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Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel declares for draft, could go No. 1

Apr 15, 2013, 11:34 AM EDT

Marshall v Kentucky Getty Images

We didn’t get to see Nerlens Noel in the NCAA Tournament because: 1) Kentucky sucked this year and didn’t make it (they were bounced in the first round of the NIT); 2) He had already blown out his ACL and was done for the season.

Yet he shows enough potential, and this is a down enough draft year, he could still go No. 1 overall. DraftExpress and other draft watchers currently have him there.

So it’s no shock that he announced Monday he would declare for the NBA draft.

“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Noel said in a released statement. “I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process.”

Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, plus he led the SEC in blocked shots. Why he goes No. 1 is that he is a physical specimen with a lot of potential — he measured 6’10” without shoes, has a 7’4” wing span and runs the floor like a gazelle. He can be an impact defender early on in his career.

The drawback is he needs to get a lot stronger and needs to get a lot more polished on offense. His footwork is not going to remind you of Tim Duncan. He’s okay near the basket but has no midrange game.

Then there is the knee surgery in February — he tore his ACL on a chase-down block. He’s still going to be on the comeback trail as the season starts.

But you don’t draft a guy for what he can do his rookie year, you draft him for what he can do three years from now.

In a draft where there is not believed to be a franchise player, no lock No. 1, a draft where you gamble a little with the top pick, wouldn’t you gamble on a very athletic big man? Most likely a team will in the top spot.

  1. bifford - Apr 15, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    He’s a great pick. He won’t play a good chunk of his rookie year, so your team can tank right into the next draft and get a potential franchise player as well.

    • pudgalvin - Apr 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      That’s a really good point. But then again, it doesn’t really matter who the Bobcats take, there’s a good chance they’ll tank next year.

    • tuberippin - Apr 15, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      *looks at Charlotte Bobcats*

    • lmoneyfresh - Apr 15, 2013 at 6:03 PM

      As a Bulls fan, I hope the continuous tank job.

      • lmoneyfresh - Apr 15, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        ^^I sure butchered that one…

  2. fishfiletkray - Apr 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Marcus Smart is a franchise player. People who say he’s not athletic enough have no clue. That’s just my opinion.

    • packersareandwillalwaysbebetterthanthebears - Apr 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      When you watch him play in person, it is amazing how athletic he really is. He doesn’t ever seem to truly sprint and his moves look effortless, but when there’s an opportunity for him to strike, like get a steal or block a shot, he takes advantage and kicks it into high gear. He is a great defender with great size for a point guard.

  3. timb12 - Apr 15, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    This seems like a reach for number 1, but then again I don’t know who would be taken 1st over him.

  4. bifford - Apr 15, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    He’s not a reach because his potential is far and above everyone else in the draft.

  5. paulhargis53 - Apr 15, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Drafting him #1 on his potential? I know this has been going on for some time, but its galling how few NBA ready college players there are. These kids should be developing their games in school, not at the end of an NBA bench. They are encouraged by the $ signs….gotta leave early to get that 2nd contract big payday!

    I saw one poster say on one thread that this is the best era for nba basketball. Its not, and its not close. Rosters in the prior years were much better top to bottom. They were more fundamentally sound and had more well rounded games.

    Hell, half the 2nd rounders won’t make the league. Its ludicrous to pay millions to these kids in hopes that they fulfillvthe potential. The One and done philosophy is going to kill the nba.

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 15, 2013 at 8:24 PM

      The idea that players develop better in college — with two games a week against inferior competition and limited practice time by NCAA ordinance — than they would in the NBA where it is a full time profession is a fallacy. It would be better for college if they stay, not the NBA.

      And if you think the end of the bench 10-20 years ago was better across the board, you should go check the average roster again.

  6. kansacity88 - Apr 15, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Can’t say I didn’t see that one coming! His defensive prowess is DEFINITELY what’s going to make him go #1. I got nothing bad to say about the kid. Hope he does well!

  7. mungman69 - Apr 15, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    When he heals he will be a beast. Give him two years and watch out.

  8. paulhargis53 - Apr 15, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    Ok Kurt, then why are there so few “impact” players coming into the leauge now compared to 10-20 years ago?

    Why are players today drafted on potential, when back then, they were coming in game ready?

    Its not just for the improvement of their games, its for the maturation of their bodies.
    The players coming in now don’t have as well rounded games as before. That’s plain to see. I have to disagree with you.

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 15, 2013 at 10:30 PM

      Again, look at the rosters of old. There are pretty much always 10 true franchise guys in the NBA at any point (give or take a couple). There were not more impact players then, there were better marketed players then because you knew them coming out of college because like the NFL the NBA got colleges to build name recognition.

      But I think you miss my point: If Noel (to use an example) stayed in college for three more years he would certainly enter the NBA a more developed player than he is now. But if he enters now, at the end of those same three years he will be a better player at that point than he would have been if he stayed in college. For the NBA teams, that is a good thing because they in three years will have a better player.

      Plus, I think if a guy would get drafted he should go. If you go to Harvard for a year and start a Tech company with your roommates that takes off, you should drop out of college and run your company and get rich. Only your mom tells you to stay in school.

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