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Nerlens Noel Won't Play, But His Vertical Has Improved

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With 5 games left in this tanktastic 2013-14 season, all signs point to the No. 6 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft not making his NBA debut this season.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel spoke to the Philadelphia media for the first time since he was introduced as a member of the 76ers on Monday, sending the beats and other reporters at practice into a frenzy wondering whether he'll make his NBA debut this season.

"Obviously I do want to play," Noel told reporters in Philadelphia. "I'm a 19-year-old who's been sitting down on the sideline really wanting to get out there and show my abilities and to be able to play ball."

But that's just not going to happen.

Noel admitted to the reporters that his 4-4-14 tweet was out of hope he would make his debut in his hometown of Boston. Noel added his knee is "100 percent," said he's gained over 3 inches on his vertical leap (!) since before the surgery and overall is "stronger and moving around well."

But that doesn't mean he's ready for NBA game action.

Last week, I was texting former Memphis Tigers forward and recent Milwaukee Bucks 10-day contract signee D.J. Stephens, an athletic freak who registered the highest-measured vertical leap in NBA combine history, and even he said the speed of the NBA is bewildering when you first step out on the court.

Ken Pomeroy has said the average college game has about 2 possessions per minute. The average NBA game this season consists of about 2.2 possessions per minute. That might not seem like much, but extrapolated over the extra 8 minutes in an NBA game, that's huge. This is largely created by the shot clocks as well. Still ridiculous that the NCAA hasn't cut into the 35-second shot clock.

With that in mind, putting Noel into an NBA game tonight against the Toronto Raptors would be the equivalent of a kid playing two months (Noel got cleared for "limited on-court work" in January) of pickup at his college gym and then being dropped into crunch time of the Final Four. The Sixers recognize that fact and that's why he's not playing this season.

It makes far more sense to run Noel through the normal rookie process — Summer League into preseason ball into the regular season — before he gets actual NBA minutes. You'd rather your kid take your car for a drive around the block before letting him gun it on the highway.