Minnesota Timberwolves Draft Prospect: Nerlens Noel

Nerlens-Noel

Nerlens Noel, University of Kentucky

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First off, welcome to the first post of a new series at HTW. We will be covering the NBA Draft in depth and it begins with our Draft Prospect series. Every Monday and Wednesday, treat yourself to read about all the new NBA-bound prospects. The Wolves currently own their own lottery pick and the Grizzlies’ 1st rounder, which will likely be in the low 20′s. So for all your draft needs and desires, be on the look out for these posts. And, as always, feel free to comment on here or on Twitter. We love discussion! Enjoy!

Positives: Just a few months after Kentucky’s super freshman center Anthony Davis was drafted first overall in the NBA Draft to the New Orleans Hornets Pelicans, Coach Calipari was blessed with yet another bouncy, defensive-minded center. Only this time, he might even be better at what Davis was really good at: Blocking shots. One of the purest shot blockers in college, Noel makes his impact on the court without the ball in his hands. Long, tall and explosive, Noel is a coach’s dream as the mainstay of any defense because of his athletic abilities. And he’s not the kind of player that let’s his athletic gifts speak for themselves. He has quick hands and a feel for playing active and aware defense, which is why his steals are just as important as his blocks. At 6’11″, Noel has the size to rebound at the NBA level, although he’ll probably need to add some strength and size to his frame in order to do so on a consistent basis. But at the college level, he was one of the better rebounders, grabbing 9.5 rbg. Also, a huge benefit to any team with an eye on Noel as a draft prospect is his age. Noel turns 19 in just over a week, and to my knowledge has not lied about his age unlike some of his peers. That’s a big plus in a league that puts youngsters at such a premium.

Negatives: As the consensus number one in most mock drafts, it’s difficult to pinpoint serious strengths in Noel’s game. Other than his pure rawness and lack of experience playing at a high level, I can’t really nitpick. Certainly his offense is the most glaring weakness in his overall game. Noel doesn’t really have anything resembling an effective post move, which is certainly limiting his offensive potential. I quickly noted Noel’s lack of strength in the positives section, even though that’s more of a negative. But bulking up will ultimately help his ability to get scrappy offensive rebounds and put backs. The biggest negative surrounding Noel is the torn ACL injury he suffered from earlier this year that cut his promising freshman campaign short. Noel’s injury is significant enough and all too familiar to Wolves fans, having just seen Ricky Rubio just start to regain form after tearing his ACL a whole year ago. It is indeed a year-long recovery, which cuts into the positive of being young. And we also have to wait and see how Noel recovers mentally from such an injury, which can be the most difficult aspect of the whole process. The injury is a serious setback and is leaving front offices asking, “Will Noel ever return to his explosive form after recovery?

Bottom Line: I don’t see Noel sporting the KG-like potential of Anthony Davis. Instead, I see him as more of an athletic and explosive, defensive-minded center that will protect the rim at will and grab a whole mess of rebounds. He’s not afraid to get down and dirty, which mirrors his skill level of being raw. All in all, Noel strikes me as a more athletic Joakim Noah with the chance to make a bigger impact earlier on in his career. Noel, before his injury, has shown that he only gets better with more experience, which certainly translates to the NBA game.

Timberwolves fit: We all know the real story of the Wolves’ offseason begins and ends with the Nikola Pekovic saga. The goal has to be to resign him but within reason in terms of a dollar amount (My best guess is they’re hoping no more than $10-$12 million a season). But with the Trail Blazers still lurking for a center in the dark and the ill-feelings they already warrant towards David Kahn and the entire Timberwolves franchise, you never know how things will turn out. For that very reason, a backup plan for a starting center has to be in place — that is unless they think Kevin Love can slide over and allow Derrick Williams to start at the power forward slot. But that’s an entirely different story for an entirely different day. That’s why Noel must be atop the Wolves draft board; he gives the Wolves a defensive-minded center that will assume the load of protecting the rim off of Love’s in-game to-do list, which is actually a better center option in the lineup, in my opinion. The odds of the Wolves stealing a top-three pick to nab the likes of Noel are slim-to-none. But a draft board doesn’t take chance or luck into account.