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Is Nerlens Noel The Pick?

2013 April 16
by Andrew Melnick


Despite tearing his ACL, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is still viewed as one of the three best players in the NBA draft by nearly every prognosticator there is.

Today, MBO will take a look at Noel.

(We’ve already taken a look at Oklahoma State guard Marcus SmartKansas guard Ben McLemore and Michigan guard Trey Burke.)

Noel was considered one of the two best high school prospects in the country (along with UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad) just a season ago. Noel decided to ink with the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats, replacing Anthony Davis. Davis, of course, was named player of the year, led Kentucky to a national championship and was the first pick in the 2012 draft, so Noel had big shoes to fill.

Noel wasn’t Davis, but his career got off to a nice start in terms of rebounding and shot blocking. He was averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. However, back on February 12, Noel ran down the court and blocked a shot on a Florida fast break. He landed awkwardly and tore his ACL, ending his season.

Despite the injury, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express sees Noel as a big time prospect based on what he calls “phenomenal physical attributes.”

Of Noel, Givony says “Measured at 6-10 without shoes, with a 7-4 wingspan and exceptional athletic ability, Noel is a rare specimen. He runs the floor like a guard, is extremely nimble and quick, and has pogo stick leaping ability. This allows him to cover ground unbelievably well both vertically and horizontally, which helps him impact the game in numerous ways. It’s safe to say that, should he make a full recovery from his injury as expected, he’ll be one of the most athletic big men in the NBA.”

Below is a closer look at Noel’s numbers:


24/24  31.9 27.3  10.5 9.5 59.0 58.3 52.9
4.4 10.4 22.3 17.3 13.2 3.0 2.6 112.9

Noel’s stats are obviously very good, especially for a college freshman who didn’t play a full season. However, you can see that his offensive skills need a lot of work. To be fair to Noel, he certainly wasn’t the focal point of Kentucky’s offense – he attempted just 6.9 shots per game.

 Despite his struggles on offense, with Noel’s height and outstanding reach, he could turn into a valuable offensive player.

Clearly, Noel’s biggest problem is his strength. Despite his enormous 7’4 wingspan, Noel weighs just 228 lbs. and really lacks lower body strength. Noel is going to have to put on a lot of muscle or he’s going to have a lot of trouble in the paint.

The Magic surprisingly wound up with some real front court talent. Center Nikola Vucevic is averaging a double-double this season and forward Tobias Harris has been fantastic since he was dealt from Orlando to Milwaukee. Even Andrew Nicholson has shown some promise and should become a solid rotation player in the future. However, all of the Magic bigs are clearly offensive-minded players. Noel could provide an athletic shot-blocking presence the Magic lack.  Provided he puts on enough muscle, he has the potential to become an excellent all-around defensive player. That could be the exact type of player the Magic are looking for to play next to either Harris or Vucevic.

Mock Drafts:

Draft Express:
Noel Pick: First overall to Charlotte
Magic Pick: Kansas guard Ben McLemore

NBA Draft.Net
Noel Pick: Second overall to Orlando
Magic Pick: Kentucky center Nerlens Noel

Hoops World (Yannis Koutroupis):
Noel Pick: Third overall to Phoenix
Magic Pick: Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart

ESPN (Chad Ford):
Noel Pick: First overall to Charlotte
Magic Pick: Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart

CBS (Jeff Goodman):
Noel Pick: Second overall to Orlando
Magic Pick: Kentucky center Nerlens Noel 

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