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Norvel Pelle: A Rare-Breed Two-Way Player for 76ers

By Keith Schlosser | October 17, 2019

For many young talents, playing out a Two-Way contract during their rookie season is a great way to gain that first exposure into professional life and the intensity of competition at the next level. It’s a relatively low pressure situation that allows them to grow, while still getting a taste of the NBA.

But at 26 years old, Norvel Pelle is by no means a raw prospect starving for such opportunities. It took him a tad longer to reach Two-Way Player status, but now that he’s here, both he and the 76ers are primed to reap the benefits of such a pact. There’s something to be said about nurturing someone from the ground up. Even if they’re not ready to contribute from day one, an investment into their future may mean finding a bigger pot of gold at the end of the tunnel.

Pelle’s pro journey with the 76ers began during the 2013-14 season, when he forwent a collegiate career and debuted with the NBA G League affiliate Delaware Blue Coats. He played 35 games as a seldom-used backup, averaging 5.5 points in 13.1 minutes per contest. Though he was applauded for his natural athletic gifts, the 20-year old rookie was prone to committing early and unnecessary fouls. While going through such growing pains, the big man also needed to improve his conditioning if he wanted to create a path to The Association for himself. Alas, everyone starts somewhere.

That was nearly six years ago. Pelle used such a campaign as a learning experience. Despite briefly returning to Delaware for four games the following year, the budding prospect truly continued to flourish while playing three professional seasons abroad. Seemingly more focused on realizing that early potential more than ever, it was as if Pelle didn’t even look the NBA’s way again in the meantime. It wasn’t the right time, and perhaps he knew that.

Clearly gone but not forgotten, Pelle was brought into NBA training camp ahead of the 2018-19 season. In a true ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment, the big man’s return to stateside competition came on the heels of his sixth professional campaign. Much time had passed.

The team that took a chance on him? The 76ers. The organization was always confident in what Pelle could do way back then, but also likely quite curious on what he’d worked on. He was allocated back to Delaware as an affiliate player. The big man had a rare opportunity to demonstrate increased maturity on and off the court. Grabbing the bull by the horns with full force, Pelle once and for all barreled down the door to the NBA that previously stood in his way.

Last season in the NBA G League, Pelle proved that he was capable of rising up as a truly dominant defensive force and an obvious offensive threat. Averaging 11.1 points on 70.3% shooting from the field, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks game, he looked as polished as ever, emerging as a top-3 finisher in both Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player voting. His physical presence, now paired with steady big league-level instincts, helped him throw block parties on a nightly basis. Scoring wise, his obvious bread and butter stemmed from his ability to attack and clean up the offensive glass with ease.

Having followed him before and allowing him to merely scratch the pro surface within their system from the start, such on-the-court validation was all Philadelphia needed to confirm what they began to uncover with him very early on. Signing him to a Two-Way contract before NBA Summer League even started, the 76ers rewarded Pelle for his hard work and took a deeper dive toward investing into the next step of his future.

26 years old, heading into his seventh professional season, Pelle is indeed a rare breed when it comes to Two-Way Players. It could be a refreshing change. With a proven set of skills, he can truly be an extension of the 76ers’ club, able to be called upon at a moment’s notice. He can contribute right away, not scared off by the bright lights or imposing competition that will greet him in Philadelphia. On the flip side, while he spends time in Delaware, he can share his experiences with those who are hungry to follow his footsteps.

It’s the best of both worlds and the time is ideal for Pelle to break ground on an NBA career.

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