Usually, the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons are reserved for Joel Embiid. An African-born 7-footer with excellent footwork, Embiid drew comparisons based off those features alone. But what if Nerlens Noel is the more likely to repeat some of Hakeem's statistical accomplishments?
Namely, I'm referring to the ever-rare 5x5. The "five by five" is where one player records at least five markers in each of the primary basketball statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. In the last 29 NBA seasons, only 15 5x5's have been recorded, by eight different players. Hakeem Olajuwon did it six times himself, hence the comparison. Only two active players - Andrei Kirilenko and Nicolas Batum - have ever done it in the NBA. Others have been close but unable to accomplish the feat.
As you're probably aware, or have figured out by now, the reason for the rarity usually is because people who excel at passing and stealing usually do not at shot-blocking, while the opposite also generally applies.
Noel, who should be an elite thief (in the basketball sense only) and shot-blocker, has already recorded a 4x5 in preseason - against the Detroit Pistons this past Thursday. He had only one assist, but he finished with eight points, eight rebounds, five steals, and five blocks.
The blocks and steals are real - he averaged 2.1 steals and 4.4 blocks per game in 24 college games. Anticipating those numbers to hold up is not reasonable given the increased level of competition, but between the summer league and preseason performances, they'll still come in bunches.
The assists might be harder to come by. Nerlens Noel averaged fewer assists (1.6) than either steals or blocks in college. In Thursday's game, he had only one assist. Still - the Sixers need people to create offense, however it may come, and Noel should see action from both the high post and low post with the ball in his hands. Brett Brown has mentioned that he likes Noel's passing and will give him opportunities to create. And Noel averaged 2.4 assists in an admittedly super-small preseason sample.
Combine the need for creation with the high-paced play the Sixers enforce - the team led the NBA in pace factor last year and figures to be among the highest-paced teams again - and there should be plenty of chances for Nerlens to notch a 5x5.
Very few players appear capable of actually attaining the 5x5 - though players like Josh Smith have been close before, and Anthony Davis looks the part. For many NBA fans, the Sixers might only be worth watching because Noel and K.J. McDaniels block everything in site while running a hundred miles an hour up and down the court. Noel might make some history along the way - and in the case of a 5x5, he'd be a good fantasy pickup as well.