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Davis v. Noel: Block Efficiency

Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis have numerous things in common; they’re tall, good at basketball, and have very interesting hair styles to name a few. While the two are known for many things, their innate ability to infuriate opposing offenses with their shot blocking presence garners the most attention. As I’m sure you can vividly recall, Noel had quite the defensive game against Ole Miss on Tuesday night, sending back a school record of 12 shot attempts.  Because of his spectacular defensive effort, he surpassed Anthony Davis’ record for blocked shots through 20 games, a record in which many thought was out of reach just weeks before.  Of course, now that Noel is ahead of Davis’ obscene block pace, many are debating which of the duo is superior at sending back opponent shots.  Since I was one of the people wondering that same question, I did some research using advanced (and not so advanced) statistics to see if either player truly holds an advantage in rejections.

According to both ESPN and, Noel has 94 blocks.

Some of the above terms may be new or confusing to some, but fret not, they’re actually pretty simple to understand.  The first two columns, “total shots blocked” and “per game” are self explanatory, they contain the total number of blocks and the per game average.  Blocks per-40 minutes is slightly more complicated, but it’s merely blocked shots divided by minutes played then multiplied by 40. This represents what a player “should” accomplish, provided they play the entirety of a game.  Block Percentage is a more advanced way of examining rejections.  This stat accounts for total blocks, minutes played, and opposing two point shot attempts.  Though not perfect, this metric is great for a tempo-free style of analysis.  The final column, block recovery percentage, is the percentage of rejections recovered by either that player or his teammates.


While Noel holds an ever so slight edge over Davis in total blocks and blocks per game, Davis leads Noel in all other categories, albeit very slightly. This is due to two simple reasons, minutes played and opponent shot attempts.  Last season, Anthony Davis (through 20 games) played 76% of team minutes, or 30.5 per game.  Currently, Noel is playing 80% of team minutes, or 32 per game.  Since Noel has played a greater percentage of minutes, and both he and Davis blocked a similar number of shots, Davis finds himself ahead of Nerlens in the “per-40 minute” category. The other reason for Davis’ lead in the advanced categories is opponent two-point attempts.  Through this point last season, Kentucky’s opponents took 836 two-point attempts. Compare that to this season’s number of 888, and you’ll see why Nerlens’ percentage of blocked shots is lower than his predecessor.

Even though both players are putting up similar numbers, I personally find it difficult to compare the two on defense for multiple reasons. First, Noel’s defensive play is nearly 100% interior focused while Davis was a more versatile defender.  Second reason, Noel’s blocks come primarily as the main defender while a higher percentage of Davis’ blocks came as a help defender.  Despite the eerily similar statistics, the two have very different styles of play, which makes comparison difficult.  If this were solely an on paper comparison, it’d be near impossible to choose a winner between the two. Likewise, if you wanted to build a defense from scratch, it’d be difficult to choose from the pair given their unique individual abilities. While the two are near indistinguishable on paper and influence the game in different ways, there’s no denying their defensive impact is other worldly.


Article written by Jonathan Schuette

35 Comments for Davis v. Noel: Block Efficiency

  1. Leon snelren
    8:03 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Noel has 95 blocks not 94

  2. UKGuy25
    8:08 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    He has 95 blocks and 47 steals. That’s a whole lot of defense. Crazy numbers.

  3. Iron Sheik
    8:12 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Nerlens = BEAST

  4. ALEX
    8:13 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    i don’t understand stupid numbers.

  5. RealTalk
    8:15 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I never understand why people forget about steals when they compare Davis and Noel. It’s like everyone thinks blocks are te only relevent defensive stat. Steals are much not beneficial as you gain possession on 100% of steals and only half of blocks(if you’re lucky). For that reason I think Noel has an edge on Davis as far as defense is concerned. Of course I’m not accounting for unseen factors like intimidation.

  6. Wayne
    8:21 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Marshall Henderson tweeted Nerlens today, Nerlens blocked it too!!

  7. JLP
    8:25 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I love Nerlens.But give me AD to build a team around. It’s whisker close defensively though. Thankful UK got two spectacular defenders in a row. Maybe Marcus Lee will break the shot blocking record of Nerlens/Anthony! Wouldn’t that be something.

