Nerlens Noel Is a Risky NBA Lottery Pick

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2013

Nerlens Noel has raw talent, but his knee injury is a huge concern
Nerlens Noel has raw talent, but his knee injury is a huge concernAndy Lyons/Getty Images

On Monday, it was announced that Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel will enter the NBA draft after just one season at Kentucky. 

This is after his Feb. 12 knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. The Wildcats struggled in his absence and failed to make the NCAA tournament just one year after winning the national title. 

However, the Wildcats were struggling before Noel's injury. So with the relative lack of success, plus the knee injury, Noel is a risky candidate for not just one of the top picks, but a lottery pick at that. 

Noel did have some impressive statistics at Kentucky despite his team's inconsistency in the win column. He led the nation in blocks per game with 4.4 and recorded 50 steals. He also earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. 

However, with his knee injury, Noel is a huge liability when it comes to his draft stock. 

The most recent case of a college star who was drafted high but then fizzled out because of injuries is Greg Oden. 

Oden was the first overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Ohio State. However, his college success never transferred to the NBA as knee problems have limited him to only 82 appearances in games over five seasons. 

However, Blake Griffin can provide the argument that a young player can recover from knee injuries. In Griffin's final preseason game before the start of his rookie year, he broke his left kneecap and missed the entire 2009-2010 season. 


But Griffin has since been a huge part of "Lob City" in Los Angeles. He has been an All-Star every year he has been healthy and has been part of the Clippers' journey to playoff relevance.  

So the question is: Will Nerlens Noel be the next Greg Oden or Blake Griffin? 

This year's draft class is relatively weak. There is no clear-cut No. 1 pick. 

But most of the prospects considered to be potential lottery picks aren't coming off a major knee injury, either, so Noel has a variable to his draft stock that basically no other potential top pick has. 

Noel also didn't live up to the hype that his predecessor, Anthony Davis, lived up to. And Davis was the consensus top pick leading up to the draft. 

At Kentucky, Noel didn't win like Davis did. He has major knee problems that will need to be addressed. And he simply was not as good on the floor as Davis was. 

With all that said, Noel is clearly a risk to take in the lottery.