is the limit for him.