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Nerlens Noel an early Rookie of the Year favorite

On his way to winning Rookie of the Year last season, Michael Carter-Williams benefitted from the Sixers' pace of play and increased on-court opportunity. Now it is Nerlens Noel's turn.

On Wednesday, the NBA released its first rookie rankings since the season started, and the sixth pick of the 2013 NBA Draft is slated in the top spot.

Noel, who was right above Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, respectively, in the rankings, is looking to recreate what Blake Griffin did in 2011 when he was named Rookie of the Year after sitting the entirety of his initial season with injury issues. From

"Two games with 10 rebounds, one with five, and another with one board is a choppy start, but also typical rookie inconsistency. It's only a problem if it lasts. Besides, Noel has also had three blocks in two of the outings, six steals and five assists one night, and broke double digits in scoring twice."

Noel's advantage in the rookie race may be his ability to fill up the stat sheet in several categories, just as his former AAU-teammate Michael Carter-Williams did for the Sixers last season. While Noel's offensive production might not be as prolific as say Jabari Parker's, the former Kentucky Wildcat is able to impact the game in more ways.

Noel leads all rookies in blocks and steals per game (interesting to note that fellow Sixer K.J. McDaniels is second in blocks per game amongst all rookies), is second among all rookies in rebounding, and is third in scoring behind Parker and, somewhat surprisingly, McDaniels.

Although he is heralded for his dedication to defense, Noel has shown some slight improvement on the offensive end as well so far this season, putting himself in position to score and even pulling out a somewhat decent-looking little jumper. As Noel continues to get accustomed to the NBA game and other impact players are inserted into the roster, starting with Carter-Williams, his offensive statistics will likely only improve.

Noel is averaging 31.3 minutes per game thus far, a minute behind rookie-leader Parker. Having such ample opportunity to play is a great benefit to a developing young player like Noel. Without the immediate intention to contend, teams like the Sixers and Bucks have the luxury of giving major minutes to inexperienced players.

Assuming Noel's play continues to grow and expand throughout the season, he should have a solid shot at being the second consecutive Sixer to be named the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

Bonus: Sixers second-round selection K.J. McDaniels also made an appearance on the Rookie Ladder at the ninth spot. From

"The ability to score, the blocks as a wing, the athleticism – this is why he was getting workouts deep into the first round before the draft. McDaniels lasted until early in the second round, setting Philadelphia up for a steal. Welcome to the early returns."

The full rankings can be seen here.