COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia 76ers shocked the basketball world and traded up to select Nerlens Noel with the No. 6 pick in the NBA draft, but what kind of rookie year will the University of Kentucky product have?
Everything about what Philadelphia did was bold. They dished out Jrue Holiday, their 23-year-old All-Star point guard, to select a center with one healthy knee and a 2014 first-round pick.
Justifying getting rid of a proven player for a guy with an unknown return date is on the difficult side, but new general manager Sam Hinkie felt like shaking up the roster to create somewhat of a blank slate.
Well Mr. Hinkie, mission accomplished!
In order for the trade to be a successful one, Noel has to eventually turn into a franchise centerpiece for years to come. All of that starts during his rookie season, though. Sixers fans might want him to come in and dominate right away, but that isn't the most realistic scenario. We can't forget Noel is coming off of a torn left ACL which was suffered in the middle of February.
For those struggling to count backwards, February was only four months ago. A torn ACL usually takes 10-12 months to fully heal. Anything less confirms the person is a freak of nature, and anything more just means they weren't quite ready.
Adding 10 months to the time of injury puts Noel's return date sometime around December at the earliest. And yes, it is possible for him not to be ready until February or later. Not many people want to admit it, but his rookie year won't do much in terms of providing the Sixers with wins.
Instead, the best Philadelphia will get are glimpses into what his future could hold. Certain aspects of basketball tend to translate easier from the college game to the professional level.
Luckily, Noel possesses two of the best ones in rebounding and shot-blocking. When he is truly ready to hit the court, everyone can expect to see these two areas put on full display.
There won't be many problems when it comes to his defense. He is long enough to get to nearly any shot that touches the paint, and as long as he heals properly, his athleticism will provide him with multiple rebounding opportunities.
The only difficulties he'll end up facing on defense come from how thin he is. It won't be long until he learns how the NBA is a man's game. Still though, strength is nothing dedicated time in the weight room won't be able to help.
The offensive side of the floor is where Noel will truly look like a rookie who is coming off of an ACL injury.
Saying that he'll be able to easily find his way on offense would be a lie big enough to garner national publicity. In college, there were times where Noel looked to be caught in a maze. His back-to-the-basket game was raw at best, and any kind of perimeter shooting out of him was laughable. Catching alley-oops was his calling card and it is something he will be able to bring to the Sixers. Other than that it will be a steep learning curve.
What is the best part, though? It's that there is no need for Noel to know how to do any of these things in his rookie season.
The ultimate key for the big man is to get his knees back to optimum health. Everything will take care of itself from there on.
There hasn't been concerns about Noel's work ethic or drive to be better. From what we know, he possesses all of the intangibles to continue to improve. If that is actually the case, then we shouldn't be too worried about his game improving over time, because it will.
Just don't expect his first season to be the smoothest one on the court.
For right now, it is all about his health. Getting completely healthy would make Noel's rookie year a success.
Zachary Arthur has been a Featured Columnist for the Philadelphia 76ers on Bleacher Report for the past eight months. His passion for the Sixers began while visiting family in Philadelphia at a young age, and has been there ever since.
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