Posted June 17, 2013

NBA draft 2013 Toss-up: Better pick at No. 1 overall: Nerlens Noel or the field?

2013 NBA draft, Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel

A knee injury is expected to sideline Nerlens Noel until at least Christmas. (James Crisp/AP)

Will Cleveland stay in the No. 1 spot? If they do, should they take Nerlens Noel? If they deal the pick, who is the target for the acquiring team? Toss Up examines the state of flux regarding the No. 1 pick.

Is Noel the best prospect in the draft?

Noel’s shot-blocking ability may be one of the most refined individual skills in the draft, but he’s not the most complete player available. That said, he’s a legit 7-footer who played hard amid the growing wreckage of Kentucky’s wayward season. Further, he doesn’t foul a ton for such an active shot-blocker, he swats shots at an absurd rate and, for a big man, he can really get out and run.

Assuming his knee heels properly and he can get onto a fitness regiment that will add some muscle to his very thin frame, he should at the very least be a rim-protecting presence as a pro with upside that will be determined by how well he can defend NBA bigs on the block and how much his currently limited offensive game develops.

Guys like Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo should provide teams with more than one NBA-ready skill, and someone like Ben McLemore can rival Noel as far as being as good in one skill (shooting) as Noel is in his. You can’t teach height, but this is far from a unanimous decision in terms of the best prospect.

Advantage: Push

Can Noel help you immediately?

Not on the court. He is still rehabbing from an ACL tear suffered in February and almost certainly will miss a chunk of his rookie season. Depending on the team that selects him and how his recovery progresses, it’s possible he could take the entire season off, and be ready to go with added strength and confidence in fall 2014.

Prospect breakdowns: McLemore | Noel | Len | Oladipo | Bennett | Burke

Depending on how you want to look at it, Noel’s absence could be a plus but not in the short term. As explained in his draft breakdown, the team that selects Noel could manage his rookie season to help position them for the monster 2014 draft. It would require essentially conceding 2013-14, but, by sitting Noel, a team that’s growing with young talent could potentially add two huge, cap-friendly pieces in advance of the 2014-15 season and make an immediate leap to playoff contending status.

Advantage: The field

Can Noel help you down the road?

As Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders is showing, athletic preternatural shot-blockers who also rebound can make a big impact. In his third season as a pro, Sanders exploded, nearly averaging a double-double with almost three blocks a game in just 27 minutes a contest. Marcus Camby (who actually averaged 20 points a game his final season at UMass) has fashioned a very long career out of being extremely good in those areas while mainly scoring in transition and on dunks/putbacks.

More prospect breakdowns: Muhammad | Porter | Zeller | Carter-Williams

If Noel follows that type of trajectory, becoming a solid rebounder who can block several shots a night while being a general deterrent around the rim, then he’s well worth the No. 1 overall selection. You’re not getting LeBron or Durant in this year’s draft, so you have to temper the expectations based on context.

Whether you think Noel will be more impactful than other possible choices is the main question. I happen to think that Otto Porter is the safest pick in the draft in terms of getting a productive, quality pro, but athletic 7-footers aren’t easy to come by.

Advantage: Noel

If there’s a trade, will it be for Noel?

It’s hard to imagine a team is trying to move up to No. 1 to get anyone else, as there’s no consensus really on the order of the next five picks or so. The only pick you are seeing fairly regularly in mocks is Porter to the Wizards at No. 3, but you can also deal with Orlando at 2 if you think that’s what Washington’s plan is.

The general sense (by no means a lock) is that the Cavs will take Noel at No. 1 if they end up keeping the pick. If they work a trade, you’d think the other team would be interested in selecting Noel.

Advantage: Noel

Noel’s situation is a mix of two old adages — timing is everything and good things happen to those who wait. Noel mixes enough raw upside with enough added value in terms of next year’s draft position to make it worthwhile to take on the moderate risk he poses at this stage of his career. It will be interesting to see if anything happens between now and late June to change this picture, but as of now, Noel is the choice.


Better #1 pick? Noel or the Candy  Man?


This writer needs to make a conscious effort to not be an idiot. Noel is not a legit seven footer. He measured at 6'10" barefoot, and with shoes was 6'11.75". Legitimately "legit" seven footers are very rare, which is why garnett looks so tall at (a reported) 6'11.75" barefoot. Shaquille Oneal was reportedly close to 7'1" barefoot at the combine(as reported by writers at the time), which is why he looked so tall out on the court.

Educate yourself, fool.


@magicalhorton umm...generally they play with shoes on, so the height with shoes is the relevant measurement


@jeffvader @magicalhorton  

Not really. I think you people just want to feel taller. Whenever someone asks for your height in life, they are asking for your barefoot height. NBA heights are an absolute joke, and your ridiculous viewpoint is why some guys wear two and a half inch moon boots to the Draft combine. Hint, THEY DON'T ACTUALLY PLAY IN THOSE SHOES

I'm 5'11" but I could probably get myself listed as 6'2" in the NBA, by measuring 6'0 1/2" barefoot early morning(when the combine measurements are taken), putting on a 1 inch pair of sneakers, and then rounding up. I'll still be 5'11" though.

personally I think it's ridiculous how padded these guys heights are.


@magicalhorton @jeffvader ah, got it. you're insecure about your own height, which is why you're getting butthurt over a complete non-issue. does calling a sports-writer an idiot make you feel better about not being 6'+?


@MillerAndZois @lionoah  @jeffvader 

Actually the NFL is pretty legit about their quarterback's heights. They may or may not be morning measurments, but the NFL usually does hold these players to their actual, measured, heights.

And no, not everyone does fudge similarly. Since players basically do list their own heights they are pretty much free to do what they like, hence Garnett and -to a lesser extent- Durant being listed at their actual heights; among other players who do similarly.

The NBA heights being padded to the degree they currently are is just marketing. Of course the writers who market the sport are going to exaggerate, as they get paid as a result of the bad mythology they create.


@magicalhorton @jeffvader ever play ANY organized sport? ALL of them fudge the heights and weights depending on what you are plying and where. Basketball players are taller, football players are's nothing new