1. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (Last week: 1)
A very quiet end to the season -- missing the last two-plus games and possibly the finale because of a sprained ankle -- does nothing to temper the success story. Going from sitting out all 2013-14 while recovering from surgery on the left knee to zero games out because of the knee, and averaging 30.8 minutes, would have been accomplishment enough. But Noel, though laboring on offense, also played at a very high level on defense. He did so sometimes at power forward and sometimes as an undersized center (230 pounds) and mostly as a 20-year-old, before having another birthday last Friday. Now imagine Noel when he has more muscle and more experience.
Even before my rookie season, starting in 2013, I worked closely with Brett to completely rebuild my shot. He didn't even want me to bring my guide hand over until January of last season. The early focus was one-handed shots with a tight elbow setup just to keep the technique. Before then, I would shoot with a release from the side of my head and the ball would rotate sideways. In fact, at Kentucky, I hadn't taken a jump shot the whole year. But I was able to finish at nearly 61 percent from the free-throw line this season, which was the team's goal for me.