It was only one game, but what an impactful debut for new Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel.
The 22-year-old finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block in 30 minutes Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans. The 6-foot-11 Noel displayed his dribbling ability in leading a fast break and used his lanky frame to disrupt the Pelicans in the paint.
In essence, Noel was everything as advertised in the Mavs’ 96-83 triumph over New Orleans.
I think I can help this team in every aspect.
Mavs center Nerlens Noel
“He’s an athletic big; he runs the floor well, so I think he’ll give us a different dimension that we really haven’t had this season,” forward Harrison Barnes said. “When you look at this season, rebounding has been an Achilles heel of ours.
“We play a lot of small lineups, so to be able to have somebody like him, we can not only play fast but he also protects the rim, and I think that helps us a lot.”
No longer will teams be able to waltz inside for an easy layup or muscle their way to the basket with little resistance. A wall will be there to greet them in the form of Noel.
“I’m ecstatic,” Noel said. “I think this is a unique situation. I’m really excited about all the veterans that we have here and I have an opportunity to learn from.”
The Mavs signed a pair of young free agents — forward Ben Bentil (6-9, 235) and guard Quinn Cook (6-2, 180) — to 10-day contracts Sunday. That brought up their roster to the NBA maximum of 15 and gave them 10 players who are 26 years old or younger.
In the meantime, Noel gives the Mavs confidence that if they miss a defensive assignment on the perimeter, he’ll be the last line of defense and effectively clean up the mess.
I think he’ll give us a different dimension that we really haven’t had this season.
Mavs forward Harrison Barnes on Nerlens Noel
“I think I can help this team in every aspect,” Noel said. “Everything defensively, and I think I can open up a lot of things on the offensive end.
“[That includes] pick-and-roll, using my athletic ability to roll straight to the rim and open up some things for the 3-point shooters, and I think overall just my game-changing ways and just making the right plays and just playing off of instincts and just playing hard with energy.”
The Mavs (23-35) hope that Noel will maintain that energy Monday night at 7:30 when they host the red-hot Miami Heat (27-32) at American Airlines Center.
Rolling out comparisons of Noel to Tyson Chandler has been floated around since the Mavs acquired the former Kentucky product in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. It’s a comparison not disputed by Barnes, who tallied a team-high 19 points in the win over the Pelicans.
Nerlens Noel was drafted sixth overall in 2013 out of Kentucky.
“There are a lot of similarities, but Noel doesn’t necessarily have the body Tyson has,” Barnes said. “But I think he competes hard, he can run, he’s athletic, rolls [to the basket], and he’s quick off the floor.
“I think he’s got a lot of attributes that Tyson has.”
And Noel was able to display those attributes in a very impactful way against the Pelicans.