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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / November 18.
  • Brey, NBA Scouts: Unfair to Compare Nerlens Noel to Anthony Davis

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    With his team about to face Kentucky Thursday night in the SEC/Big East Challenge, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey says it’s unfair to compare Kentucky freshmen center Nerlens Noel to Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets.

    “It’s kind of unfair to Nerlens to be making the Anthony Davis comparison even though it’s unescapable,” Brey said Tuesday on a conference call. “I guess it’s just going to happen.

    “Let Noel just develop as he’s developing.”

    Several NBA scouts agree.

    “Anthony Davis is going to be in the Hall of Fame, so to compare anybody to Anthony Davis is not going to end up being fair,” one NBA Director of Scouting told SNY.tv.

    Davis grew up as a guard before enjoying a huge growth spurt as a junior in high school in Chicago. Thus, his ball-handling skills were advanced and NBA scouts believe he can eventually play small forward in the NBA.

    Noel, by contrast, has always been known as a shot-blocking, rebounding big man.

    “I think more than anything else, the basketball IQ [between them is different],” a second NBA scout told SNY.tv.

    “I think Anthony Davis’s IQ is so high that he’s unique that way. I mean, this is a guy that was a small player,  a two guard, who could handle the ball, do all those things. I mean, Nerlens could never be a ball-handler. He’s not a passer, ball-handler guy.

    “Davis has a chance in an NBA game to go out and do some things as a small forward. Tremendous passer, tremendously skilled, can actually shoot the ball facing the basket. Noel can’t do any of that. He can’t handle. He cannot shoot outside the lane. He’s got no chance of making shots out there right now. His basketball IQ is not where Anthony Davis’s is. The skill level is not close.”

    Through five games, the 6-foot-10 Noel actually stacks up fairly well on a pure numbers basis in comparison with Davis at Kentucky.

    According to the Kentucky Athletics department, it looks like this after five games:

    Points: Anthony Davis – 63 / Nerlens Noel – 62

    Rebounds: Davis – 37 / Noel – 43

    Assists: Davis – 7 / Noel – 15

    Steals: Davis – 5 / Noel 13

    Blocks: Davis – 22 / Noel 18

    For his part, Brey is impressed with some aspects of Noel’s game.

    “The one thing I’m very impressed with is how good Noel is with the ball,” Brey said. “He’s a heck of a passer. What I remember from watching him on the AAU circuit, he was so unselfish with his AAU team and he continues to be that. So I think that’s something that may be lost in the shuffle when you think about him as a shot-blocker and a guy who plays around the rim and finishes. I’m just so impressed with his basketball IQ.

    “And if you look, John [Calipari] has him catching the ball at the high post a lot and doing a lot of dribble exchanges. That’s how good they feel about him making plays with the ball in his hands.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.