Big Blue Nation knew entering the season that it would take some time for Nerlens Noel to get adjusted to the speed of the game. He wasn’t supposed to be able to put of 16 points while using an effective arsenal of post moves. He was supposed to be a presence in the paint, and a more experienced shot blocker than Anthony Davis. After two games, Nerlens has given up a combined 41 points and 15 rebounds. We didn’t expect him to struggle on this side of the ball, but Noel has probably never had to guard an elite post, relying on his shot blocking ability in high school.
What can Nerlens do to improve his defensive game?
1. Quit Gambling so much. In last night’s first half, Nerlens was a little too bold defending in the post. While denying Plumlee the ball on the block, he went for too many passes that he simply didn’t have a chance at ever stealing, leaving Plumlee with nobody in between him and the rim. You could tell that Cal beat this into his head at halftime. In the 2nd half he ended up making Plumlee score over him and played a bit more conservatively. If he would’ve forced Plumlee to prove that he could score over him early on, he may not have gotten into his zone and only missed 1 FG. Although Noel had 4 steals, they didn’t happen when he was guarding the post.
2. Stay on his feet. For a guy that should know how to time a shot block, he hasn’t had the best timing so far. 3 blocks is good, but he gave experienced Dukies too much wiggle room inside. I can count 3 times where Nerlens helped on a driving guard and left his feet. In doing so he gave the SR Duke guards an open lane to dump the ball off to Nerlens’ open man. If I could talk to Nerlens I’d say, “DUDE, YOU’RE 7 FOOT! You don’t have to jump that high to block a little guard’s shot.” Every time a young player leaves his feet, he leaves the entire defense vulnerable and there is a much better chance that he’ll commit a foul.
3. Make it Nasty. The Georgetown teams with Patrick Ewing in the 80s had swagger. They intimidated other teams with their inside game. They dominated the paint and sometimes would even take a goal tending call in the first few minutes just to flex their muscles. Nerlens can’t let another big man get on a roll to start the game. He can start by not letting them catch the ball so deep into the lane. Instead of catching it 6 feet from the basket, make that guy score over you from 8-10 feet. Nerlens is strong enough, he just has to get acquainted with how much he can push people around without getting stupid fouls.