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Nerlens Noel says he hopes to be able to play around Christmas

May 16, 2013, 5:02 PM EDT

Marshall v Kentucky Getty Images

Fans of whichever team wins the lottery next week may have to wait until Christmas to unwrap their present.

Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel is the leading candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Yes, the same Noel who blew out his ACL last season. He was at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago Thursday, getting measured and meeting with teams but not working out.

When does he think he’ll be able to play? (Via the official Pistons.com reporter)

Noel injured his knee in February, so Christmas is around 10 months. Whatever team drafts him will not rush him back, so it could be longer.

Where Noel goes really depends on who wins the lottery. Does that team need size up front, or do they need a wing player and like Ben McLemore. How does the team that win grade those guys out? That said, he’s a top three lock.

If you’re wondering why a guy who blew out his ACL and is about to miss training camp is a possible No. 1 pick the answer is simple: It’s not about this season. It’s nice when you get a Damian Lillard to contribute as a rookie, but what really matters is how good he is three years from now. And Noel is a very athletic guy who measured nearly 7’0” in shoes, who can score and run the floor. There is a lot of potential in him. In a draft where there are no great players, teams will bet with the top picks on the guys with the highest ceilings. The most upside, if you will.

And that is Noel.

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