Nerlens Noel

Sixers coach Brett Brown on whether we’ll see Nerlens Noel play this year: “It really is, ‘Who Knows?'”


Nerlens Noel was selected with the sixth overall pick in last summer’s draft, and the Sixers traded Jrue Holiday for him in order to jumpstart their rebuilding process.

But we have yet to see Noel take the floor for Philadelphia this season, in much the same way that Andrew Bynum missed his entire year with the team while attempting to recover from multiple injuries.

The difference with Noel is that the Sixers are intentionally bringing him along slowly. There’s no rush, after all, considering that Philadelphia is the team most accused of tanking this year, despite new NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s protests to the contrary.

We’d still like to get a preliminary look at Noel this season, and Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in the same set of circumstances. But at least publicly, he continues to view the possibility as a question mark.

From Christopher A. Vito of the Delaware County Daily Times (via HoopsHype):

“He is (doing more). He’s slowly doing a little more physical stuff,” Brown said after Friday’s practice. “He’s slowly doing a little more and you can play him against another body. I highlight the word ‘slowly’ and I highlight the word ‘cautiously,’ but he’s doing it.

“A little bit more. I don’t want to paint the wrong picture. A little bit more, but he’s moving in that direction.” …

“Whether we ever get to see him in a game this year, it really is, ‘Who knows?’” Brown said. “I’ve gone on (the) record to say I wish I could coach him and get some games under our belt with him. But the boxes he has to tick, the ones we’ve always talked about, those have yet to be ticked.”

Brown is one of the more active head coaches in his young players’ development, and can be regularly seeing working out his guys before games — a rarity in the NBA coaching ranks to be sure.Earlier in the year, the tanking conspiracies made sense in terms of not rushing Noel back before he was more than ready. Now, however, with the season completely lost, Brown is simply like the rest of us in that he’d like to see a little bit of what he has in Noel in game situations before the year is finished.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.