Since the deadline day deal that brought Nerlens Noel from Philadelphia to Dallas in exchange for a top 18 protected first round pick, a second round pick, and Justin Anderson, Noel has played six games with the Mavericks and has missed the last two games due to some knee soreness and swelling. In those six games played, he’s averaging a little over 24 minutes per game in which he has amassed 10 points, 2 “stocks” (steals and blocks), and 8.5 rebounds (nearly 3 offensive) per game.
More importantly, he has brought boundless energy and athleticism that is coupled with basketball IQ and skill to a team that was lacking in size, quickness, and speed. While Anderson was an athletic marvel, he often struggled to turn that ability into consistent basketball plays. Noel has not faced those struggles nearly as much in his Dallas debut, and he shoots around the floor on both offensive and defense as a disruptive force. We’ve even seen a flash or two of vision and playmaking that promise further development for the 22-year old, like this excellent pass to Dorian Finney-Smith for a dunk after the short roll:
He provides energy for the Dallas team as well, especially with Dorian Finney-Smith on the floor—Dallas has a net rating of +19.7 in the 63 minutes they have shared the floor, per nbawowy. He pressures the offensive glass, and makes plays that energize teammates by being first to the floor after loose balls.
When Nerlens Noel has been on the floor for Dallas, the team’s Offensive rating has jumped by more than 10, from 103.2 to 113.7. His main offensive threat is as a rim diver, and he manages to play well around the basket when he has the ball in addition to forcing the defense to collapse down on his rolls to the basket. First, look how he can finish around the rim on unusual angles and contested catches in these two lobs:
Then, notice how that same gravity pulls players into him and opens up the rest of the floor for open three point shots. In both clips, watch how the weak side defender has to tag Noel on his roll, leaving the weak side shooter open for a three.
On defense, Noel alternates between a whirling dervish of destructive force and a skinny kid who can get pushed around or make eager positioning mistakes. As he gains experience, the former version will grow more powerful and the latter version is likely to disappear. His agility allows him, from the perimeter, to “choke” down as a help defender like a guard when someone else is posting up, like this:
Of course, as you probably see on your Twitter feed each night, Noel is also a destructive rim protector. See no more than his burst across the lane in Memphis, blocking Chandler Parsons and then fully rejecting Marc Gasol’s driving attempt.
On the other hand, Noel does still end up out of position because he gambles for steals. In addition to a couple gambles in New Orleans that led to buckets or fouls, you can see him dive out of position against Howard here, although the Hawks could not capitalize:
Finally, he’s still a bit skinny for an NBA five man. He was bullied at times under the rim by Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins. He was pushed around by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph when they were matched up as well. The best example of his size disadvantage could be seen in Oklahoma City, where Enes Kanter just decided it was time to score on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter:
Overall, Nerlens Noel has been a revelation for Dallas. The team is 5-1 in the six games he has played for them since the trade deadline, and their net rating is +13 with him on the floor. With restricted free agency fast approaching and the playoff race tightening up, look for Noel to be a make-or-break part of this Dallas team’s attempt to take the final playoff spot in the West.