University of Kentucky forward and potential first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel has suffered what looks to be a serious knee injury, and the draft speculation has gone kaboom. The freshman was averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game prior to getting injured, and showed a skill set very similar to fellow Wildcat and reigning No. 1 pick Anthony Davis.
Of course, injuries can change everything, and Noel is no exception. There is no official word on the extent of the damage to his knee, but this could definitely be a red flag once draft night rolls around in June.
ESPN's Andy Katz has reported that Noel suffered no fracture or break, but will receive an MRI today. At that point, it will be easier to determine just how this injury affects the rest of his career.
The fact is that Noel was expected to be a top five pick, assuming he chose to declare for the draft, and that could all change now that his knee issue is present. The first round definitely got shaken up quite a bit, and Noel's future may have just gotten a bit murky.
*Draft order is based off of NBA standings as of February 13, 2013
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
Not much changes at this position. The Bobcats need a reliable 2-guard to pair with Kemba Walker, and McLemore fills that hole perfectly. He has good size for the position at 6'5" and 195 pounds, and has a keen scorer's touch.
The freshman has posted 16.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this season, shooting 51 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from downtown. He'll need some time to adjust to the NBA, but is still the man Charlotte needs to take the next step forward.
2. Orlando Magic: Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA
J.J. Redick is likely going to be on a new team next season, leaving Orlando with a gaping hole at the 2. Fortunately, Muhammad can play that position well.
The freshman has posted 18.5 points per game and shot 46 percent from the field for the Bruins this season, and has the mentality and passion to be great in the NBA. With his natural scoring touch, he should be able to start producing in Orlando immediately.
3. Washington Wizards: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
This is a bit of an unconventional selection, but so was that of the Charlotte Bobcats last year when they took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick. Washington needs a reliable center, and Zeller has been just that for the Hoosiers this season.
He may not be overly athletic like most true defensive centers, but Zeller still has solid size at 7'0", 240 pounds. He has averaged 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and his interior game is strong.
As long as the Wizards can be patient with him and gradually work him into the rotation, he'll be an excellent fit for them in the long run.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
The Cavaliers need athleticism, and Bennett has plenty of it. He stands just 6'8", 240 pounds, but plays with the tenacity of someone much bigger. In his freshman season with the Runnin' Rebels, Bennett has posted 18.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
His on-ball defense needs some work, but that is just a matter of coaching. This young man can give Cleveland some help at the 3 and is a far better long-term option than Alonzo Gee. With the ever-improving Kyrie Irving getting him the ball, his NBA ceiling can be extremely high.
5. Phoenix Suns: Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky
Noel's stock may have lowered a bit, but not by much. The fact remains that he is still an excellent player with a boatload of talent, and the Phoenix Suns would be a solid fit for him, knee injury be damned.
The team is making the transition from a fast-paced offense to more of an isolation game, absolutely perfect for Noel's skill set. He is also a grand improvement at center over Marcin Gortat, so Phoenix fans should be excited if he manages to fall to their spot.
6. New Orleans Hornets: Otto Porter, F, Georgetown
Georgetown has been a big man's program for years, but Otto Porter has gotten past that. The sophomore does not have much size at 6'8", 205 pounds, but has still managed to post 15.3 points and 7.9 rebounds to go with 1.9 steals this season. He has also shown a knack for stretching the floor, shooting 44 percent from long range.
Just what type of role he would have in the NBA remains to be seen, but the Hornets need a defensive forward who can also show potential in the scoring department. Porter is just that type of player, so GM Dell Demps would be wise to take a look at him.
7. Sacramento Kings: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
One of the Kings' biggest problems is the lack of a pass-first point guard. Fortunately, Carter-Williams is one and should be available once Sacramento's turn comes.
He has posted 12.4 points and 8.5 assists per game this season, and has also come away with three steals per contest. Carter-Williams is not a strong scorer like the rest of Sacramento's guards, but the team does not need him to do that as they prepare for the move to Seattle.
This young man just needs to get his teammates the ball and score as necessary, which he can do almost perfectly.
8. Detroit Pistons: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Detroit needs perimeter defense, and Smart provides plenty of it. He has solid size for a floor general at 6'4", 225 pounds, and his three steals per game are a testament to how strong a defender he can be at the next level.
His scoring still needs a lot of work, but head coach Lawrence Frank can take care of that in practice. Smart's first priority should be defense and, in time, he could be a solid bench guard with some extra lightning in the bottle. Think a more athletic Will Bynum.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto Raptors): Alex Len, C, Maryland
Kendrick Perkins can play the low post well, but that's about it. Thus, the Thunder will upgrade their options at the position by taking Len, a sophomore with great size at 7'1", 255 pounds.
Len has posted 12.5 points, eight rebounds and two blocks per game for the Terps this year, and has a ceiling very similar to that of Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. He has a solid jumper like most European big men do, but also has a bit more athleticism than others.
