Face Off: Noah Vonleh vs. Julius Randle
The 2014 draft has a great deal of second tier talent oozing with All-Star potential sitting right outside the top three. Two of the top power forwards, Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh, represent opposite ends of the oft asked question, production or potential? High level power forwards are not exactly the most glamourous players in today’s league, but when looking at the teams who advanced to the conference and NBA finals, and seeing the likes of David West, Serge Ibaka, Chris Bosh and the greatest PF of all time, Tim Duncan, represent those teams it’s hard to argue the positions’ importance on a winning roster. Here’s my breakdown of Vonleh and Julius Randle. Both are hoping to hear their name called in the top 5 of the 2014 NBA draft.
Size and Measurements
The power forward spot is perhaps the most critical position when declaring one player undersized, and another a prodigy. More so than the perimeter players, a half an inch in height, or standing reach, can mean the difference between being dubbed a true power forward, or gaining the dreaded “tweener” label.
Vonleh stepped into Chicago and confirmed he was indeed a man of monstrous proportions. His 11.75’’ hands were the biggest in the entire combine, and it’s no surprise that a man who supposedly could palm a basketball at age 7 had the height and wingspan to match.
Noah stood 6‘9.5’’ in shoes, his wingspan measured 7‘4.25’’ and his 9’ standing reach are all elite numbers for a power forward. His 247 lb frame gives him the mass to hold his own against the biggest and baddest rebounders in the world.
Julius was a bit of an enigma, as many feared he was a tad undersized, but as a matter of fact he proved to be in that size range that is considered big enough to play his position in the NBA.
At 6’9’’ in shoes, he’s only a half inch shorter than Vonleh, his 7’ wingspan and 8‘9.5’’ standing reach are pretty solid numbers, and they put to bed fears that he could be much shorter. His strength and size were also confirmed as he tipped the scales at a solid, lean 250 lbs.
Julius measured out well, but Noah measured out great. Only one other player, Isaiah Austin, had a longer wingspan, and his 9’ standing reach an important measurement when defending the post and the rim.
Edge - Vonleh
When looking at these two prospects, athleticism certainly comes into play. With more and more of today’s big men playing away from the rim, and many teams implementing more fast breaks, being able to run, jump, and change directions is a big factor when looking at big men. Each player showed up in Chicago and participated in athletic tests last month, and both tested out pretty well.
Noah’s standing vertical was 31 inches which paired with his wingspan gave him a no step reach of a bona fide NBA rim protector, and his 37 inch max vertical pegged his max reach at an elite 12 foot 1 inch. Vonleh’s max vertical ranked 2nd among players who had a barefoot measurement 6’8’’ or above, in this year’s Combine. He trailed only Patric Young by one half an inch.
Along with his excellent leaping measurements, Vonleh performed well in the agility and speed drills as well. An 11.45 second agility time was middle of the pack, and his 3.28 second 3/4 court sprint was again 2nd among players over 6’8’’ in socks.
Julius Randle is known as a power player, but his vertical leap numbers were nice as well. Only a shade under Vonleh’s his 29 inch standing vertical and 35.5 inch max vertical put to bed any concerns that he’s incapable of challenging shots at the next level, and although his style of play is a little below the rim, his hops prove getting above isn’t an issue, as is evident by his 11 foot 9 inch max reach.
Julius and Noah almost tested the exact same in the agility and speed drills. Randle’s 11.45 second agility drill showed the same direction changing speed as Vonleh, and he topped Noah’s 3/4 court sprint by .001 seconds. Julius showed great full court speed all year, and moving his muscular, 250 pound frame three quarters the length of the court in 3.27 seconds was a very nice number.
All in all, both players tested out very similarly, including a tie and a .001 second advantage to Randle. For the most part, each player really fits the bill for a power forward prospect being considered in the top 10. Although not elite, both players did very well. Noah Vonleh’s leaping numbers give him the edge, in fact his 37 inch max vert was only 2 inches shorter than human pogo stick, Aaron Gordon, who is 27 pounds lighter than Noah. The ability to propel his massive frame so high in the air is enough to give Vonleh the edge after testing out so even with Julius in the speed and agility drills.
