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Noel holds top spot as Warren rises

By Scott Howard-Cooper
POSTED: Jul 17, 2014 1:16 AM ET

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T.J. Warren climbs the ladder after impressive play in Las Vegas.

— It turns out there is one thing Nerlens Noel can't block -- a medical chart -- so he sits, then sits again, and sits some more.

Yes, he is averaging 28.5 minutes per game when he plays, except that encouraging news is also the disclaimer: when he plays. As in, sometimes, when the 76ers were at the Orlando Summer League. As in, rarely, now that they're in the Vegas portion.

Twelve games for Philadelphia in both locations, six appearances for Noel. Four games for Philadelphia at UNLV, one appearance for Noel after being held out again Wednesday for the second contest in a row as the 76ers beat the Lakers 85-63 at Thomas & Mack Center.

Every indication from Philly is that this is simply them being cautious with a player coming back after missing all of 2013-14, what would have been his rookie season, after surgery on his left knee. It's summer league, it's a busy stretch that once included eight games in 11 days, it's the No. 6 pick in the draft two Junes ago, it's the projected starting power forward for the next eight or 10 years. Of course the Sixers are going to be especially protective.

If this is all just predictable precautions, plus a slight sprain of the left ankle when he played -- he played! -- Monday against the Cavaliers, then the summer has been a complete success on the Noel front. His play has been that good for someone who hadn't been in a competitive five-on-five since February 2013 and was surrounded by a lot of players who won't be in the NBA for the regular season and some who may not even get invitations to training camp.

He has been an immediate defensive presence, the strength of his game, and the best player of the summer.

Rookie Ladder

1. NERLENS NOEL, 76ers (previous ranking: 1)

Philadelphia plays the Bulls on Thursday night. That's the next chance for Noel to play, with at least one more game after that, Friday or Saturday, regardless of the outcome now that the schedule has changed to a tournament format.

2. JARNELL STOKES, Grizzlies (2)

The second-round pick, No. 35 overall, finished Orlando averaging nine rebounds a game in 26 minutes, without ever playing more than 30 minutes. Though struggling with his shot at times, Stokes still scored 10, 16, 11 and 12 points in the limited time.

3. T.J. WARREN, Suns (5)

He had another 26 points in 29 minutes Wednesday while making 11 of 18 shots in a loss to the Timberwolves, putting Warren at 80 points in 92 minutes in Las Vegas. The No. 14 pick continues to score in bunches, just as he did at North Carolina State.

4. DOUG McDERMOTT, Bulls (3)

McDermott went from an underwhelming opener to scoring 31 points in 27 minutes against the Nuggets and 20 points in 26 minutes against the Timberwolves, with the Minnesota game also including six assists and five rebounds. If K.J. MDaniels returns from injury for the 76ers, McDermott could be going against one of the best rookie defenders.

5. JAMES ENNIS, Heat (4)

Leaving Monday after 14 minutes and sitting Tuesday and again Wednesday because of the strained groin changes nothing. In five full games, Ennis has scored at least 17 points four times, while also contributing 5.5 rebounds in 22.2 minutes.

6. JORDAN ADAMS, Grizzlies (6)

Adams left Orlando on a bad note, by making just five of 13 shots and scoring 11 points against the 76ers, but that was after scoring at least 19 points in three of the four previous games. The Grizzlies are not playing in Las Vegas.

7. JORDAN CLARKSON, Lakers (7)

The second-round pick with a lot to prove, though with the benefit of playing on a team that needs bodies, had an opening statement of 21, 16 and 19 points the first three games, before 11 points and six rebounds Wednesday. Six assists and 13 turnovers costs him the chance to move higher.

8. ELFRID PAYTON, Magic (9)

While the 1.75-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is a bad number for a point guard, Payton did a lot of other things well in Orlando. He shot 59.3 percent, added 5.2 rebounds from the backcourt in five games, and showed signs of the potential on defense.

9. GARY HARRIS, Nuggets (10)

The one bad game was really bad: one make in 12 shots against the Bulls, including four tries and four misses from behind the arc. The two other games, though, he piled up 33 and 18 points, even if he shot just six of 21 on 3-pointers.

10. JABARI PARKER, Bucks (8)

It has gotten to the point that others are keeping Parker in the Ladder, given that most of the biggest challengers for a spot in the top 10 were idle or hurt Wednesday. One more underwhelming game from the No. 2 pick in the draft or a good showing by a contender on Thursday gets Parker tossed.

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