Why exactly are Joakim Noah's NBA prospects so much better than Tyler Hansbrough's? They essentially play the same game! Both of their games are predicated on energy and hustle, both are tenacious rebounders, neither has consistent range from beyond 15 feet and, at 6'9" and 245 lbs., Hansbrough's body is more suited to endure the abuse of the NBA's inside game.
Both have played 36 games in 2006-07, with Hansbrough averaging 18.6 points and 7.9 rebounds (3.0 offensive rebounds) per-game, to Joakim Noah's 12.1 points and 8.3 rebounds (2.6 offensive rebounds) per-game. In terms of field goal, Hansbrough is solid, hitting on over 53% of his shots, but that pales in comparison to Noah's absurd 62%. While NBA competition will bring both of these percentages down to earth, Hansbrough is far more likely to shoot 53% in the NBA than Noah is to shoot over 60%. Looking at free throw line, where Hansbrough not only got nearly twice as many opportunities as Noah (295 FT att. vs. 168), but his 76.3% free throw percentage easily trumps Noah's 64.9%. This is significant since, given their high-energy inside play, the free throw line is a place where both are likely to get a lot of opportunities.
Defensively, the edge has to go to Noah, as both players have recorded the same number of steals this season (41), but Noah's has blocked nearly FOUR times as many shots (66 to 17). However, Noah's 90 turnovers represent 18 more than Hansbrough's total of 72, offsetting some of his positive work at the defensive end.
Neither of these players has superstar potential, but both have of look of players that will spend 10-12 years in the NBA and contribute to a lot of wins with their hustle and toughness. It just makes no sense, given the similarities in their statistics as well as their respective styles of play, to rank Joakim Noah as a top 5 prospect for the NBA Draft while Hansbrough may not crack the lottery.
Update (4/4/2007)- Following an underwhelming NCAA Tournament both for himself and his Tarheels, it's rumored that Tyler Hansbrough will return to Chapel Hill for his junior season. This is, by far, the right decision. Next season, Hansbrough will add to his collegiate resume, likely averaging 19 and 8 or thereabouts, and once again play for a top 10 team with a chance to cut down the nets in April. Additionally, with the 2008 draft class unlikely to be as deep as 2007's, Hansbrough's stock will undoubtedly rise. Expect him to play himself into the #13-20 range in next year's draft.