Edge - Vonleh
Early on, Julius Randle established himself as a double double machine and 20 point threat, by topping 20 points in his first 3 games, including 27 against then ranked #2 Michigan State. Lead by aggressiveness, Julius showcased an array of post moves well beyond his years. Vonleh also tallied a double double in his first 4 games, and while not a focal point in the Hoosiers’ offense, showed surprising range for a 18 year old big man. Particularly later in the year where he shot a sizzling 60% from 3 point range on 1.6 attempts per game, during the conference season.
Noah Vonleh - 30 gp 11.3 ppg .6 apg .523% FG .485% 3 PT .716% FT
For the most part Noah Vonleh is a raw offensive player, especially in the post area and his understanding of handling double teams and being in the right place at the right time. His X-Factor of sorts, is tremendous range for a player of his size and age. On an attempt per game, Vonleh shot almost 50% from the college 3 point line on the year, and his aforementioned 60% clip during the conference season was a real eye opener for scouts. Of course with the pick and roll and pick and pop being prominent in the NBA, the obvious correlation is that he would succeed in this type of offensive scheme.
Noah Vonleh Big 10 stats - 16 gp 11.0 ppg .4 apg .508% FG 3 PT .600 .750% FT
Noah never really played with a playmaker this season, but even with Yogi Ferrell manning the point, Vonleh proved to be a big asset when moving the ball around the perimeter to create shots. A whopping 93.8% of his 3 pointers were assisted, and it comes as no surprise as Noah doesn’t have much of a handle and at this point in his development is more of a spacer, than a guy you have to respect to take you off the dribble on the perimeter.
Although his offensive game is raw in the post, Vonleh still shot a respectable 59.3% at the rim, and his offensive put backs he converted at a 71.4% clip on the year. Although not a player that drew a lot of fouls, Noah also showed promise as a free throw shooter. His .716% free throw percentage started much lower, and was raised due to a 75% clip during the Big 10 season.
A surprising stat is that Noah Vonleh never tallied a 20 point game during his freshman season. As a 3rd option he didn’t act overly aggressive, and never tallied over 15 shots in any given game on the year. He did top 15 points eight times, including a 19 point game in a win over Penn State.
It’s safe to say that although Noah Vonleh’s 3 point shot and shooting ability really raise his stock, he still doesn’t project as a player who will enter the league and be a huge factor on offense from day one. He lacks a go to move in the post, but does finish pretty well at the rim. The hope is that with refinement and tutelage that he can become a better offensive player. All in all he’s a big kid, who can hit a free throw, finishes pretty well at the rim, and can step back and hit a jumper. A Serge Ibaka type progression on offense would be an ideal projection. The hope is that Noah can eventually be a knock down shooter from 15-20 feet and be capable of contributing as a 3rd option to a very good team. To get there, he’s got a ways to go, but from a foundational standpoint, he’s off to a solid start.
Julius Randle - gp 40 15.0 ppg 1.4 apg 50% FG .167% 3 PT .706% FT
Julius Randle established himself as a bruiser with an array of low post moves very early into his NCAA career. His energy and relentless attitude beat down opponents, and even drew comparisons to a fellow low post bully, in Zach Randolph. Unlike Vonleh, he showcased a variety of moves including baby hooks, up and unders, and even taking a couple dribbles while cutting across the lane for a layup. Julius is not without his weaknesses, but he looks to be a player who’ll be able to get points very early into his NBA career.
Julius Randle SEC Stats - 18 gp 13.4ppg 1.2 apg .485% FG .429% 3 PT .725% FT
Randle’s offensive game is very much post oriented, although he does have a decent handle and shoots a solid percentage from the stripe. Julius’ creativity in the paint is accelerated by his strength and motor. He shot 34.5% on two point jump shots as a freshman, which is a pretty decent number for a power forward under 20 years old, but his range doesn’t extend out to the college three point line, where he struggled in limited attempts. His .706% season free throw percentage shows the potential to improve his jumper, and his form looks like a solid base to build from.
Julius improved vastly over the season as far as his patience and willingness to let the game come to him. A part of his offensive game he struggles in is decision making on the drive. He’s capable of using a quick first step to take slower bigs off the dribble, but predictability often leads to an opposing guard doubling down for the strip. The good news is that Randle improved this element of his game as the season progressed. Seven of his first seventeen games he turned the ball over 4 or more times, but over his last twenty three appearances, including the NCAA tournament, he only logged three games in which he turned the ball over 4 or more times.
