By LARRY VAUGHT
Before his season-ending injury at Florida Tuesday night, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel was considered a certain top five pick in the June NBA draft and maybe even the top pick.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said on his weekly radio show Wednesday that he still expected Noel to be a high choice if he decided to put his name into the draft or he could decide to come back to UK to complete his rehab and “be the best big man in college basketball again” next season.
Draft analyst Ed Isaacson of nbadraftblog.com doesn’t think the injury will have a “major effect” on Noel’s draft spot.
“He is far from a polished prospect, so a few months of rehab time isn’t going to set back his development much. This is assuming that his surgery/rehab are on track for the 6-8 month window,” Isaacson said. “For where he is picked, a lot will depend on what teams end up with the top three or five picks, and their needs, comfort level with the knee, etc.
“His potential as a prospect should be right where it was, but what can’t be accounted for is the human element of the general manager who has to make the pick and how he feels. This is just one possible added thing to teams that may have been leaning towards another player with their pick. Bottom line, too soon to tell, but I would not be stunned if he is still a top five pick.”
Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor Chris Dortch doesn’t look for Noel to be the No. 1 pick now.
“But long term, I think he’ll make a good recovery and eventually be an every day NBA contributor. The hope is that the great quick-jumping ability he had won’t be diminished. Perhaps he’ll decide to stay in school another year. Kentucky will be loaded in 2013-14,” Dortch said.
DeCourcy expects Noel’s surgery to go well and that he will “check out solid” with NBA teams.
“His future really depends on him. I would never ask what he’s going to do during a season and if you did you would never expect to get an accurate answer because kids don’t always know,” the Sporting News columnist said. “But if you presume he would have gone as a healthy player, then you can presume he will still go as an injured played and still be a very, very high pick given his ability and limitations of those around him in the draft.
“Go back to 2000 and think Kenyon Martin and his injury. It was classified as a broken leg, but was more complicated. But he was still the first overall pick and it was a good pick.”