What to Expect: Projecting Nerlens Noel's Stats

Once again we find ourselves in the summer with little in the way of actual basketball news, forcing me to spend my free time dreaming about a season that is five long months away. Unfortunately, as a Kentucky fan, I don't have a lot of information about how good my team will be next year. UK is counting on four freshmen to come in and contribute right away and there's only so many times I can read the same old scouting reports.

Consequently, like last summer, I've come up with statistical projections for how well each of the incoming freshmen will perform. I didn't use fancy algorithms or anything, I just looked at how well similarly ranked players have played in the past. So join me for a look at the No. 1 ranked centers since 2006 as we discover what they can tell us about the Flat Top Feller, Nerlens Noel.

First off, if you want justification for why this is worth your time and mine, I looked back and evaluated how well these projections did last year. The answer was pretty well. Here's the link .

Now for Mr. Noel. ranked Nerlens as the the No.1 center and No.1 player overall in the 2012 class. Here's a look at the freshmen seasons of every No.1 center of the one-and-done era:

Year Comp by Positional Rank (1) PPG FG% Rebounds Assists Blocks Steals
2011 Andre Drummond 10 53.8 7.6 0.4 2.7 0.8
2010 Jared Sullinger* 17.2 54.1 10.2 1.2 0.5 1
2009 Derrick Favors 12.4 61.1 8.4 1 2.1 0.9
2008 BJ Mullens 8.8 63.8 4.7 0.3 1.1 0.5
2007 Kevin Love 17.5 55.9 10.6 1.9 1.4 0.7
2006 Greg Oden 15.7 61.6 9.6 0.7 3.3 0.6
Average 13.6 58.38333 8.516667 0.916667 1.85 0.75

Jared Sullinger gets an asterisk because he actually ranked second behind Enes Kanter. For the purposes of statistical evaluation I used Sullinger becuase Enes didn't...well, you know. This is pretty great list. Half of these players lead their teams to a Final Four, a 1 seed, or both. BJ Mullens represents the low end of the spectrum here, both statistically and in his impact on the game, but his stats are slightly deceiving because he played only 20 minutes per game. Andre Drummond and Derrick Favors were both pretty good players who were considered underachievers solely due to their immense physical gifts. I suspect their seasons represent the floor for Nerlens Noel's potential stats. I think his ceiling is something like Oden (or Anthony Davis, who was classified as a power forward), rather than Sullinger or Love. Those guys had an unusual amount of both skill and bulk.

It's interesting to note the NBA draft results for these players. Andre Drummond is widely projected as the 6th overall pick this year. If he's selected there by the Blazers, he will become the second lowest drafted No. 1 center of the one-and-done era (counting actual No. 1 center Kanter instead of Sullinger). BJ Mullens, now known as Byron and playing for the Bobcats, was the 24th pick. Also, every single one of the No. 1 centers was a one-and-done. Good news for enormous teenagers! If you are big and athletic enough that you get ranked as the top center in your high school class, you will soon be very rich!

As for projecting Nerlens, on average these six players scored 13.6 PPG, shot 58.4% from the floor, pulled down 8.5 boards, and blocked 1.9 shots. If scouting reports are worth anything, Noel will blast past that BPG average. In fact, I think he's almost certain to pass Oden as the best shot blocker on this list. The other three averages, however, look pretty good to me. I think the RPG is slightly low, mainly because of the Mullens outlier. The FG% might look high, but Anthony Davis shot 62% and Noel will probably take many fewer jumpers. My subjective projection for Nerlens Noel is this: 13.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.7 BPG, and 58% from the floor.

So there you have it. I admit that one of the reasons I did these projections, both this year and last, was to manage expectations for UK's five star recruits. Sometimes in the summer our imaginations can run a little too wild. I admit, however, that this list of centers is pretty exciting. I've got the lists for Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein already created, so you can look for those in the coming weeks.

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