Nerlens Noel (born April 10, 1994) is an American professional basketball player for the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His collegiate basketball career ended in his first season with a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the University of Kentucky. Noel was drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. His rights were later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. He plays center and power forward, and was one of the top high school basketball players in the class of 2012.
High school career
Born in Malden, Massachusetts to Haitian immigrant parents, Noel spent his first two years of high school at Everett High School. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Tilton School in Tilton, New Hampshire. Noel was originally a part of the class of 2013, but reclassified to the 2012 college recruiting class. Noel averaged 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game as a senior.
He was rated as the #1 player in the class of 2012 by ESPN and Scout.com, and the #2 player by SLAM. Noel was selected to play in the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit and the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic. In addition to his high school career, Noel also played AAU basketball on the same team as future Sixers teammate Michael Carter-Williams. Shortly before his high school graduation, an article in the New York Times described Noel as being hailed as one of the best shot blockers of his generation, although he was also described as having unrefined offensive skills.
|Name||Hometown||High school / college||Height||Weight||Commit date|
|Everett, Mass||The Tilton School||6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)||215 lb (98 kg)||Apr 11, 2012|
|Recruiting star ratings: Scout: Rivals: 247Sports: ESPN grade: 98|
|Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 1 Rivals: 2, 1 (C) ESPN: 1|
After deliberating among several elite college basketball programs, Noel decided in April 2012 that he would be going to the University of Kentucky to play NCAA Division I basketball. He made his verbal commitment by revealing the UK logo shaved in the back of his head on national television. Since Noel was well known for his elite shot blocking abilities, fans and the media had high expectations for him to fill the shoes of Anthony Davis, who had just led the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship in the previous season, was the 2011–2012 National Player of the Year in the NCAA, and set a Kentucky and NCAA freshman single-season block record with 186.
In his third game on November 16, 2012, he accumulated 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and 4 steals against Lafayette. On January 12, 2013, although Kentucky lost the game against Texas A&M, Noel recorded 15 points, 11 rebounds, 7 blocks, 6 assists, and 4 steals.
On January 29, 2013, Noel set the UK single-game record with 12 blocks in an 87–74 team victory over #16 Ole Miss. Five of the blocks happened while Noel had four personal fouls, and two of them were denials on slam dunk attempts. The UK school record was previously nine blocks, set by Sam Bowie in 1981 and was then tied by Andre Riddick in 1993. Although he recorded only two points, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said in the post-game press conference that "[Noel] was the difference in the game" and that he is "an incredible defensive presence." Ole Miss senior forward Murphy Holloway added that he believes Nerlens Noel is the "best shot blocker [he has] played against", including Anthony Davis.
On February 12, 2013, in a game against the Florida Gators, Noel tore the ACL in his left knee after blocking a Florida lay-up, forcing him to sit out the remainder of the season. Before his injury, it was projected that he would be the 1st overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Despite his injury, Noel decided to declare for the 2013 draft on April 15, 2013.
Noel was honored with many awards, including SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, SEC First Team, SEC All Freshman Team, SEC Community Service Team. In addition to earning All-SEC first team honors by the league's coaches, Noel earned first-team honors from the Associated Press, continuing a four-year streak of UK players earning first-team AP honors.
The Wildcats' 6-foot-11 center was joined by UNLV Runnin' Rebels's Anthony Bennett, UCLA Bruins's Shabazz Muhammad, Oklahoma State Cowboys's Marcus Smart and Kansas Jayhawks's Ben McLemore on the Freshman All-America team. He was the fifth UK player under coach John Calipari to earn the honor from the USBWA, joining John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Noel entered the 2013 NBA draft after playing one season at the University of Kentucky and was projected to be one of the top picks, with many considering Noel the favorite to be picked first in the draft. He was invited to sit in the "green room", a room of the projected top 10–15 collegiate basketball players during the draft and ended up being selected with the sixth overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans. There were possible concerns around the league about his torn left ACL knee, which may have caused him to slide down, thus not being taken earlier. It was announced later that night, that Noel's draft rights were to be traded, along with a 2014 first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for guard Jrue Holiday and the draft rights to Pierre Jackson.
