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Cards are stacked in favor for 76ers' Noel

Rookie Ladder: Week 1

POSTED: Oct 29, 2014 3:29 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


NBA Rooks: Nerlens Noel Starting from Scratch

After spending last season on the bench, Nerlens Noel is ready for his rookie year.


  • Nerlens Noel leads the way in Week 1 Rookie Ladder
  • Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Elfrid Payton and Nik Stauskas round out top five

We begin with the end.

One player in the previous 10 campaigns has finished a season averaging fewer than 16 points a game and won Rookie of the Year: Emeka Okafor at 15.1 in 2004-05. Two in the same time have finished with an average of more than seven rebounds a game and won: Blake Griffin at 12.1 in 2010-11 and Okafor at 10.9.

It has largely been an offensive award, a particularly relevant factor as 2014-15 opens with a defensive specialist atop the first Rookie Ladder of the season and a question that may become one of the pressing issues in tracking the newcomers:

Can Nerlens Noel score enough to win?

He will undoubtedly have a major opportunity with the 76ers because they have to play someone, even if the last two drafts suggests Philly is trying to avoid that. He is expected to hold his own as a shot blocker and rebounder, and not just in comparison to other first-year players. But, the offense.

Noel averaged 10.5 points and 6.9 shots in 31.9 minutes in his one-and-done career at Kentucky in 2012-13 before going sixth in the draft and missing all last season as part of the recovery from a knee injury. While the numbers are not a direct translation of what to expect in the pros, and he did play with current Sun Archie Goodwin and other likely/possible future draft picks, it is a reminder that Noel's offense will not be striking fear into opponents preparing for the Sixers. As much as some wanted to compare him to Anthony Davis -- a year apart, both Kentucky power forward-centers, both known for defense first, both entering the pros after freshman campaigns -- Davis was easily more advanced with the ball.

It helps that Noel will debut tonight at Indiana as part of a team practically holding open auditions for scorers after Philadelphia finished 19th in points and 29th in shooting last season and then lost several of the main pieces that got the 76ers that far. Three of the four leading scorers are gone, even if they didn't spend all 2014-15 there: Thaddeus Young (17.9), Evan Turner (17.4) and Spencer Hawes (13, tied for fourth). That leaves reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams (16.7), and that leaves a big opening for Noel.

For now, he has a lot to prove on offense, especially given the last 10 years of the award. But he also has a clear path to big minutes and the ability to change games with defense and rebounding, so he has the top spot on the Ladder -- for now. Julius Randle fractured his right leg in Tuesday night's opener, dropping him from the rankings as the first jolt of the season.

Previous Rankings: Noel cements his spot at the top


1. NERLENS NOEL, 76ers

He will be trying to duplicate Griffin in sitting out all of what should have been his first season because of injury and winning Rookie of the Year the next campaign. Noel is still only 20 years old, but has the advantage of a head-start year in an NBA nutrition and training program, plus getting a feel for the much longer schedule. It won't be a surprise if he does better than everyone else at side-stepping the rookie wall.


NBA Rooks: Jabari Parker

WIth the regular season just around the corner, second overall pick Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks shows us how he's been preparing for his new career.

New coach Jason Kidd has a lot of lineup options, but Milwaukee drafted Parker with the plan to play him mostly at power forward, with occasional stretches at small forward. At either spot, Parker begins 2014-15 as the most NBA-ready rookie, able to score and pass and rebound. The question is whether he will be solid or beat some expectations and turn into a star.

3. ANDREW WIGGINS, Timberwolves

NBA Rooks: Future of the Wolves

At the Wolves' "Dunks after Dark" event, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine thrill the crowd and the No. 1 pick talks about his eventful summer.

The trade from Cleveland to Minnesota moved Wiggins from long-shot for Rookie of the Year to a big chance. If he sticks in the starting lineup right away, as coach Flip Saunders has considered, the odds get even better. Wiggins has a lot to prove, but the hype machine has been leading the way for more than a year.


If he gets a jumper, look out. Payton will get big minutes, have the ball in his hands a lot and defend, with the added opportunity early with backcourt running mate Victor Oladipo injured. Plus, Orlando has a chance to climb in the East, maybe even to playoff contention. If it happens, it becomes a big boost for a ROY campaign.


NBA Rooks: Nik Stauskas' Summer

Sacramento Kings rookie Nik Stauskas talks about getting his career off to a good start as a Las Vegas Summer League champion.

The chances of the 2014 lottery-pick shooting guard in the rookie race depend a lot on the 2013 lottery-pick shooting guard. If Ben McLemore improves and locks up the starting job, Stauskas' odds take a hit. If it's more of the McLemore of last season and he fails to capitalize on the new opportunity, Stauskas could get the big boost of an early promotion into the opening lineup.


Mirotic is 23, turns 24 just before the All-Star break, and has the experience of playing in the second-best league in the world for several years in Spain. He is an atypical rookie. But he also plays power forward for a team that has Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson. Mirotic could be an advanced rookie and still buried on the depth chart.


There is a good chance the No. 31 pick in 2011 will immediately go from playing in Europe to the opening-night starter at shooting guard, a dream opportunity for a perimeter threat on a team that needs to improve its 3-point production. Now 25, he has been a pro since 2004.


NBA Rooks: Doug McDermott Arrives in Chicago

Meet Bulls rookie, Doug McDermott, who explores the Lake Michigan shoreline as he gets excited for his new career to begin in Chicago.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has not ruled out starting McDermott at small forward, although Thibodeau may ultimately stay with Mike Dunleavy in a nod to Dunleavy's experience and advantage over McDermott on defense. The former Creighton star will fit well no matter what as the Bulls search for scoring, not just putting every opponent through the defense grinder.

9. MARCUS SMART, Celtics

Rajon Rondo could be in the opening-night lineup, an obvious problem for Smart's spot on the list. But Smart is physically ready for the NBA at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, is mature and able to be a leader as a rookie, and should be able to defend right away as he works on his shot and distributing. And if Rondo gets traded ...


The unique path from second-round pick to 2013-14 in Australia to summer-league standout and impressive showings in exhibition play earned Ennis what in June would have been an unlikely place on the Ladder. He can stay there, too, despite playing behind Luol Deng at small forward.