Jay Bilas has doubts about Nerlens Noel’s offensive game

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Just got off ESPN teleconference with Jay Bilas, in which the college basketball analyst said (a) he thinks Ben McLemore is the best prospect in the draft, and (b) he doesn’t see Nerlens Noel as ever being a great offensive player in the NBA.

Bilas was asked what worried he had about Noel’s offensive game?

“I’m not worried about any of him,” Bilas said. “I think you have questions about certain things. I do it a little bit differently than some of these mock drafts. I’m not projecting McLemore is going to be the first pick. What I’m saying is I think he’s the best prospect. I think he’s the most talented player in the draft. I think he’s got the most potential to be an All-Star caliber player and to do well in the league. Now he’s not without question marks. I could have done this four different ways with the top four, or multiple ways with the top four and had more combinations than that, and it wouldn’t necessarily been wrong. Some of this is an eye-of-the-beholder thing.

“It’s just interesting that with the No. 1 pick, how often for a first overall pick would we say, ‘Boy, great defender, great shot blocker, really plays hard, gets a lot of steals, really impacts the game on the defensive end. But doesn’t score and is injured.’? He’s going to be up on stage (Thursday) wherever he’s drafted, walking up on crutches. That’s unusual. And I think it does raise some questions with big guys who are injured. It’s not like he has a pulled muscle. He’s got an ACL injury.

“How concerned am I about his offense? I think he can get better and will get better. Do I think he’ll be a really good offensive player in the league? I don’t. But I think he can improve. I just don’t see a gigantic improvement coming from him on the offensive end. I think he’s always going to be limited. He doesn’t have a great offensive feel for the game. But he’s a savant on the defensive end and he’s certainly worthy of being a top three pick. And if he went No. 1, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Later in conference call, Bilas was asked again about Noel’s offense

“I don’t know that he will always be limited offensively, I just don’t see him as getting that much better. I don’t see somehow someone is going to teach him a post move and he’s going to be a Olajuown, that’s what I’m saying. I think you play that long to this point, I don’t see him turning into a guy that’s going to knock down 17-18 foot jumpers and then go into the post and have a tremendous post game. He doesn’t strike me as being that type of player.

“I’m not closing off. I think he’s going to get better, especially since he’s a hard worker, he’s a really good kid, he wants to be good. So he’s going to get better. But I’m talking about his offense getting up to All-Star potential like his defense is. His defense is All-Star. His offense is not near that and I don’t see it getting there. But you know what, what I see doesn’t matter. He’s going to do what he’s going to do irrespective of what we say. If I say he’s going to be a great offensive player or somebody else says it, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen either. It’s really up to him. We’re just kind of projecting things and evaluating.

“This is not done in a vacuum. How many top picks have we said, ‘He can’t score’ and then they turned out to be great scorers later on? If anybody can name some, I’d love to hear them because I can’t think of any. But maybe there are some and I just haven’t looked at it well enough.”

Bilas was then asked about what made Noel an All-Star on defense right now?

“He’s crazy athletic and he’s really active and he blocks a tremendous amount of shots. He blocks like five shots a game. He does it a little differently than Anthony Davis, but in a way better. He’s really active. His motor — he plays really hard. He plays hard all the time. And he’s a high-volume rebounder, he runs and he gets steals. Most guys his size aren’t getting steals. They’re not getting deflections to that rate.”

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