The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: Nerlens Noel
Height/Weight: 6’11”/205 lbs.
NBA Position: Center
Projected Draft Range: Top Two
Overview: Nerlens Noel’s freshman season was cut short by a February ACL injury suffered in a game at Florida, but he still had plenty of time to stake his claim to the #1 pick in this draft. Unlike other names mentioned as a possible first pick in this year’s draft last summer (Muhammad, Zeller names that pop to mind), Noel’s individual season did little to take the luster off of his draft stock. Sure, Kentucky endured a historically bad season and Noel won’t be ready for live action until at least December, but when it comes to his future, this season went pretty well for Noel. He showed off the shot-blocking prowess that made him the most sought-after recruit in the country a year ago (4.4 blocks per game), rebounded at an efficient clip (9.5 boards a game), and even found ways to contribute on the offensive end, averaging double figure in the 24 games he played. Throw in an impressively high steals number – 2.1 a game – and you can begin to gather just how disruptive Noel was when healthy. Now, disruptive is great, and NBA teams can expect that defensive activity to continue at the next level for Noel. But with the specter of the top pick potentially looming over his early years in the NBA, there will be plenty of pressure on Nerlens to become more than just a great defender. Only time will tell if he has room for growth on the offensive end, and let’s remember – he did only turn 19 two months ago. For now, Noel has plenty of that one thing that teams crave and analysts blabber about this time of year – upside.
Will Translate to the NBA: Don’t hold your breath: Nerlens Noel is going to have himself a block party or two when he finally makes his NBA debut. With pogo sticks for legs, Noel became one of college basketball’s premier rim protectors a season ago, filling the space that Anthony Davis vacated in Lexington quite nicely. And like Davis, Noel’s length and timing will allow him to continue his shot-blocking ways in the NBA. Noel is a more explosive athlete than Davis, owner of a suddenness that will surprise even NBA-caliber athlete. Shot blocking is Noel’s one bonafide elite skill at this point, and you better believe it will be on full display from day one on.