  8. JLP
    8:27 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    And then Towns will come in and set a new record!

  9. Jpo
    8:30 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Ya don’t forget Noel’s outrageous steal numbers

  10. Skeller03
    8:30 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    It would be interesting to examine the block numbers if Nerlens had a teammate similar to Terrence Jones like Anthony did. Anthony was able to leave his own man and go for the block because Terrence was still under the rim going for the rebounds — Nerlens doesn’t have that luxury.

  11. Linda Taylor
    8:38 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    They were calling us point guard U. Now can there be any doubt with who we have in the pipe-line we are also shot-blocker U? Can you imagine the 4-year total record of shots blocked by UK teams by the end of Karl Towns’ freshman season? Mind boggling.

  12. C'm on man
    8:40 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Noel and AD are close to a push. AD was a better offensive player so you have to give him the nod.
    I’m more impressed with Noel’s actions off the court then any thing else. The talent and being almost 7′ is god given and Noel has worked hard and taken advantage of his talent for sure! I’m sure he has put in hours of hard work to be as good as he is.
    The work he has done off the court, however is by choice. Noel has visited kids in the hospital, visited schools to be a GREAT role model for kids, and seeing how he acted to Lane Goodwin was nothing short of heartwarming.i noticed when he was talking to Goodwin on the computer he also had a kid with him who was suffering with cancer as well. Great to see such a good kid after seeing all the negativity following so many athletes!!!!!!!

  13. Paul Orberson
    8:46 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I bought both of those players with my pyramid scheme money. Cal and I are friends. He better have my back or this could get ugly. Watch out.

  14. oldschool
    8:47 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    12. Only teams with juniors – and seniors – give back to their community. Kind of like Indiana. You know 4 years ago both Crean – and Calipari – took over programs. Look at where IU is now – this is Cal system in full effect. I hope you’re happy BBN!!!

  15. C'm on man
    8:50 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Wall, Bledsoe, Knight, Teague, and Harrow.
    Cousins,Orton,Jorts,AD, and Noel. I’m not sure which group has been the best under Cal. Cal is supposed to be known for his great run of PG , but at UK is sure is hard to say that is group of big men hasn’t been the most impressive. Some will say Jorts doesn’t belong but I would disagree he made himself a good center with considerable less talent then his teammates! Orton left on bad terms and I don’t think he ever felt like a “Cal guy” but he played OK during his year here.

  16. oldschool
    8:51 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I would like to be slapped violently in the face with Tom Crean’s penis.

  17. buck
    8:55 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    @14. You mean defending champs while IU has won nothing yet? yes i am happy.

  18. BBN
    8:58 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    @ oldschool – Couldn’t be happier. Cal has already brought us an 8th championship inside of those 4 years with his system. Call us when Crean wins one. LMAO!

  19. C'm on man
    8:58 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    14) I see what your saying! You just can’t get to know these kids in 1 year! They are “rented mules” who only care about laboring for a year on their way to the NBA.
    All joking aside we have been blessed to have had kids like Noel and MKG. The state has been better for having them. I can’t think of anyone who has represented our state any better then these young men. In a time when most athletes act entitled Cal has brought in some high character kids and to answer the question. Yes the BBN is HAPPY!!!!!!!!!

  20. SevenUpYours
    8:59 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    #14 – Cal gave us a Championship…Crean hasn’t don’t that…I’ll take Cal any day…
    #15 – Orton was a Diva, I agree about Jorts

  21. Jon Hadley
    9:00 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I will be updating the stats of all former wildcats on twitter very single night. Follow me on twitter.


  22. oldschool
    9:03 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    17. Irrelevant – quit changing the subject.

  23. oldschool
    9:05 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I’ll be back to post more – right after UK loses.

  24. C'm on man
    9:08 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    As some who lost my father the cancer at a young age it just really impresses the hell out of me to see a kid do some of the things Noel has done. It might seem like a small act to some, but I know it’s huge to the kids at that age. I promise the kids he is spending time with now will never forget it. I would say in some cases it’s the only happy time some of these families will see for a long time.
    It’s great to see a kid use his basketball fame to do such great things off the court!

  25. C'm on man
    9:17 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    20) I agree Orton was a diva, but if it wasn’t for him leaving early and acting like a diva plus Enis getting hosed by the NCAA Jorts more then Likely would have never got his chance.i guess alls well that ends well.