Give this young man time, and he could become an interior force a la Al Jefferson, albeit not as strong a scorer.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
With Nikola Pekovic likely on the way out, Minnesota is going to need a solid option in the middle. In head coach Rick Adelman's system, this means someone who can work the low post with authority.
Cauley-Stein has the size to do just this at 7'0", 244 pounds, and scouts should not let his being a freshman deter them from taking a chance on him. He has posted just 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, but his 1.7 blocks per contest solidify his status as one of the NCAA's best low post players.
He's almost definitely going to be available when Minnesota's turn comes around, and GM David Kahn should select him and actually keep him on the roster as the 'Wolves fans cheer in delight.
11. Dallas Mavericks: James McAdoo, F, North Carolina
Shawn Marion isn't getting any younger, and could very well be on a new team next season as his contract is set to expire. To fill the defensive void, Dallas needs to draft McAdoo.
The sophomore Tar Heel has decent size at 6'9", 230 pounds, and has posted 14.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest to go with 1.4 steals. His on-ball defense is solid, but his footwork could use some improvement.
McAdoo's free-throw shooting is also a bit of a concern, what with him making just 59 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe this season. He'll need to improve that on the professional level, but his defense would be a welcome addition on any NBA team, especially Dallas.
12: Philadelphia 76ers: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Sixers are going to need help at two positions next season, shooting guard and center. Since the center pool is fairly shallow in the draft, GM Tony DiLeo will opt to go small and take an absolutely electrifying player in Oladipo.
As a junior, Oladipo has been phenomenal for the Hoosiers. He has averaged just 14.3 points per game, but has also managed 2.3 steals and shot 64.5 percent from the field. For a guard, that's amazing.
His jump shot needs work, but Oladipo has the size at 6'5", 214 pounds to be a solid presence in Sixers coach Doug Collins' system. Think of Evan Turner, but not as diverse a skill set.
Oladipo's best work is going to come as a slasher, which Philly will need now that Andre Iguodala is gone.
13. Phoenix Suns (from Los Angeles Lakers): Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Now that the Suns are switching to a slower pace, assuming Lindsey Hunter stays on as head coach, they'll need a guard who knows that system well. Fortunately, Goodwin plays a very similar system under John Calipari at Kentucky.
His jump shot is not as strong as a 2-guard's should be, but Goodwin still has solid size for the position at 6'4", 198 pounds. He needs some time in the weight room, but his 13.9 points per contest are respectable.
Once he can make jumpers with consistency and develop a long-range game, he should be a good fit in Phoenix's system. Then again, wouldn't anyone be an improvement over Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown?
14. Charlotte Bobcats (from Portland Trail Blazers): Mason Plumlee, F/C, Duke
Like most Duke big men, a la Christian Laettner and Danny Ferry, just how well Plumlee does in the NBA is luck of the draw. In all honesty, he's probably going to be just an above-average player on the NBA level.
That still does not take away from the fact that he has shown marked improvement his senior year, posting 18.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 61 percent from the field. Moreover, Charlotte is going to be looking for size since Byron Mullens is likely going to be leaving via free agency.
Plumlee is a much better option than his likely predecessor in that he's going to focus solely on being an interior player, instantly improving the 'Cats' defense. It may take him some time to adjust to the NBA, but his good work will be notable once he does.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
Blessed with tremendous size at 7'1", 225 pounds, Austin is going to be a fine option in the middle in the NBA. He has posted 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and can also utilize his jump shot on top of being an excellent interior defender.
He just needs to spend some time in the weight room and put on some muscle, at which point he and John Henson can form a near-deadly frontcourt tandem in Milwaukee.
16. Boston Celtics: Rudy Gobert, C, France
I'm usually skeptical of international players, especially centers. Basketball is played differently in the rest of the world, and centers often have strong jump shots as well as solid interior games. However, those that succeed in the NBA (i.e. Marc & Pau Gasol) are few and far between.
Just the same, Gobert is something special. He has great size at 7'1", 230 pounds, and the Celtics need interior help since Kevin Garnett is not getting any younger. It'll take time for Gobert to adjust to the NBA, but his ceiling is still high.
17. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets): Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
Another Wildcat flies off the big board, as the Hawks will take Poythress to fill the void left by Josh Smith. The freshman does not have as much size at 6'7", 239 pounds, but his interior game is strong and his athleticism ceiling is high.
He has posted 12 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season, so there's no telling how much that number could skyrocket if he stayed in school for an extra year. This young man is ready for the NBA, and the Hawks will be in for a surprise once he adjusts.
18. Utah Jazz: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Utah needs a point guard since Mo Williams is likely to depart via free agency, but Burke's skill set can make it seem as though Williams never left. In his sophomore year with the Wolverines, the 6'0", 190 pound floor general has averaged 18.2 points and seven assists per game.
