Posted June 24, 2013

NBA draft injury watch: Checking in on Nerlens Noel, Alex Len and more

2013 NBA draft, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, C.J. McCollum, Nerlens Noel
(Phil Sandlin/AP)

Nerlens Noel said he is ‘ahead of schedule’ in his recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee. (Phil Sandlin/AP)

The pecking order of the 2013 NBA draft may be hugely impacted by injuries. Four potential lottery picks, including both of the draft’s high-profile big men, are recovering from injury. What’s the latest on the injured heading into Thursday’s draft? Here’s a quick primer on where things stand:

Nerlens Noel

The Kentucky freshman tore the ACL in his left knee during a game at Florida in February and likely won’t be ready for the start of his rookie season. The 7-footer also injured a growth plate in that left knee during his sophomore year in high school, although Cleveland Clinic physician Ryan Goodwin doesn’t think the high school injury should be a concern to teams looking to draft Noel.

MANNIX: Noel goes No. 1 in Mock Draft 4.0

Noel was quoted in the last couple of days as saying that doctors from three teams he’s visited have all said his knee is 100 percent fine and that his recovery is “ahead of schedule.” Even if that’s true, teams should have concerns about drafting a raw big man (offensively, at least) who already has suffered a knee injury, which could limit his athleticism (and shot-blocking prowess), at least for his rookie season.

Alex Len

The Ukrainian 7-footer was diagnosed with a partial stress fracture in his left ankle in April and underwent surgery in May that is expected to keep him off the court for four to six months. Len recently disclosed that the injury affected him for a good part of this past season at Maryland.

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

The injury obviously complicates his draft evaluation, but even with Len on the sideline, there is rumor that he may actually end up as the Cavaliers’ choice at No. 1 overall. Even without an obvious top pick in this draft, that’s a surprising development. A stress fracture in a promising-but-still-developing big man seems like a double dose of danger for the team selecting him. This isn’t Wake Forest senior Tim Duncan we’re talking about here. There’s enough development risk here sans injury that the ankle issue should cause pause.

Anthony Bennett

Bennett had rotator cuff surgery in May and will miss about four months over the summer. He is expected to be ready for training camp and his rookie season. He got a nice endorsement from Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough a couple of weeks ago, when McDonough noted that Phoenix’s medical team — considered one of the best in the NBA — wasn’t concerned about the injury to Bennett’s non-shooting shoulder and expects him to make a full recovery.

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

Could the injury impact a guy who wasn’t in superior physical shape to begin with and also has a documented asthma condition? Maybe a bit, but that shouldn’t keep him from finding his way during his debut season, unless something unexpected happens during his rehab.

C.J. McCollum

McCollum suffered a broken foot in January which ended his senior season at Lehigh after just 12 games. It was a disappointing conclusion to a great small-college career, one that included an evisceration of Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

McCollum is fully healed and has been taking part in pre-draft workouts. He’s expected to be a lottery pick.

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