Could Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein Be CBB's Next Twin Towers?
These two extremely long (Noel is listed at 6'10" and 228 and Cauley Stein at 7' and 244) and extremely talented freshmen frontcourt players are suiting up for the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats.
From the time that both of these young stars announced that they were coming to UK, members of the Big Blue Nation have been drooling with the possibility of Noel and Cauley-Stein going to battle side by side.
But that possibility raises several questions:
Do they complement or conflict with each other?
Would one or both be able to guard a 4 away from the basket?
If they were both near the paint, would any team have a chance of getting shots up?
Because Noel and Cauley-Stein are extremely mobile and have great bounce, they are ridiculous shot-blockers with unnerving defensive instincts.
Individually, they are intimidating. Together, they could be absurd.
Because of their agility, either player could potentially move away from the basket to defend a stretch 4 who moves out to the perimeter.
The place that would need attention and creativity is on the offensive end.
John Calipari's "Dribble Drive Motion Offense" is primarily a "four-out" arrangement.
Normally, one player sets up in the post while the other four players on the perimeter use their dribble to get into the paint and to the rim. Open layups and perimeter jump shots are the primary goals of this scheme.
The third option is what Anthony Davis leveraged last year. When the ball gets into the lane, players on the weak side back door their man for an alley-oop dunk.
Offensively, both Noel and Cauley-Stein are raw. They are far better close to the basket than they are facing up from mid-range or distance.
At this time, neither would be very effective putting the ball on the deck and trying to get to the basket off the dribble.
If (or when) Coach Cal puts Noel and Cauley-Stein on the floor at the same time, he will have to vary his normal approach and might have to use a high-low post set-up.
Eric Lindsey of Cat Scratches, the official blog of UK athletics, asked Calipari recently about the chance of playing them together. He said:
I may stack them together, put them both on the same side of the court. I may put them on the elbow. I'm going to mess around. I don't know how much per game we'll play those two. I really have no idea. It may be five minutes, 15 minutes. What if they're both really good together? It may be 25 minutes. So I don't know yet.
If Calipari wants to stay closer to his standard approach, he might use Kyle Wiltjer at PF.
Wiltjer (6'10", 239 pounds) is a great shooter (43.2 percent from beyond the arc), but isn't nearly as capable on defense or rebounding as Noel or Cauley-Stein.
Since Calipari is not generally an "inside the box" kind of coach, I would expect to see lots of experiments early in the season.
And, I wouldn't be surprised to see Twin Towers on the Lexington skyline in the near future.
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