Skip to content

Injury, risk reasons Nerlens Noel fell down draft board

Jun 29, 2013, 2:00 PM EST

2013 NBA Draft Getty Images

When Nerlens Noel first went down with an ACL injury, the reaction of most scouts and league executives was he wouldn’t fall or if he did he wouldn’t fall that far in the draft. He was still a top three pick.

But things started to feel different the last couple weeks. I can’t remember a year the presumptive top pick had more negative things said about him and his game in the run up to the draft.

Then come draft night he fell all the way No. 6, where he was taken by New Orleans and promptly traded to Philadelphia. Nobody seemed to want Noel.

What was going on? Turns out the knee injury and the risk that comes with it did cause him to fall.

When trying to do a good mock draft, you can’t just take into account the talent of the player and the needs of the team. The other key factors are the general manager’s/team president’s personality and his job security — is the decision maker in a position he feels comfortable taking a risk? Or does he need to go with a player he feels more comfortable with and can help sooner?

Noel, coming off an ACL repair that was red flagged by a couple teams, was certainly a risk.

Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert said on the night of the lottery he was tired of being in the lottery and wanted to be in the playoffs next year, and you know GM Chris Grant has heard that more directly. So come draft night Grant didn’t feel comfortable taking Noel — a player with potentially more upside than Anthony Bennett but a also a player coming off an ACL surgery with more long-term risk and a player that was not going to help much in his rookie season at least.

Henry Abbott at TrueHoop explained the idea this way.

There are different ways players fail in the NBA. If he doesn’t work hard, it’s on him. If he doesn’t fit the system, it’s on the coach. None of that threatens highly paid and career-minded general managers — in both scenarios they can keep their jobs. (I’ve even heard it suggested that some general managers keep sub-par coaches around to have someone to blame should it all go awry.)

But things go down very differently if the team fails because it bet on a player known to have been injured, and injuries are his undoing. That tends to be seen as the front office’s fault. When the engines fail in that airplane, there never seem to be enough parachutes for the front office guys. That’s just how it goes

Kevin Pritchard was the NBA’s next great GM when he drafted Greg Oden — on track to be alone at the top of a big budget team’s hierarchy. Then Oden got hurt. Six years after making that pick, and after a spell of unemployment Pritchard is still keeping his head down, trying to restore his reputation in Indiana’s increasingly crowded front office.

Does it matter that 29 other GMs would have taken Oden over Kevin Durant? No. (And any GM that says otherwise is selling you revisionist history, at the time everyone had Oden on top of their boards.) Injuries to a top pick can kill a career.

In Philadelphia, new GM Sam Hinkie rolled the dice and I think had a great draft night. With Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and crew this was at best a .500 team looking at a bottom three seed in the East and getting suck in a rut in the middle of the conference. They went all in on Andrew Bynum and missed and now they were stuck. So Hinkie blew the whole thing up — he is getting bad to get better. The Sixers will lose a lot of games next season but be in position next draft to get one of the top players in the best draft in a decade.

And then, maybe Noel will be playing — he has the most potential in this draft, 7-foot guys who run the court like a guard, can block shots and be a defensive force don’t grow on trees. It’s a good risk for Hinkie.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that — my job doesn’t depend on Noel coming around and being a productive player in a few years.

Latest Posts
  1. Kevin Durant to miss Thunder-Timberwolves game with sprained big toe

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:11 PM EST

    kevin Durant kevin Durant

    Durant suffered the injury on Sunday in Cleveland.

  2. PBT Extra: Who should be the All-Star Game reserves?

    Jan 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EST

    James Harden, Jeremy Lin AP

    Will Steve Kerr start Klay Thompson or James Harden?

  3. Report: Kobe Bryant “definitively coming back to play next season”

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:43 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Did you really think Kobe Bryant was going to leave the game on anything but his own terms?

  4. Kobe Bryant to have surgery on shoulder, is done for season

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:37 PM EST

    Kobe Bryant AP

    He should be back for the start of next season.

  5. PBT’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings: Hawks continue to fly high

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnmmtzkyjjhzgm1zdzlogjiyza4mgjimdhiyjc2mjcy AP

    It’s Hawks and Warriors and everyone else. Just as its been for a while now.

  6. Kobe Bryant wanted to sign with Michael Jordan’s Wizards

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:04 PM EST

    Kobe Bryant with Michael Jordan Getty Images

    After Washington pushed out Jordan, Kobe re-signed with Lakers

  7. Nick Young benched because Byron Scott thought Lakers guard ‘didn’t want to be there’

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    The Los Angeles Sports And Entertainment Commission's 11th Annual Lakers All-Access Event Getty Images

    Lakers coach asked Young about his defense. ‘The answer he gave me, I couldn’t figure it out.’

  8. Pau Gasol’s trade tip put his and Marc Gasol’s All-Star futures in motion

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:44 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Memphis Grizzlies Getty Images

    Gasols, Pau of the Bulls and Marc of the Grizzlies, become first brothers to start an NBA All-Star game

  9. Reports: Kings at Knicks, Trail Blazers at Nets games Monday postponed due to coming storm

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:09 AM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptmzywjlotg5yji0ngq5mjezytm4mtg0mte4nge4zgq3 AP

    With the storm bearing down on the Northeast, this is the right move by the league.

  10. Did win over Lakers break Rockets out of their defensive slump?

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Was it good defense or just that the Lakers were that bad?

  11. Timberwolves’ Robbie Hummel breaks hand, says he is out six weeks

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    Robbie Hummel Getty Images

    When he gets healthy and back the guys in front of him on the depth chart will be healthy as well.

Featured video

Stephen Curry leads NBA MVP race mid-season
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (8531)
  2. K. Bryant (8527)
  3. H. Whiteside (7689)
  4. D. Wade (7368)
  5. R. Rubio (7038)
  1. K. Martin (6868)
  2. J. Noah (6581)
  3. K. Walker (6462)
  4. C. Anthony (6330)
  5. N. Batum (6282)