Noel's Impressive February Falls Just Short Of Recognition
On Wednesday, the NBA announced the winners of both the Western and Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards. For the fourth consecutive month, Andrew Wiggins took the crown in the West, but in the East the honor went to a first-time recipient. No, it was not Nerlens Noel, who ranked second in points per game (10.7), first in rebounds per game (7.3), sixth in assists per game (1.9), first in blocks per game (2.8), and first in steals per game (1.7) last month. Instead, Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who averaged 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.6 steals in February, took home the honor.
Despite the fact that Noel fell just short of becoming the fourth Eastern Conference player to earn Rookie of the Month honors this season, we felt that his performance last month was deserving of recognition. Here’s a closer look his impressive Febraury.
• In November, Noel averaged 7.6 points 5.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 29.7 minutes per game. December and January saw those numbers improve, but February’s jump was most impressive. In 10 games last month, Noel averaged 10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.8 blocks, and 1.7 steals in 31.5 minutes per game.
• Noel’s 28 blocks in the month of February were double that of the second-best rookie shot-blocker that month; Jusuf Nurkic of the Nuggets blocked 14 shots in nine games. His 28 blocks were the most of any player in the NBA who played 10 or fewer games last month.
• On shots that he defended, Noel held opponents to 10.8% below their average field-goal percentage on attempts within six feet of the rim in February.
• Noel converted 67.7% of his shots in the restricted area, 43.5% of his midrange attempts, and 74.5% from the free-throw line in February. Up until last month, those numbers were 57.1%, 28.2%, and 52.6%, respectively. Hover over the chart chart below to see how his performance in February’s 10 games were enough to affect his rookie year efficiency (chart courtesy of StatMuse.com):
• Noel scored in double figures in seven of 10 games in February. He also blocked two or more shots on seven occasions, shot better than 50.0% from the floor six times, notched multiple steals five times, dished out three or most assists three times, and pulled down seven or more rebounds in all but two contests.
• In a game against the Pacers on February 20, he notched 12 points, nine rebounds, nine blocks, and four steals, becoming the only rookie ever to hit those marks in a game.