He'll definitely need some time to adjust to the professional level, but Burke's court vision is superb and he has a knack for forming good on-court relationships with his teammates, as can be seen between him and Tim Hardaway, Jr. this season. Once Utah's roster is finalized, look for him to start stepping up his effort in practice immediately.
19. Atlanta Hawks: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
In the event that John Jenkins proves to be a bust, Atlanta is going to need some insurance at the 2. McCollum does not have much size at 6'3", 200 pounds, but has the scoring ability to make up for that. This season, he's averaging 23.9 points while shooting a highly respectable 49.5 percent from the field and 52 percent from downtown.
That's the perfect skill set to replace Joe Johnson, and Atlanta's scoring will be all the better with McCollum in the lineup.
20. Brooklyn Nets: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Nets will need some interior help next season, particularly at the 4. Drafting Robinson is a bit of an odd move since he is only 6'6", 210 pounds, but hear me out.
All that would need to happen is for Gerald Wallace to move from small forward to power forward, which is reasonable given his defensive talents, and Robinson can slowly become established as the new 3. He plays with the heart of a player much bigger than his actual size, and his defense and strong interior game will be solid in the Nets' ever-improving defense.
21. Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors): Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Utah may be losing both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to free agency this summer, if not sooner via a trade, and Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are ready to step in as the starters. However, the team still needs a backup, and Withey is perfect for the job.
He has size at 7'0", 235 pounds, and has posted 4.1 blocks per game this season. He'll likely never get past backup status in the NBA, but his defensive focus is impeccable and will be a godsend for any NBA team.
22. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Bulls could really use a reliable 2-guard, particularly one that can stay in the lineup more often than the oft-injured Rip Hamilton. Caldwell-Pope has a very similar skill set, and he's much younger at age 20.
If he can prove to be durable, look for him to become a solid go-to guy for point man Derrick Rose.
23. Indiana Pacers: Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas
Indiana will need a solid stretch 4 once David West leaves via free agency, and Mitchell can become this with time and patience. He does not have much size at 6'8", 235 pounds, but has a good interior presence and impressive focus on defense.
On the NBA level, think of Trevor Ariza with an inside game. It may take time for him to make his mark in Indy, but Mitchell's defensive skills are undeniable. At some point, he's going to be a special NBA player.
24. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Saric has the size at 6'10", 225 pounds and the skill set to be the league's next Dirk Nowitzki. However, that's not going to happen until he learns to develop his offense and balance it with his defensive game, so Denver fans need to be patient with him.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis Grizzlies): Kelly Olynyk, F/C, Gonzaga
Size is the name of the game for Minnesota this draft season, and Olynyk has just that at 7'0", 238 pounds. He isn't necessarily a low post big man, as he likes to stretch the floor with his jump shot, but Rick Adelman is good at getting the best out of young players. If there's anyone who can turn Olynyk into a solid 5, be it a backup or a starter, it's him.
26. New York Knicks: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Knicks are all about defense once again, and they'll use their late first-round pick on a player that they can groom as Tyson Chandler's eventual replacement. Dieng has the size and defensive prowess at 6'11", 245 pounds, but still needs to develop the athleticism expected of a pure all-defense 5.
He should still see viable minutes as a backup, so Knicks fans should be patient with Dieng. He may not seem like much, but his ceiling is fairly high.
27. Los Angeles Clippers: Tim Hardaway, Jr., SG, Michigan
Lob City needs a 2-guard who can dunk, and Hardaway Jr.'s work above the rim has been notable this season, especially when he's not busy shooting threes. He has solid size at 6'6", 205 pounds, and is just a great athlete in general.
Don't be surprised if the Clippers try him out at small forward to see how he fares there. From his scoring touch to his dunking ability, he could find himself playing a big role in Los Angeles.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Miami Heat): C.J. Leslie, F, North Carolina State
Cleveland is going to need solid on-ball defense, and Leslie is a strong enough athlete that he can further develop that part of his game on the NBA level quite well. He has the size to create mismatches at 6'9", 200 pounds and once he spends some time in the weight room, fans should expect him to become a beast in the interior.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Assuming that Kevin Martin leaves via free agency and Jeremy Lamb becomes OKC's top option at the 2, the Thunder are going to need a pure shooter to come off the bench. McDermott is exactly this, and is averaging 23.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting an incredible 48 percent from long range. He also has solid size at 6'8", 225 pounds, so he has room for game growth on the NBA level.
Just how many minutes he gets as a rookie remains to be seen, and he is probably destined for some time in the D-League. Still, McDermott is a fine fit for the Thunder and his offense will help take the team far.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
In the event that the Spurs keep Tiago Splitter for the rest of the regular season, the 6'11" Brazilian is still set to hit free agency in July. GM R.C. Buford will do everything in his power to bring him back, but drafting some insurance in the form of seven-footer Lucas Nogueira wouldn't hurt at all.
It will take some time for Nogueira to develop in the NBA, but he's still only 20 years old. In time, he can become a reliable 5 on both sides of the floor.
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