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Noel's Vegas Debut Shows Promise amidst Anxiety

Sixers' 2013 1st Round draftee intimidating in Summer League

Nerlens Noel's Summer League effort this season might be best described as that of a child at Disney World for the first time. He's bursting with vitality, quick to run to anything that catches his eye. In Noel's case, that's airborne basketballs.

Monday afternoon at the COX Pavilion in Las Vegas, a jammed gymnasium had the pleasure of witnessing the raw talent the Sixers' 2013 1st Round draft choice possesses. Noel's 12-point, 6-rebound performance was complete with putback dunks, emphatic blocks, and one strip that was so forceful it landed in the hands of a teammate 12 feet away. The display was one of promise, though the results were very raw.

"He’s active, he’s all over the place," remarked Sixers assistant Chad Iske, who coaches the team’s summer league entry. "He’s trying to do too much on both ends. The hard part is, do you want to settle him down or do you just want him to play with that aggressiveness? I don't want to try to give him too much [advice] and cloud him, and then he's thinking too much instead of playing. I think we've just got to continue to get out there and find the happy balance between him being within our rules and him being himself."

Noel is now up to 11 steals and 16 blocks over the course of his five Summer League games, but agrees with Iske's sentiment.

“I feel I haven’t been good enough yet," he said. "I haven’t been vocal enough. I haven’t been a leader. I have to be for this team.”

The projected starting squad Noel will take the court with has a total of just 11 years experience in the NBA - seven coming from Forward Thaddeus Young. They'll be looking for direction on the defensive end, and Noel has shown over the course of five short contests his 7' 1" frame can be imposing.

“When guys start being a little more timid on their drives and start shooting a lot more floaters, I know that my presence is felt," he said. "I still have to stay aggressive and do what I can for my team – get up on screens and get as many steals as I can so we can get stops and get back in the game.”

That's one of the more valuable qualities of Nerlens Noel - he's a plus defender on the perimeter for his size, with great lateral quickness. No matter where he's placed on the court, he'll provide stops. Even on help defense, he'll step in and make big rejections as he did Monday. 

All of that said, this is just the beginning of Noel's debut tour. His best days are ahead of him.

"I’ve got to keep building up my stamina," he noted. “When I really get to the point where I feel my legs are really under me, and I’m moving a lot better and can play a whole quarter, that's when I feel I'll be able to implement all my active abilities.”

Noel will have time to grow with a young roster - one that produced last year's Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, a former AAU teammate of his.

"He’s a 6’ 6” Point Guard so he’ll be able to find some open seams, create, and get to the basket – create opportunities for myself, and him."

The playoffs are a lofty expectation for the Sixers this year, and probably next, but they have something to be excited about just five games in to the Nerlens Noel era. Not to mention, Joel Embiid will be in the mix down the road as well.

"Joel's a great defensive presence as well," he said. "Great shot blocker, high basketball IQ. We're going to start building that relationship."

Once Noel is able to slow himself and adjust to the pace of an NBA game, he should be a factor on both ends of the floor - especially if he adds more muscle. As Chad Iske pointed out, this is a long-term project, as is the entire Sixers roster. Noel is raising eyebrows early, and Philly fans are already close to drooling over their future frontcourt.