Kentucky Basketball: Comparing Nerlens Noel's Tools to Anthony Davis'
Kentucky has landed another No. 1 prospect. I know, shocking.
Their most recent star, Anthony Davis, won the Naismith College Player of the Year en route to winning a national championship and getting selected No. 1 in the NBA draft.
So how does their new star big man, Nerlens Noel, compare to Davis?
Body and Athleticism
Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis actually have very similar body types. Noel has an inch on Davis (6'11'' to 6'10''), but Davis has a slight weight advantage (220 pounds to 215).
They are also both known for their incredible length. Davis has a 7'4'' wingspan, narrowly edging Noel's 7'3''.
There is one major difference, though. Davis was a guard growing up and didn't become a big man until a massive growth spurt in high school took him from 6'3'' to 6'10''.
Athletically they are both stellar. Both have exceptional leaping ability and are very agile for their size. They fly up and down the floor and are always a handful for opponents based on pure athleticism alone.
While that spurt turned him into the star he is today, it has also limited Davis' ability to add muscle. His body can't support it. This is the same reason Kevin Durant is still one the NBA's skinniest players.
It won't be a major con for him as Davis is so talented in every other facet of the game, but it may present problems against stronger players.
Noel on the other hand, is a big man born and raised. While he's still fairly skinny now, he has the frame to add more muscle. Ideally, his playing weight should be around 240 pounds, and he has plenty of time to add it.
By the way, we have to talk about their hair. Davis is known for his now trademarked unibrow. Noel has a classic high top fade. What is it with Kentucky big men and ridiculous hair cuts? Noel looks like Gerald from Hey Arnold.
John Calipari has to do something about this. I'm not saying he should enforce some sort of Yankees-esque facial hair ban, but he should prevent cartoon haircuts.
Anthony Davis isn't a particularly proficient offensive player. Last year at Kentucky he averaged only 14.2 points per game, a solid number but definitely not spectacular.
In fairness to him, he had an incredible 62.3 field-goal percentage, but he also only had an 18.8 percent usage rate. That means Kentucky was featuring him less on offense than most franchise players.
This isn't necessarily a flaw in Davis' game, it's just a consequence of his growth spurt. He hasn't developed a low-post game yet. That means he scores most on his athleticism. This may change in the pros, but for now it's his biggest offensive flaw.
Noel has more low-post moves in his arsenal. While his offensive skill set is far from perfect, he's fairly far along for a college freshman.
Noel is also an excellent passing big man. He's not quite on the elite level of a Chris Webber or Bill Walton, but he will be able to affect games by passing the ball.
Neither player has a particularly versatile offensive game. They don't shoot many jumpers and neither has three-point range.
While Davis has a ton of upside, Noel is further along offensively than Davis was at this point. He also has the frame to add more muscle, giving him an edge going forward. Expect Noel to be the better offensive player in the end.
As good as both of these guys can be on offense, they'll always be known for their defense. Both are top-flight defenders who should compete for Defensive Player of the Year awards in the NBA for at least a decade.
Their biggest strength is shot blocking. Davis averaged 4.7 blocks per game last year, and Noel should come close to that number.
The difference is that Davis is a lot smarter about his blocks. He has been compared to Bill Russell in his ability to keep blocked shots inbounds. This gives his team a chance to keep the ball rather than giving it right back to the offense.
Noel, on the other hand, likes to send his blocked shots into the stands. While this can be useful occasionally for intimidation, it generally doesn't help as much because it means the offense gets the ball back.
This might indicate a maturity issue with Noel. Is he more concerned with getting the block or showing off? There are no other major concerns with his personality, so this seems like an outlier, but it's something Noel needs to work on.
In terms of where they get their blocks, they're pretty similar. Davis may block a few more jump shots, but both know how to affect shots all around the floor. They both do terrific jobs of keeping players away from the rim.
If either has a flaw, it would be defending stronger big men. This is just due to their lack of muscle for their size. It isn't a major concern, but it's something to keep in mind.
Overall both of these guys are defensive stars. Kentucky won't miss much in swapping Davis for Noel.
Overall Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel are very similar players. Both are defensive studs with improving offensive games.
If I had to pick one, I'd take Davis just because he's a smarter defender. However, Noel isn't far behind. In fact, I'd say he has a slightly higher upside if he can just put on some muscle.
Don't worry Kentucky fans, You aren't missing much with Davis gone.