I hope Nerlens Noel isn’t late for planes any more. I’m not going to write one of those 'older (slightly?) white sportswriters castigates young black athlete' pieces, but Rick Carlisle is old school in certain ways even if I’m not, and I remember him yanking Chandler Parsons’ minutes around like it was yesterday. My day job is teaching, and I’ve known plenty of students who were deeply committed, passionate, and hard-working who nevertheless felt like they had no control over their own tardiness.
The thing is, there’s no point in having a wasted season spent cultivating youth if you don’t get to play your youth. And I hope Nerlens plays a ton. I also hope Rick really likes him. It seems impossible the Mavs wouldn’t keep this young stud talent they heisted from Philly, in a position of need, but if we haven’t been exactly here before, we’ve been near here.
It wasn't long ago that Chandler Parsons, Monta Ellis, and even Rajon Rondo looked like the Mavericks’ young core. Not long ago it seemed like Tyson Chandler and Dirk would be playing together for at least a half decade. One thing I’ve learned with the Mavericks is that the door is open until a multi-year extension is signed. This feels, and hopefully is, different. But Nerlens is a restricted free agent next year and if you don’t think the Mavericks could find some reason to lowball him, you don’t know the Mavs.
Alright, enough of that. Let’s talk about what he’s done so far. As of March 3rd, Nerlens had played three games as a Maverick and logged 71 minutes. He had taken 16 shots and made nine of them. He had grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked three shots. In all but one of those games, he stayed out of foul trouble – I suspect he may not always. So it is with young centers still learning the game.
Switching to advanced stats: in his first game with the Mavericks, Nerlens had an O-Rating (points per 100 possessions) of 86 and a D-rating (the same thing, but for the other team) of 86 – low in both cases, but if O- is low, you want D- to be, too. In the second game, he had an O-rating of TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHT (!!!) and a D-rating of 97. In the third game, where he only played about 15 minutes, he had an O-rating of 127 and a D-rating of 104. That’s real good! Smallest of sample sizes, but the Mavs have so far been considerably better with Nerlens on the court than without. And yowza, that second game. I looked around just a little bit, but it doesn’t seem like (just to name two top centers) DeAndre Jordan or Marc Gasol has had that impact in a given game so far this season.
The rumor was that Nerlens Noel or Alex Len might go first in the 2013 NBA draft, and thank god he didn’t because teams are weirder about losing #1 picks than other players. He wouldn’t go first in a redraft today, but Otto Porter is the only guy drafted in front of him who’d still probably go higher. Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo would go first, and then C.J. McCollum, Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, and Ricky Ledo in some order.* But the point is, the Mavericks did get a guy with the potential to be one of the best young players in the league and have already seen a little of what he can do. May it long continue.
*editor's note: Ricky Ledo is bad at basketball but very good at being a butt of Mavericks fans' jokes.