  26. buck
    9:18 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    And what are your Juniors and Seniors giving back to IU? Last report a former IU player was charged with attempted murder.

  27. Skeller03
    9:21 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    oldschool – I’ll take Cal’s three years of tournament results – including a national championship – to Crean’s, what? A trip to the sweet sixteen and buzzer beater against the future national champions? We have potentially 1 down year (which isn’t even over yet) and it’s suddenly “Cal’s system doesn’t work”. You must be one of those delusional fans who thinks that Cal is scared to play in Assembly Hall.. We refuse to play in Assembly Hall because we had fans injured at that game. Would you support playing an away game where some of your fans had previously been injured by opposing fans? Most likely not. I remember Crean refused 2 neutral site games IN INDIANA. You Loosiers like to overlook that fact.

  28. Rae
    9:26 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    25. Exactly. It was nice for Jorts to get his chance since Enes was still getting drafted anyway. I think Cal wanted rid of Orton or he would have pressured him to stay.

  29. Blue Jesus
    9:47 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    Imagine if they were on the same team though. One great on ball blocker and another great help-defense blocker. That would be a stingy defenseā€¦

  30. bluefan
    9:56 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    I still don’t like to see these kids compared to each other.
    It would have been interesting indeed to see what Nerlens might have done with a couple of sophmores and a senior as part of his team. Love both kids but comparison just can’t be fair.

    Gonna be a different story too, if this team ever learns the auto-lob. Not fair to Nerlens that that just doesn’t seem to be part of this year’s offense.

  31. Dane Brammage
    10:21 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    “Crean is married to Joani Harbaugh, whom he met while an assistant to Ralph Willard at WKU through a mutual friend, Ron Burns, at a gym where she was working as an aerobics instructor.[4] Her father, Jack Harbaugh, was the head football coach at Western Kentucky University at the time Crean was an assistant basketball coach. She is also the sister of the first pair of brothers in NFL history to serve as head coaches:[5], Baltimore Ravens head football coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers head football coach Jim Harbaugh (a former quarterback at both the University of Michigan and in the NFL”. – Wikipedia
    Crean and his wife have three children: WishIwasatUK, Perhaps1dayIwillbee, and Wannabesobadly. – Dane Brammage

  32. My take
    10:38 pm January 31, 2013 Permalink

    AD and NN both great players but so different they cannot be compared. Complete baller? I have to take AD for his offensive skills. AD was a freak of nature- grew up as a point guard then grew to 6-11 and kept his coordination, ball-handling and shooting. Remember AD shooting the 3 when left open? Even better, the 10-12 foot jumpshots? Matchup nightmare for opponents. And AD’s dunks? Spectacularly corralling any lob that was in the vicinity of the backboard, adjusting in the air and slamming it home. He caught a lot of lobs at the 12-foot level or higher. But AD had a better supporting cast. When he went for the block, his teammates covered up with help defense. Multiple offensive weapons last year freed AD more, better passers last year, a lock-down defender in MKG, etc. NN is quicker and faster up and down the court. Faster hands for the steals. Blocks in the lane are about equal, but AD did go out and block the 3 as well- AD must have more leaping reach than NN. Here’s a hypothetical- if NN had played last year in place of AD, would Cats have #8? Answer doesn’t matter, Cats did get #8 and NN is a very special player on a decidedly weaker team. I wouldn’t trade either one!

  33. Wildcatsteeler
    3:28 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Only difference between these two? The players around them.

  34. Blueneck
    10:26 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    What is the point in comparing the two? Insecure people get caught up in such comparisons. Intelligent players recognize them both as amazing talents. Rather than being hung up on just one stat I personally care more about who is more vital to their team winning, to me that is just an opinion and I think it is Noel even though he is the lesser overall player.

    As for stats analysis, strength of schedule is not included. Block efficiency is irrelevant to whether he breaks the record since it is largely determined by minutes played. The biggest omission, and reason NN won’t break the record is he won’t have as many total games played.

  35. theWilkman
    10:27 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    The Hornets/Pelicans should bomb the season and draft Noel as well. Let him play 5, Davis 4. Good luck making buckets around that basket