After five years of turning chicken shit into chicken salad, the Mavericks have finally struck gold. Nerlens Noel walks onto this Maverick roster as a 22-year-old rim-running, shot-blocking machine. The Kentucky product is the best 22-year-old Maverick in over a decade. His unique blend of athleticism, touch and instincts should restore Rick Carlisle’s pick-and-roll offense to its former glory. Everything DeAndre Jordan should have been in Dallas might lie in the newest Dallas Maverick.
For that brief, fleeting moment when DeAndre was to be a Maverick, excitement bubbled around his dominant pick-and-roll finishing skills. It’s easy to forget, but just two years ago—before the calamitous Rondo stint—the Mavericks had the best offensive rating of all time.
The flow offense needs rim runners
The fulcrum of that offense centered on Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright diving to the rim from every angle. Chandler and Wright were the most efficient roll men in the entire league pre-Rondo. The vertical spacing provided by a strong rim run uncorked every devious offensive scheme lying in the far recesses of Carlisle’s brain.
The Carlisle offense flowed beautifully with Tyson at the center. They were basically unscoutable, because the majority of their offense came in semi-transition or spread pick and roll. It’s damn near impossible to properly defend a pick and roll while you’re back pedaling, never mind read where a screener is coming from. Dallas collected numerous buckets on plays like these.
The Mavericks have finally found their new Tyson
The flow will offense will take some time to develop, but Nerlens’ basketball instincts should allow him to thrive quickly. The Tyson-Nerlens comparisons were quick to surface, and they do carry some merit. The two share similar physical characteristics with explosive athleticism, and more importantly, Noel’s basketball instincts seem to mirror Tyson’s.
Instinct is where most prospects fall short living up to the Tyson Chandler archetype. It seems like anyone can run, jump, dunk and rebound if they’re seven feet tall and springy, but that’s only a part of the puzzle. Noel’s astronomical block and steal rate in both college and the NBA bode well in the instincts department.
Carlisle can utilize Noel’s instincts on the offensive end to supercharge the flow offense. Dribble hand offs with Bogut typically died a slow death. Guards would dart around a Bogut screen, but the defense would remain stationary because they didn’t respect Bogut at all.
But watch how Marreese Speights sticks to Nerlens because he’s terrified of the lob. That allows the guard to get a free layup.
That, my friends, is vertical spacing.
Noel will benefit from both Dirk and Carlisle
Pristine spacing, in the conventional sense, will lift Nerlens to new heights. Philly didn’t always have the shooters to provide clean lanes for their big men. Carlisle is a stickler for spacing and positioning in his sets, not to mention a certain blond German who’s known to draw a defender or two. Nerlens should see defenders scrambling around him in ways he’s never experienced in his short career.
Don’t be surprised if there’s an uptick in Noel’s assist numbers after leaving Philadelphia. Nerlens has shown flashes of vision during his limited minutes this season. He can find cutters and hit open shooters in the corner after catching the ball on a roll. Carlisle should be able to put Nerlens’ on-the-ball sauce to good use. If a post behemoth runs at Noel, he can put the ball on the floor and get a bucket. The last half of the season should be an opportunity for Nerlens to spread his wings.
if noel had qualifying minutes, he would lead nba in steals and deflections rate, be 5th in FG%, 8th in TS% and 17th in blocks rate. he's 22— Ben Detrick (@bdetrick) February 23, 2017
The success of the Harrison Barnes experiment should lay the groundwork for Noel’s development. The two share similar pedigrees and talent levels. If Noel is anywhere near as diligent as Barnes, he’ll be a dominant big for a long time to come. Nerlens has all-star level talent, and now he has both the team and coach to unlock it.
I’ll leave you with a reminder that the Mavericks now have a center who can do this.