The center showed plenty of potential in his only year at Kentucky, although a torn ACL cut his season short. This also means that he will be unable to participate in drills at the combine. Still, this does not mean he will be ignored in Chicago, as shown by NBA Stats on Twitter:
Top prospect Nerlens Noel speaks with the media at #NBAcombine as he continues his recovery from ACL surgery - http://t.co/lYzM7UKrBl2013-5-16 17:02:57
Here is a look at the profile of a player who is likely to be one of the top picks in the 2013 draft.
One of the more important factors for Noel at the combine is his measurements. Most scouts would like to see the shot-blocker play center at the next level, but he was only listed at 6'10" and 228 pounds on his Kentucky profile.
The good news is that his shoes helped him gain a little bit of height, according to Jeff Goodman of CBS:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
Nerlens Noel just told me he measured at 6-11 and 3/4 with shoes here in Chicago.2013-5-16 15:51:30
This is still not ideal size for a center, and he could play more power forward in the early stages of his career. Fellow Kentucky alumnus Anthony Davis spent most of his rookie year at this position for the New Orleans Hornets.
Still, his listed wingspan of 7'4" will help him succeed in the low post in the NBA.
There are a number of question marks surrounding Noel heading into the draft. The primary concern is his health, as whichever team drafts him will need to hope he returns to original form.
However, the big man stated at the draft that he is on pace to return by next Christmas, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:
Keith Langlois @Keith_Langlois
Nerlens Noel says hopes ready to go by Christmas. Says injury a blessing, working on other aspects. Will be a bettter player for it, he says2013-5-16 16:48:44
As a long-term prospect with a lot of potential, the fact that he will miss the beginning of his rookie year is not too much of a problem, as long as he does eventually come back strong.
On the other hand, scouts should also be concerned about a lack of technique on the offensive end. He averaged only 10.5 points per game at Kentucky, and very rarely did he display the ability to create his own shot.
Still, the one thing that has Noel rated so highly is his ability on the defensive end. He led the nation with an incredible 4.4 blocks per game while showing great athleticism and timing to make things difficult for any opponent trying to score inside.
Whether or not he develops offensively, the young player is certain to be impactful enough on defense to justify a high draft pick.
Of course, his athleticism should allow him to score quite a few points at the next level.
There is little doubt that Noel will be selected with one of the top-three picks of the draft. In a class without any real guarantees, he is a safe pick with loads of potential.
Depending on how the lottery shakes out, he even has a very good chance to be the first overall pick.
The Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns or other teams would love to have this type of presence in the frontcourt on both sides of the ball. While a team like the Orlando Magic might prefer to grab a perimeter player like Ben McLemore, Noel will not be on the board for too long.
Noel has the most upside of anyone in the class and will be selected extremely early in the 2013 NBA draft.