Nerlens Noel, the Kentucky Wildcats freshman forward, is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during the second half of Kentucky's 69-52 loss to Florida on Tuesday night.
In the aftermath of a nightmare injury for one of the brightest young talents in the game, Noel will have to make a difficult decision about his future. For the next two months, everyone will be asking whether he's staying at Kentucky or entering the 2013 NBA draft.
If Noel were to return, depending on how quickly he recovers, he could miss much of the next season at Kentucky. The span from March until June, a time when little basketball is played, could be the only opportunity for Noel to show scouts that he's the same player he once was.
The 2014 class is also projected to be much stronger than 2013's, something Noel should certainly consider. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Noah Vonleh are elite prospects he wouldn't have to compete with if he decided to declare this year.
However, if he enters the 2013 NBA draft, he will be doing so just four months after tearing his ACL. His potential suitors are likely to drop knowing there's risk associated with drafting an injured player.
A torn ACL this deep into the season leaves few options—none of which are favorable. But if Noel wants to make the most of a bad situation and maximize his draft-day dollars, 2013 is the year for him to go pro.
Noel's injury isn't career-threatening, after all. Star players like Al Jefferson, Jamal Crawford, Kyle Lowry and David West are all playing quality basketball years after tearing the same ligament.
There's bound to be a team at the top of the lottery viewing this as an opportunity to buy low.