Philadelphia 76ers (2013–2017)
On July 12, 2013, the trade sending Noel to the 76ers was finalized. On September 24, 2013, he signed with the 76ers. Although the 76ers' original plan was to have Noel play during the 2013–14 season, Noel missed the entire season as he recovered from knee surgery.
In July 2014, Noel joined the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2014 NBA Summer League. In game one of the 76ers' Orlando Summer League schedule, Noel played his first minutes of professional basketball, scoring a game-high 19 points in the 76ers' 83–77 loss to the Orlando Magic.
On October 29, 2014, Noel made his long-awaited NBA debut in the 76ers' 103–91 loss to the Indiana Pacers. In just under 35 minutes of action as a starter, he recorded 6 points on 2-of-11 shooting, along with 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Two days later, the 76ers exercised their third-year team option on Noel's rookie scale contract, extending the contract through the 2015–16 season. Later that day, he recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal in a loss to Milwaukee Bucks. On January 30, he recorded 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and a then career-high 6 blocks in a 103–94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Participating in the 2015 Rising Stars Challenge on February 13, Noel recorded 4 points and 4 rebounds as Team USA were defeated by Team World, 121–112. On February 20, Noel recorded 12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and a career-high 9 blocks in a loss to the Indiana Pacers. A week later against Washington, Noel became just the third 76ers' rookie to record 100 blocks in a season.
On October 30, 2015, the 76ers exercised their fourth-year team option on Noel's rookie scale contract, extending the contract through the 2016–17 season. On December 30, he recorded a season-high 20 points and 9 rebounds in a 110–105 win over the Sacramento Kings. On February 11, he was ruled out of the 2016 Rising Stars Challenge due to tendinitis in his right knee.
On October 22, 2016, Noel was ruled out for three to five weeks due to an inflamed plica above his left knee that required surgery. After spending time with the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League on injury rehab assignments in late November and early December, Noel made his season debut for the 76ers on December 11 against the Detroit Pistons, having missed the first 23 games. He scored eight points in 10 minutes off the bench before leaving the game in the second quarter with a left ankle sprain.
Even before he returned to the team, Noel was particularly vocal about the log-jam the 76ers had at the center position with him as well as Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Richaun Holmes competing for time on the court. In his second game back from injury, Noel posted just eight minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers, much to his frustration. Noel expressed his dissatisfaction with his limited role in a post-game conference, lamenting "I'm not an eight-minute player. So I don't know what that's about. I don't really care [who he's paired with]. I need to be on the court playing basketball. I'm too good to be playing eight minutes right now — that's crazy... Need to figure this [stuff] out". Following a matchup against the Brooklyn Nets in which Noel did not play, coach Brett Brown announced Noel would not participate in the 76ers regular rotation for the foreseeable future while emphasizing the move was unrelated to Noel's recent disagreements with the team. Contrary to Brown's statement, Noel returned two games later, and assumed a backup role behind Embiid as Okafor recovered from a right knee injury.
On January 24, 2017, while making his first start of the season in place of the injured Joel Embiid, Noel scored a season-high 19 points and had three blocked shots in a 121–110 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Dallas Mavericks (2017–present)
On February 23, 2017, Noel was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a 2017 protected first-round pick. He made his debut for the Mavericks two days later, recording nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench in a 96–83 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. On March 3, 2017, in his first start for the Mavericks, Noel tied a career high with 17 rebounds while scoring 15 points in a 104–100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
On June 23, 2017, the Mavericks tendered a $4.1 million qualifying offer to make Noel a restricted free agent. On August 26, 2017, he accepted the one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer, officially re-signing with the Mavericks two days later. In the Mavericks' season opener on October 18, 2017, Noel had 16 points, his most since joining Dallas, and 11 rebounds in a 117–111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
Noel's parents migrated from Haiti in 1990. He has two older brothers and one younger sister; both of Noel's older brothers played for Division I college football programs. His oldest brother, Jim, played for Boston College, while Rodman played for North Carolina State.