After being late for the team plane cost him his first start on Wednesday, Nerlens Noel had to wait two more days to take the opening tip for the Dallas Mavericks for the first time.
Boy, was it worth the wait.
After his trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, the former Kentucky big man scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds in Dallas’ 104-100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. It was the first time in Noel’s career that he recorded a 15-15 game, and it shows that the trade might be the best thing to happen to him during his NBA career.
In his third NBA season, Noel came into the contest averaging 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, but Friday night showed that he could very well elevate those numbers as front-court defenses focus on Dirk Nowitzki. He was quite active on both ends of the floor, blowing past Zach Randolph to score an impressive and-1 on offense and recording two steals and two blocks on defense.
His most impressive play of the night, however, was his second block of the game, when he emphatically stuffed All-Star Marc Gasol’s dunk attempt.
The stat that stood out the most is that Noel grabbed more rebounds than Randolph and Gasol combined (17 to 16), showing just how hard he was working. He finished an impressive 6-of-10 from the field, and led all players with a +10 plus-minus. With how dysfunctional the 76ers franchise is, getting a fresh start could be exactly what Noel needs to realize the potential many believe he has.
I have a feeling Nerlens won’t be late for the team plane anymore after this performance.