Breaking Down Nerlens Noel’s First Half Versus Texas A&M

0:02    Texas A&M sets a high off-ball screen to free up Fabian Harris.  This leaves two Kentucky players to guard three Texas A&M players on the left side of the floor.  Noel, helped by the Texas A&M big man cutting early, likely in anticipation of a drive, remains in the center of the key long enough to force Harris to commit to the drive.  Noel displays good defensive technique, sliding with Harris and staying directly between him and the basket, and blocks the shot.  Noel was helped by Kentucky’s ability to completely disregard the screener.  In the NBA, that man will likely be able to take the mid-range jumper, but stopping the drive would still be Noel’s primary responsibility.

0:10    In case you didn’t realize, Nerlens Noel is extremely athletic.

0:15    Noel attempts to box out, which is good, but does not really seal his man as he cuts towards the key.

0:21    Again, Noel is much more athletic than his college counterparts.  He both his dive to the rim and jump well, and finishes the dunk.  While this was an offensive rebound, the hard dive to the rim and coordinated finish suggest potential as a pick and roll big man.

0:30    Noel is looking for the block, but the Texas A&M guard gets the shot off over him.  Noel was not in good position on this play, he was too close to the rim, and did not step up towards the driving player.  If Noel just waits at the rim, good players are able to time their shots to get over or around him.  A player like Marc Gasol steps towards the play, hoping to cut off the drive and prevent a shot from even being attempted, rather than going for the block.

0:33    Noel kicks out to Alex Poythress as soon as he is doubled in the post, and Poythress makes the semi-contested three.  This is a nice pass by Noel, who finished the game with 6 assists, however Noel’s post technique appears flawed.  He s leaning back off balance, and his legs are spread too wide for him to be able to make any on-balance move.

0:45    Here, Noel takes advantage of a smaller defender, pounding his way into the lane for a hook shot.  Though the shot goes in, you can see why Noel is not considered a dominant post scorer.  He turns his body before going up with the shot, and the hook appears is more of a throw towards the basket than an a smooth shot.  While he may be able to score on smaller, less athletic defenders, Noel will have to improve his technique before his jump-hook becomes a reliable NBA weapon.

0:53    Here is why Noel has such high defensive potential.  No, he will not be relied upon to guard guards above the three point line, but he shows his mobility and coordination.  Noel is no lumbering, Hasheem Thabeet style big man.  He is mobile enough to help across the lane, hedge and recover on pick and rolls, and guard smaller players on switches.

1:01    While this post move again may not be the smoothest, Noel clearly understands the value of deep post position, and finishes with his left hand, a valuable skill for any NBA player.

1:07    Noel clearly has affected the shot selection of Texas A&M.  Caruso realizes Noel is in position to challenge, and is forced to take a difficult up-and-under.

1:17    On this possession, Noel is not able to cut of Kourtey Roberson’s drive, but stays with him defensively and does not allow an easy shot.  Again, Noel’s mobility is key to his defensive impact.

1:43    Noel’s teammate does not take a very good angle on the screen, allowing the defender to go under without losing any position.  Noel rolls well to the rim, then seals his man in the post, but misses the hook.  Noel should look to move towards the basket and keep his man sealed on the drop-step, but instead steps out laterally from the rim, simply forcing himself off-balance.

1:52    Noel makes a smart pass to Willie Cauley-Stein at the far left elbow, then does a good job avoiding getting in the way of Cauley-Stein’s drive.  Noel could have gone after the offensive rebound, but by stepping back to allow space for the drive, he allowed himself to be boxed out.

2:00    Great anticipation by Noel, another sign of a good defender.

2:10    Noel allows his man to get in between him and the basket in transition, but realizes his mistake as the shot is released, and pushes the Aggie in the back without blatantly fouling.  Noel should have cut off his man’s path to the rim, though this mistake did no damage.

In this first half, Nerlens Noel displayed why he is such a highly valued defensive prospect while flashing potential offensively.  Noel could have been more assertive offensively throughout the game offensively, but made Texas A&M constantly aware of his defensive influence.  In the NBA, Noel could develop into a very good defensive big man, and could potentially fill a Tyson Chandler style roll offensively.  If Noel can develop his post up and passing game to Dwight higher levels, he may be used in the mold of a lower usage version of Dwight Howard offensively.