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Noel cements his spot at the top

By Scott Howard-Cooper
POSTED: Jul 20, 2014 10:38 PM ET

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Nerlens Noel was impressive at Summer League and looks to be a front runner for Rookie of the Year.

— One day and one game to go, Houston and Sacramento for the Samsung NBA Summer League Championship Monday night at Thomas & Mack Center, with no real chance for anyone to make a late dash to the Ladder. The summer-league top 10 is pretty locked.

The next edition is scheduled for the start of the 2014-15 season, a projection of the race for Rookie of the Year. That will be updated weekly and will be different than the final Orlando/Vegas rankings. Roles change a lot with full rosters, of course, so Jarnell Stokes playing the same position as Zach Randolph, how Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic joining the Bulls impact Doug McDermott, what LeBron James in Cleveland means for Andrew Wiggins, and other non-factors for July minutes must be considered in the fall.

Summer League did provide some insights for an early read on the eventual ROY re-set, most of all the Nerlens Noel health update after missing all last season following knee surgery. The way he moved, the way he protected the rim was very encouraging, as long as the 76ers weren't hiding anything when they said Noel missed games simply to avoid over-working the left leg. He makes it an easy call for the top line in sketching out a preseason top 10 now.

1. Nerlens Noel, 76ers

2. Doug McDermott, Bulls.

3. Jabari Parker, Bucks.

4. Elfrid Payton, Magic.

5. James Ennis, Heat.

6. Jordan Adams, Grizzlies.

7. Julius Randle, Lakers.

8. Gary Harris, Nuggets.

9. Dante Exum, Jazz.

10. Jordan McRae, 76ers.

That's the long-distance preview that remains open to change and would obviously be put in a blender by major developments. If Andrew Wiggins is traded to the Timberwolves, for example, he jumps higher up in the rankings than if he is sharing the ball with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Same with Marcus Smart. If the Celtics deal Rajon Rondo, Smart has a much clearer path to minutes.

The rankings based strictly on Summer League, meanwhile, are unchanged from the day before, after only two games Sunday. Charlotte's Josh Davis, undrafted out of San Diego State, pressed for a spot with 18 points and 14 rebounds against the Rockets, the fourth time in seven games with at least 12 boards.

Rookie Ladder

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

Noel made just one appearance in Las Vegas and instead mostly rested the left knee coming off surgery. But between here and Orlando, he controlled the paint by blocking shots and forcing penetrators to change plans on others, and rebounded.

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 (3)

Warren finished with a rare bad game Friday, scoring nine points while making just three of 11 field goals and even three of seven free throws. But that was after 80 points in 92 minutes.

4. DOUG McDERMOTT, Bulls (4)

It wasn't exactly a big finish, missing seven of 10 shots en route to 11 points Thursday and then sitting Saturday in Chicago's final game. Before that, though, McDermott had 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.

5. JAMES ENNIS, Heat (5)

A strained groin sidelined Ennis the final four games and most of a fifth. But by the time Miami's summer-league schedule ended Friday, after playing in Orlando and Vegas, Ennis had scored at least 17 points in four of five full games, while also contributing 5.5 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game.

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 did not come to Las Vegas.

7. JORDAN McRAE, 76ers (7)

He did not play Friday in the Sixers finale -- rest, the team said before heading off for months of rest -- but had a late charge up the rankings by averaging 21 points and shooting 50 percent in four games. Those 21 points were while playing 29.1 minutes per.

8. ELFRID PAYTON, Magic (8)

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 per game from the backcourt in five games, and showed signs of the potential on defense.

9. JABARI PARKER, Bucks (9)

Twenty points and 15 rebounds against the Warriors in Milwaukee's finale was the way to go out, and the way to reclaim a Ladder spot after opening at No. 1 and tumbling all the way out. He averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in all.

10. RUSS SMITH, Pelicans (10)

Twenty-one points on Friday after 19, 14, six and 20 is a loud opening statement from the No. 47 pick drafted by Philadelphia and quickly traded to New Orleans. Smith also had at least eight assists twice and shot the ball well except for one game.

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