Andrew Wiggins has been believed by many to have essentially locked up Rookie of the Year honors, with the way he’s leading all first-year players in both scoring and minutes played.
But Nerlens Noel is coming on strong.
After a career-best performance against the lowly Knicks — so lowly that the Sixers were actually favored to win for the first time all season — both Noel and his head coach talked up his Rookie of the Year chances.
I say why not?” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “I think you have to pay attention to Nerlens.”
Noel thinks so, too.
“I think as the season winds down and with the way I’m playing, I should be in somewhat of the discussion,” Noel said. “I feel that award should probably go to the best player. Who helps their team win games and keeps them in games and affects the games in so many different ways. I continue to get better and better.” …
“I’m coming along with my confidence,” said Noel, the No. 6 overall selection in 2013 before sitting out his first season with a torn ACL. “I want to be the go-to guy.”
Wiggins has been more consistent, so he has the inside track. But Noel leads all rookies in rebounds (7.9), blocked shots (1.9) and steals (1.8) on a per-game basis, and has increased his output as of late, posting improved averages of 12.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.89 steals per contest this month (via Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com).
And then there’s this:
Nerlens Noel (PHI) is the youngest player (20) in NBA history to put up at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks in a game.
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) March 21, 2015
It’s tough to see Noel overtaking Wiggins at this point, but it’s at least possible. And that’s a great sign for the future of the Sixers franchise.