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Norvel Pelle looks to bring shot-blocking, defensive energy to Sixers’ Summer League team

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Pelle is a rim-protecting force under the paint who could thrive at center in July with Philadelphia.

NBA: Summer League-Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s assume and say during last year’s July you scrolled through NBATV or ESPN to get your summer basketball fix. Markelle Fultz satiated our palettes with hesi-stepback-jimbos and Jonah Bolden looked the part of a 3-and-D big. Also, maybe you happened to gloss over Miami’s 2017 Summer League, as center Norvel Pelle wowed spectators with his shot-blocking and elevation. Now, the Antigua native joins the 2018 Summer Sixers with aspirations to bring defensive intensity in abundance.

Pelle, originally drafted by the Delaware 87ers with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 D-League Draft following prep school in California, combines a wiry 6’11”, 210-pound frame and a 7’2” wingspan to engulf shots as they’re floating. Against the Memphis Grizzlies last summer, Pelle rejected three shots in different motions. He’s a pogo stick big man with a mastery of how to protect the ball from entering the cylinder.

Pelle credits his instincts when meeting an opponent at the rim or tasked with having to help on the weakside.

“Timing. My timing is crazy when I’m blocking shots, because I can time it to a point where it looks like you’re cleared to go or it looks like you have the open lane and then I just come over and I block the shot,” Pelle said. “Even on floaters, I get called so many times for goaltending when it’s really not a goaltend because I’m able to reach it at the point where it’s on its way up and on its way down.”

Pelle recorded nine blocks in 64.3 total minutes for Miami’s Summer League team, an average of 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes. Given Jonah Bolden’s arrival to this year’s team, Pelle’s minutes take a bit of damage but he’s still embodying the defensive enforcer role.

Pelle played for Varese and Fiat Torino in the Italian Lega Basket Serie A, per RealGM, last season and his offensive game is reminiscent of DeAndre Jordan. Pelle shot 64.4 percent from the floor as a lob threat, rim-running big who can finish around the basket despite his lack of floor spacing.

Pelle is also very adept from the line, conversely from Jordan, shooting 68.1 percent in 29 total games. As a 25-year-old veteran in certain aspects during Summer League, Pelle’s experience should prove vital. He understands his role on both ends of the floor.

“Basically, just protect the rim on the defensive end, and once I get the ball in the post just do what I have to do.”

Pelle isn’t solely a rim-protector, either. During the offseason, he plays pickup with his friends who are guards that challenge him to defend along the perimeter. Their quicks present a unique obstacle for the much taller Pelle. His build and skillset reminds me of Nerlens Noel, via creating havoc along the perimeter defensively while doubling as a sentry at the rim.

Both Landry Shamet and Demetrius Jackson could serve as alley-oop initiators in tandem with Pelle while his defensive ability makes him an intriguing Summer Sixer to monitor.