Florida center Patric Young and Joakim Noah have plenty of common, and the former is using the latter as one of his motivations as he readies himself for the NBA Draft.
The 6-foot-9 defensive standout spoke at Thursday's NBA Draft Combine and recalled a past conversation he had with the current Defensive Player of the Year one of his trips back to Gainesville, Fla., about how to best maximize his potential at the next level.
"I remember he said, 'Pat, I got paid -- however much his contract was -- just for defense and rebounding,'" Young said. "(Noah) said just find your niche, stick to it and don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.'"
At the time of Noah's five-year, $60 million extension in 2012, he had just averaged 10.8 points and 11 rebounds per game in his third season. They weren't mind-blowing numbers, and he hadn't yet been named to an All-Star team, but the way in which he impacted games defensively and acted as a leader beside point guard Derrick Rose made him worth every penny. And Noah has made good on that contract extension, earning two All-Star berths, the aforementioned Defensive Player of the Year award and carried the Bulls to 93 regular-season, Rose-less wins.
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"This guy still can’t shoot," Young said of Noah, laughing. "But he has tremendous energy, works his butt off on the defensive end, and he still scores, not because he’s overly talented on the offensive side but he finishes well, he rebounds well and he impacts the game without needing the ball."
And while Young may not contend for any end-of-the-year awards, it's a similar mentality he's hoping to carry over once his name is called on draft night, likely sometime in the second round. In four seasons Young never averaged more than 11 points per game, finding open looks around the basket that helped him shoot nearly 58 percent from the field in 150 career games.
His real worth was found on the defensive end; as a senior he grabbed 6.2 rebounds and more than a block in 26 minutes per game and, per Synergy, allowed 0.696 points per possession, ranked in the 90th percentile among all Division I players. With those numbers -- along with his stocky 6-foot-9 frame that make him look more like a defensive end than a center -- comparisons to both Ben Wallace and DeJaun Blair inevitably and accurately have arisen.
And Young agrees with it.
"I’ve gotten a lot of comparisons, and why not take the Ben Wallace comparison, or DeJaun Blair? Ben Wallace has made a lot of money doing what he does best, and Joakim Noah as well," he said. "If that’s my role in the NBA, so be it. I’m going to be thankful, as long as the money’s still green."
And in an era of one-and-dones, where the top six picks in the draft could be players who have one or fewer years of collegiate experience, Young sees plenty of value in a four-year contributor who can contribute defensively from Day 1, much like his fellow Gator, Noah, was in Chicago. Though the Bulls likely will look offense with their first two selections in the first round, they selected a Gator, forward Erik Murphy, a year ago and could further solidify an already solid defensive frontcourt if Young fits the bill.
"I think, like I said earlier, it’s all about the right fit, and I think there’s a limited number of guys that can go on to a team right now and impact an offensive side right now and...are going to go into situations where they’re not the guy," he said. "I need to find my role and how I can stay on the floor, which is what I can do: I can defend and I can rebound and I can run the floor hard, and communicate, I can be a good teammate. So I think those are things that any team can find as valuable."