Noel ready to be top pick in NBA draft
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — “You going No. 1?”
Nerlens Noel has been hearing it for months now. On this occasion, in a hotel lobby, the former Kentucky star politely answers a young fan while signing an autograph.
“We’ll see on Thursday,” Noel says, smiling.
The question, while overdone, is certainly worth asking.
The 6-11 big man is a favorite to shake Commissioner David Stern’s hand first in Thursday night’s NBA draft (7 ET, ESPN), but it’s unclear whether the Cleveland Cavaliers will take a chance on a player recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee that cut his freshman season at Kentucky short back in February. That’s especially the case when other talented, healthy players are available.
“Really there are as many questions about Nerlens Noel as there are with anybody in the draft,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas says. “We’re talking about a No. 1 pick who’s a defensive savant, but he can’t score and is injured. Offensively, he has a long way to go. He scores off activity level, not skill level. And we can’t forget he’s hurt. We’re not talking about a sprained ankle, you’d be drafting a guy who just tore his ACL. No one said, ‘I don’t think Greg Oden will pan out.’ This is more unusual. For a top draft pick, he raises a lot of questions.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari says teams would regret passing on Noel.
“One thing these teams need to know is that he has a will to win that only the best players I’ve coached have,” Calipari tells USA TODAY Sports. “When he got hurt, I didn’t think we’d win another game. At 4-4, I thought we overachieved. If you want to pass on him because someone help win faster, go ahead. But just realize the potential and drive that you’re missing.”
The questions don’t bother Noel much, though. He’s simply … [For more on Nerlens Noel is ready to be top pick in 2013 NBA draft, click here.]