Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Will Shabazz and Nerlens Team Up, Avengers Style?

As my friend Vince likes to constantly say: Timing is EVERYTHING. Right now, the timing is all coming together in a whirlwind of events in the college basketball world. Today, Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad, the top two high school prospects, are set to announce their college choices at the same time on ESPNU. Coming away from playing together at the Nike Hoops Summit just last weekend, it wouldn't be surprising to hear the best defensive and offensive players of their class decide to team up at Kentucky.
(By the way, I can't believe Marvel's greatest heroes are set to team up in the highly anticipated Avengers movie in less than a month now! And as I found out today, you can watch all five previous films from the series before the midnight premiere at select locations. Brilliant.)

Kentucky is on each player's final list of three schools and is likely in need to replace their entire starting five after winning the National Championship earlier this month. Luckily enough for the Wildcats, they could fill the shoes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with Noel and Muhammad in one fell swoop to go along with their already stellar class of superb scorer Archie Goodwin, multifaceted forward Alex Poythress, and tough big man Willie Cauley. It's not everyday that you can replace players who might become the first set of teammates to be the top two picks in the draft, and if they succeed and transfer Ryan Harrow provides solid play at point guard, back-to-back titles is certainly not out of the question for Coach Calipari.

Maybe they won't be teammates...
Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist aren't the perfect comparisons for Noel and Muhammad, but they come up a lot and will certainly continue to do so if they follow in their footsteps for Kentucky. I wrote about each of them a few months back, and my opinion has not changed since then. Noel may not have the pure potential of the Unibrow, especially offensively, but I believe he has a much more solid frame to add more strength and play as a true center going forward. Muhammad, on the other hand, is much more of an offensive player than MKG, but he does play with a ton of intensity on both ends. He is a touch undersized for his natural small forward position, but he should be a star at either wing spot, and after seeing him more, I feel even better about my James Harden comments.

However, as fun as it would be to see the best defensive and offensive players pair up for the defending champs (and possibly bring highly touted Canadian forward Anthony Bennett with them), I'm hoping for UCLA and Syracuse to nab their guys. I wouldn't mind either of them playing for the 'Cats, and I'd even be on board for Noel developing his game in Georgetown's offensive system, actually. Basically, I just don't want Muhammad ending up at Duke, a darkhorse finalist that I'd be terrified of if they paired him with Rasheed Sulaimon on the wing and Amile Jefferson joins the fun.

Slo-mo and Shabazz would be a fun duo.
For UCLA, Shabazz would instantly put the program back on the map, as Ben Bolch deftly writes. As I mentioned in that previous post, he's been recruited hard by fellow top prospect Kyle Anderson, who was also present at the Hoop Summit in addition to the McDonald's All-American Game last month where Noel didn't play because of his late reclassification into this recruiting class. Like I said, timing is everything. "Slo-mo," as Anderson is aptly named, is an intriguing point-forward with great size who would be an excellent pairing with Muhammad in a variety of lineups with fellow freshman wing Jordan Adams, potential laden guards Norman Powell and Tyler Lamb, underachieving big man Joshua Smith, or North Carolina transfers Larry Drew II and the Wear twins. Big man Tony Parker could also join the fray once the dust settles with the rest of the top prospects. The rumor is that Shabazz wants to go to Kentucky (Nike) instead of staying close to his hometown of Las Vegas at UCLA (Adidas), where his dad wants him to go despite his USC history. Even though I'm a Nike guy, I want the West Coast to have an elite team again, hence the UCLA hope.

For 'Cuse, I'm not exactly a fan of the Orange Men, but I would certainly be intrigued by them if Noel chooses to pair up with his good friend Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams didn't get much playing time this past season as a freshman on a deep team, but the word on him is that he is a big combo guard with good athleticism and shooting ability, which definitely sounds like a talented prospect. With Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, and Rakeem Christmas coming back, having MCW stepping up at point guard and Noel wreaking havoc at center in the famed 2-3 zone would create a title contender yet again. Big men DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant could possibly fill Noel's role as freshmen instead, but if Mr. Hi-Top Fade has truly fallen in love with the Carrier Dome and fans as some reports have indicated, then he would be the true difference maker for Syracuse's championship hopes.

Whether Noel or Muhammad stick around for more than one year to make a difference might depend on new age requirement rules for the draft, and I wouldn't put it past the NCAA or the NBA to cause total confusion with new rules next year like the "new deadline" this year. Seriously, how idiotic is it that the new NCAA rule requires players to declare whether they are leaving or returning to school by April 10th in order to preserve eligibility even though the NBA deadline for declaring for the draft isn't until April 29th? It's just silly that the players have such little time after the Tournament to make such a huge decision when, really, they still have almost three weeks to enter their name to the NBA for the draft. Officially, none of the Kentucky underclassmen have lost their eligibility, but their entire starting five is expected to declare in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, those possible decisions that may or may not have been made already could have an impact on the incoming freshmen's decisions today. Again, timing is everything.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't fit this in the post, but the coach I TA a basketball class for, Gary Colson, went to Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit.

    He is a former collegiate coach who was successful at a number of schools and was assistant to Jerry West with the Memphis Grizzlies doing a lot of scouting, and like most of the scouts in attendance, he came away very high on Andrew Wiggins and Dario Saric of the World team. Funnily enough, he was actually surprised by how much I have heard about them and their strengths and weaknesses.

    However, he was not impressed by Shabazz Muhammad because it took him so many shot attempts to set the Hoop Summit record of 35 points in Team USA's disappointing loss. He mentioned seeing Coach Calipari having lunch with the vice president of Nike and that many the scouts joked that both Muhammad and Nerlens Noel are going to Kentucky but just don't know it yet.