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How Can Noel Improve?



The one constant in Kentucky’s topsy-turvy basketball season has, thus far, been the play of Nerlens Noel (Arrgh-chie moments don’t count). Averaging 10.6 PPG, 9.6 RBG, and 4.5 BPG, there have been countless times that Nerlens’ hustle has single-handedly kept Kentucky in the game- and for that, we tend to avoid critiquing him.


However, there are two ways Noel could improve his game, especially on an offensively-challenged team like this year’s Cats. The first is pretty simple- free throw shooting. At 53% on the season, teams we face from here on out will likely choose a hack-a-flattop strategy when it comes to playing defense against the feller. There’s not that much else to discuss here- we talkin bout practice, guys. Noel should be ending every practice by shooting extra free throws before he leaves the court.


The second way Nerlens could improve his game comes from Michael Veneziano of ESPN Stats and Info. Veneziano compares Noel’s blocks to those of Kansas senior Jeff Withey’s, who’s been posting similar numbers. Withey currently has 258 career blocks for Kansas and averages 4.0 BPG, but the big difference between him and Noel’s play is in the results of their blocks. Check out these pie graphs:


Basically, Noel is more likely to play “get the eff out of here” with any shot that comes his way, while Withey shows more ability to direct the rejection into another teammate’s hands. Withey’s 71 blocks (out of 93 total) in which his team retained possession have led to 66 Kansas points, while Noel’s 56 (out of 103 total blocks) have gotten the Wildcats 56 points. That may not look like a big difference now, but in the waning minutes of a close game, retaining possession will be a huge factor.


So if you woke up in a nitpicking mood this Monday morning, here’s something for you to kvetch about. Nerlens can stand to work on blocking the ball towards an open teammate. Here’s hoping he debuts that talent against Florida tomorrow night.



Article written by Kristen Geil

27 Comments for How Can Noel Improve?

  1. yitbos
    7:01 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    I thought his numbers would be much better than that. It seemed like every block he had during that Ole Miss game went to one of our guys.

  2. Caftan
    7:08 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Off topic… Typton is a douche seemed he was trying to get under goodwins skin in the press conference

  3. Blueswade
    7:08 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink


  4. TJ
    7:09 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Withey does not even come close to changing the number of shots that Noel impacts. Plus Noel blocks with either hand equally.

  5. Hey Drew
    7:14 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    This deserves a mention in the “Tuesday News and Views”…..You are welcome.

  6. markky
    7:23 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Noel can improve by telling Archie to pass the damn ball….

  7. Bart Edwards
    7:28 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Your analysis is half-baked. This stat does NOT show that Nerlens needs to work on his shot blocking. It shows that Withey plays with teammates who want the ball more than Nerlens’ teammates do. It shows that the work needs to be done by Poythress, Goodwin, Mays, Wiltjer, and Company, not Nerlens.
    If you watch a Kansas game, you will see Withey’s teammates fighting and scrambling for those balls in a way that we have not seen all year out of our Wildcats. That’s where the improvement needs to come.

  8. StopHammerTime
    7:36 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Imagine how good Noel would be if he would stay out of the city of louisville a day and a half before a game.

  9. Bob Sugar
    7:45 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Not to mention many of Nerlens’ blocks are one on one stuffs as opposed to secondary defender clean-up blocks.. Shows that offensive players are on better position to retrieve the ball and/or defend transition breaks while still in their offensive sets rather than after an ill-advised drive that leads to easier transition buckets.

  10. Nick
    7:47 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    It would be nice if he could make a field goal more than 5 feet from the basket

  11. KristensPieChartsRule
    7:48 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Kristen……very informational. You should make more posts with pie charts!!!!!

  12. rainman
    7:50 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    In two words, HAND STRENGTH!!
    He seems to have decent offensive moves
    but get’s the ball knocked lose waay to
    It would also help in rebounding, not to
    mention knocking the crap out of the jerks
    who have been fouling the z&# out of him!

  13. bung
    7:56 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    if noel blocks at least 5 shots and ky scores 5 fast break baskets in each half ky will win exactly 91-74…

  14. DavidDuke4UK
    8:19 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Hopefully, Cal brings in a white shot blocker next year.

  15. DirtyDave
    8:19 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Kris, pretty good post, however your last statement is just plain wrong!go back and read it again. NN is doing a splendid job of not only blocking shots but keeping it in play to Ky. Your numbers are speak to two different areas. Your numbers show the points scored after gaining possession after blocking a shot , which is a fine stat to discuss…and as you pointed out certainly could be the difference in winning or losing. But as another poster correctly posed, that has absolutely Zero to do with NN’s blocking ability or technique , and altogether to do with what he and more so what his teammates do with this extra possession . Perhaps you should have simply researched the number of blocks resulting in an “extra” possession rather than resulting in a score. I’m betting that pie would look a lot different!

  16. JackB
    8:25 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    I actually am not surprised by this and felt early in the year that Noel did not do as good a job as some other guy we used to have in that position at keeping blocks in play and recovered by UK. Someone had a similar chart by Davis last year and it was outstanding. Noel, especially early in the year and still some, will go for the volleyball type spike out of bounds block a lot more than Davis did. It looks good on highlights, but does result in a lost opportunity. Having said that, I think Noel has improved on this a lot as the season progressed, and I would be surprised if this chart were to show different points in the season if it didn’t show improvement. Cal just needed time to remind Noel of this.