A bonus attribute for Randle is his ability to push the ball on the break. It’s not very common when a 250 pound bruiser has the speed and handle to get out in the break with the ball in his hands, but Julius showcased that kind of ability multiple times this past year as a Wildcat.
Julius Randle is a bit of an old school bruiser who looks to have the foundation for a nice pick and pop mid range game. He can struggle with predictability when trying to drive on the perimeter, but he’s already shown improvement in his perimeter poise and decision making. He’s creative in the post, and although elite length has given him some problems in the past, his motor paired with an impressive 56 putback buckets show his persistence even when faced with a longer defender. The midrange game will be the key to Julius becoming a high level NBA scorer. He’ll get hustle points, clean the glass, and run in transition, but refining that 15-18 foot jumper to the point where he can draw the defender out of the paint, will allow him to use his handle and creativity in a league that is full of long, athletic big men. Julius Randle looks like a player who at the very least can come in and score right away on garbage buckets, but also has a nice foundation to potentially become a first or second option in a few years.
Edge - Randle
Both players have the length and athletic ability to defend NBA power forwards, but the two have very different styles of defense. Noah Vonleh has both high level pick and roll and rim guarding potential. He also showed a very solid foundation in both during Indiana’s 2013-14 season. Julius Randle started out of the gate slowly. He struggled with being in the right place at the right time, but over the duration of his freshman season showed great improvement in post defense.
Vonleh’s amazing length and vertical leap is very reminiscent of the measurements and athletic testing of Derrick Favors. The fact he hit the 12 foot mark on max reach is a good indicator regarding his shot blocking at the next level. His 1.4 block per game mark doesn’t jump off the page, but considering he only played 26.5 mpg in his solo season as a Hoosier, leaves him with a very nice 2.11 per game mark per 40 minutes. Vonleh’s per 40 projection holds up, and then some, when you look at the games in which he played more than 30 minutes. In those eleven contests he averaged 2.09 blocks per game in 32.3 mpg, including three 4 block contests.
Noah also showed great mobility on the perimeter switching off in pick and roll defense last season. In the pick and roll heavy NBA, having a big man who has the length and mobility to momentarily switch off and hedge is a huge asset in today’s NBA landscape. The Indiana product showed a very solid foundation to do so at a very high level as he matures and grows as a player. Even where he is right now, puts him among the best pick and roll defending big men of the 2014 class.
Overall Noah’s main weakness is just lack of reps. He shows a terrific foundation, and has the body to make it translate. Like all rookies, there will be a big of a learning curve on the defensive end, but again, he projects as not only one of the better immediate post defenders in the class, but one with high level potential on the perimeter and protecting the rim.
Julius Randle’s insane energy level on the court should serve him very well, but he actually struggled on the defensive end early in the season. That being said, Julius matured and improved over the season defending the post and rim. His .8 blocks per game stat and his style doesn’t really lead many to believe he’ll be a major shot blocker or rim protector, but he showed the ability and has the strength and bulk to hold his ground below the rim, and keep his man out of getting great position. He did see a ever so slight bump in blocks per game in SEC play, as his numbers rose to .9 per game
The big man from Kentucky’s main weakness is being uncomfortable guarding players on the perimeter. He is both quick, and has adequate length, but it’s very clear he is not at ease being 18 feet away from the rim when his defender is a multi threat player. That weakness is a fair criticism when looking at the modern pick and pop NBA power forward. Julius has the ability to improve on his perimeter defense, but he is really going to have to put in a lot of work to reach the level in which he’ll need to be in the NBA. There is hope for Julius. Another young power forward with a similar criticism, Blake Griffin, had a few rough defensive seasons out of the gate, but with experience and work he has made major strides. Randle doesn’t project as a good NBA defender, but there’s hope he can improve on his perimeter defense, and there’s more hope he can be a below the rim bully in the paint who can hold his own and not allow his opponent to gain good position.
