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Nerlens Noel for NBA Rookie of the Year: Why The Odds Are Against Him

When it comes to overtaking Andrew Wiggins for the lead in the NBA's Rookie of the Year race, Philadelphia 76ers' center Nerlens Noel has his work cut out for him.

Nerlens Noel stands tall among rookies... but not tall enough to overtake Andrew Wiggins for ROY
Nerlens Noel stands tall among rookies... but not tall enough to overtake Andrew Wiggins for ROY
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The revolution may not be televised, but the race for the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award definitely is. It also happens to be on Vine.

You've seen the clip of Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins baptizing Utah's Rudy Gobert, haven't you? My apologies: I probably should have been more specific. I was referring to the second time he punched on the Utah Jazz center, although the first time was impressive in its own right.

Let's not forget the time where Wiggins caught Josh Smith with a two-handed flush. And the time he glided past Kevin Love en route to a 27-point performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

To borrow a phrase from Emmitt Smith, Wiggins may be a "diamond surrounded by trash" out in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but his penchant for highlight-reel plays has undoubtedly given him a leg up on Nerlens Noel for Rookie of the Year honors.

Social media plays a significant role in award voting these days, and it's not a stretch to say that Wiggins could be the poster child for the Vine/Instagram/Periscope generation. Noel? Not so much. Blocks are cool, but they lack a certain cachet. A certain... sexiness, if you will. Sure, everyone loves when a player goes full Karch Kiraly and spikes a shot into the second row (everyone except Bill Russell, that is), but blocks don't move the needle, at least not on a national level.

(This rejection of Houston's James Harden was pretty note-worthy, however.)

The scant few who actually pay attention to the Philadelphia 76ers on a regular basis realize how ridiculous Noel has been post-All-Star break (13.4 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 2.2 SPG, 11 double-doubles in 25 games). And quite frankly, it's pretty remarkable that a 6'11" big man leads all rookies in rebounds and blocks and steals, but when it comes right down to it, points are sexy, and Noel simply hasn't scored enough throughout the season to make most voters notice.

Only the immortal Don "Monk" Meineke was able to capture the NBA's Rookie of the Year trophy by averaging less than 11 PPG. For what it's worth, Meineke averaged 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game during his rookie season for the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1952-53. It should be noted that it was also the first year that the NBA handed out the award.

Also working against Noel is the fact that he hasn't been markedly better than his competition over the past few weeks. Wiggins is averaging 19.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game since the All-Star Break, and the numbers Chicago's Nikola Mirotic put up in March (20.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG) have officially made the Rookie of the Year race something of a triple-threat, falls count anywhere, ladder match.

Scott Howard-Cooper of recently polled 16 media members, and 75 percent of them said that they would definitely select Wiggins as the Rookie of the Year. With only a week left in the regular season, there's simply not enough time for Noel to change the hearts and minds of voters who are already locked in on other candidates.

So it's unlikely that the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy will make a return visit to the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center. But Sixers' fans can take solace in the fact that even without the accolades, Nerlens Noel has firmly established himself as one of the best young big men in the game today.

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