  17. BBBB
    8:31 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    First time on here . Yes Withey is keepn ball inplay ANDto his mates Remeber Noel reclassified and really should be a senior in high school. WOW. Witheys good but he is 5 yrs older free throw shooting has lost us a couple games to. Oh Well WE CAN BEAT ANYBODY So stay healthy, make em at the stripe and fight. BE A TEAM . Thats our deal we havnt been a TEAM Harrow is not the type pg weve been lucky to have but i love my blue and they are as talented as anyone so let it roll

  18. HillbillyInBC
    8:52 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    This sort of anodyne analysis overlooks the fact that basketball is an emotional game played by emotional human beings, and there is value in the message delivered by sending the occasional weak ish into the cheap seats.

  19. Katdaddy
    8:59 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    His post game could use alot of improvement. But like someone above said he surposed to be a senior in hs. The one thing i like about noel is he plays hard every night.

  20. notv
    9:01 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    why is Noel’s pie with more blocks smaller than Withey’s pie with less blocks?

  21. Withey Mad!!
    9:33 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Nerlens stuffs hard dunk attempts that would break Withey’s arms.

  22. Maxbps8
    10:13 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Cool comparison. Would like to see one w/ the actual #’s in it better representing the overall impact. B/c if N2 blocks more shots then his impact and ‘team-saved’ balls increase; tho probably not to the extent of Withey’s. And #7 makes a point but…N can still help out w/ directional blocks.

    i’d also like to see this comparison b/n Withey and AD, specially after the dork’s comments about Withey being better than AD.

  23. Big Whoop
    4:54 am February 12, 2013 Permalink

    Are you serious? The implication is that Noel needs to “direct” his blocks better so he can be just like Withey? Laughable. The object of blocking shots is not to direct the ball to your team. The purpose of the shot block is to keep the other team from scoring. Who cares where the block goes? Blocks per Game: Noel- 103 in 23 games; Withey – 98 (not 93) blocks in 24 games.

    The whole point of defense is to keep the other team from scoring, is it not? A block is a turnover for the opposing team. Noel beats Withey there with 4.478 to 4.083. The ESPN guy forgets that steals are just as valuable as a blocked shot. Noel: 2.13/game; Withey: 0.792/game.

    Your other beef is Noel’s FT%. Saying he needs to stay after practice to practice. You don’t listen much to what’s going on after practice because he is already doing as you suggest and his FT% is improving as has been noted by game announcers and the coaching staff. Bottom line is that you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

    I believe any NBA team will take Noel over Withey any minute, any hour and any day.

  24. Jimmer270
    5:24 am February 12, 2013 Permalink

    Nice pie charts Kristin!

    4 – That’s not what this post is about. Some of you all are taking the stance of this post as meaning that Withey is better than Noel. That’s not what this post is saying. It is analyzing the value created per block.

    7 – Yes, having teammates that fight for loose balls certainly would help Nerlens pie chart. I agree with you on that. However, you are wrong when you say that this is all based on teammates. If 19% of Noel’s blocked shots are being blocked out of bounds, this is an are where he can improve. If he was able to cut that in half and only block 9.5% of his shots out of bounds that has the potential to give us some extra opportunities.

    23 – REALLY?? I don’t know where to start with this. Let’s see
    a.) There is no implication that Noel needs to be like Withey. It was simply a measurable of a meaningful stat for shot blockers.
    b.) If you are a skilled shot blocker, directing the ball is of high significance. Ask any coach at any level and they will tell you how important it is. All of the best shot blockers try to direct where the ball is going when they can.
    c.) A block is not a turnover for the opposing team if they retain possession. A block only has the value of a steal if you block it to your own team. Why you decide to compare Noel and Withey’s steals per game is hilarious when steals aren’t even being discussed either.
    d.) Why would you bring the NBA into this? A 5 year old could post that. Everyone knows Noel is going before Withey, but you’ve turned this post into a Noel vs. Withey debate when it wasn’t one to begin with.

  25. bbr
    8:54 am February 12, 2013 Permalink

    Have you actually watched the games to see if the conclusion from your stats makes sense? If you watch NN he does an excellent job of keeping the ball in play when he blocks a shot. As #7 pointed out the improvement needs to come from his teammates winning balls that are blocked. Secondly, with the sample size that you have there is no way you can come to a statistically significant difference in the number of shots that are blocked out of bounds. Noel has 5 more blocks than Withey in one less game and only 9 more out of bounds. There are far too many variables involved to come to any conclusion based on the presented stats alone. How many of the ones that went out bounds were on a one on one situation, how many went off another player out of bounds, how many should have been retrived by a teammate but weren’t?

  26. Duke sucks
    10:31 am February 12, 2013 Permalink

    10) you know nothing about basketball. Noel is a true 5 on a team that has rebounding issues! Noel shouldn’t be over 5 feet away from the basket. If his teammates worked as hard as he does and got him the ball when he’s posted his numbers would double. Noel has done his part he needs for the guard play to improve!

  27. blueneck
    10:43 am February 12, 2013 Permalink

    Agree with #7 and #17…his teammates could help a lot more by getting those balls.

    If your are going to nitpick, compaisons need to be the same. It’s much easier to control the block when your own man is posting up and you just have to go up with him. Look at the Miss game and that wasn’t it. It was guys flying to the rim and NN had to protect it and make mid-air adjustments to do some and not commit a foul at the same time.

    It needs to be mentioned it is more critical whether these are on ball blocks or help blocks because they are completely different.

    If you actually watched the games you would know a much bigger issue is NN going for a block only to see the opponent lob a crazy shot off the backboard knowing his team (NN’s man that no one rotated to cover) will get the easy rebound. Has cost several wins already so don’t give us this BS about a couple points that NN didn’t get us by stopping the other team.