Edge - Vonleh
Intangibles/Clutch Play Making
From an intangible and clutch standpoint these players are very different. Julius Randle made tons of big plays during Kentucky’s fantastic NCAA tournament run. Noah Vonleh on the other hand, as a less polished player on a disappointing team, didn’t have nearly the stage nor the number of clutch plays. Both players have decent intangible skills, but they’re on opposite ends of the ball.
Noah’s defensive foundation is bolstered by many defensive intangibles, but on the offensive side of the ball, he’s still raw as far as his overall understanding of the game. His ability to hedge and natural feel of the pick and roll game is still something I feel is an intangible still, as it’s something many young big struggle with. Vonleh is not the type of big man who’ll be zipping no look passes in the high post, but he does a lot right as far as defensive intangibles are concerned.
Julius had a big season with Kentucky, and despite his early season bull in a China shop reputation, he showed a lot more poise as the season progressed. Waiting for his offense to come to him, knowing when to push the ball in transition, and passing out of double teams are skills he showcased in bunches over the latter half of the year. Julius also nailed a game winning jump shot, in overtime, versus LSU and the little things he did in the NCAA tournament are hard to count.
Edge - Randle
With Noah Vonleh taking the size, athleticism, and defensive ability categories, he gains the edge over Julius Randle who won out when looking at offensive ability and intangibles.
Julius is the more NBA ready of the two, and a player who looks to jump into the league and rebound, and score tough baskets right out of the gate. His post offense and emerging mid-range game, lead me to believe he can be an effective pick and pop player, as well as low post bruiser. His defensive ability is improved, but still in question, and his ability to protect the rim projects as below average. After measuring out better than many expected, and with his quickness, he’s athletically capable of improving his perimeter defense. His foot injury doesn't appear to be a huge issue, but certainly tips the scales in Vonleh's favor if everything else is equal.
Noah Vonleh’s potential is sky high. His size, athletic ability, and defensive foundation project as top notch, with a ceiling in the elite stratosphere. He also has great range, and proved to have good shot selection when choosing which long range jumpers to take. Vonleh could really be a defensive centerpiece who can also contribute offensively at a level far beyond many rim protecting big men. He’s a tad riskier, and needs to improve on elements of his offensive game outside jump shooting, but he has the potential and foundation to warrant a top 5 pick in this draft which boasts 7 high level prospects.
Face Off: Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins
It amazes me people are downgrading Randle further each day. He may be a bit selfish which is the main knock against him in my mind. But he will be dominant on most nights. And he's got a fire to be great. I just hope he doesnt go to a team which extinguishes that fire with all the losing. He's gonna be moody when he's not winning.
He has big hands, so help me god, big hands. Well that's about as useless a stat as there ever was. Most guys with huge hands can't shoot for crap
I think Randle is a heck of a talent. He can put up Zach Randolph like numbers with an edge in athleticism. Pure upside though, Noah likely has the edge.
Noah is much like Tyrus Thomas to me without the elite athleticsim. They continue to state how he's better athletically, but sometimes combine measurements doesn't always equate to the court. I've watch Noah's games and he doesn't play above the rim at all... He's a bit awkard finishing, which is something that's alarming to me. Also, Noah shot 33, 3pt shots this season. I'm not going to call him a great shooter just yet, although that is admirable.
Another thing that fall by the wayside. If you put Julius Randle on the Hoosiers no way in hell do they go to the NIT... Noah went to the NIT. The NIT... You can say well he didn't have a team all you want, but he's considered a Top 6 pick in a deep draft and was a 3rd option on his team (which shows you how ridiculous giving him excuses really is) and went to the NIT... Do that sound like the make of a great player to you guys? Especially picking him over players that showed us differently?
@ tuck243 - Damien Lilliard never made the NCAA tournament in 4 yrs, and I think it has worked out for Portland. I actually don't like Vonleh much as a player, and agree with most of your points, but remember, Kentucky was on the bubble until the very end of the season. A couple of bad breaks and they are in the NIT too. Again, I don't want Vonleh for other reasons, but just saying that not getting to the tournament does not mean that much.
These face to face threads need to add how compatible will be on the floor with other guys should they reach their potential. Will they require more role defined guys to fit around them, or can they succeed in a structured offence with multiple threats.