Nerlens Noel Should Not Be a Lock to Go 1st Overall at 2013 NBA Draft

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMay 21, 2013

May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Nerlens Noel is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2013 NBA draft is just over one month away, 30 general managers are scrambling to figure out which player is worthy of the No. 1 overall selection. This isn't because of the abundance of superstars, but instead the lack of franchise players.

While Nerlens Noel appears to be the popular choice, there's something we must acknowledge—no player should be a lock to go No. 1.

There's good reason to perceive Noel as the top prospect, as he's the most dominant interior defender we've seen all season. Not only is he an explosive athlete, but he has extraordinary length with a 7'4" wingspan and displays maturity while defending the rim.

For those in need of statistical evidence, Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals during the 2012-13 college basketball season.

Unfortunately, there are knocks against Noel that have some questioning whether or not he should, in fact, be the first pick. Despite the imposing nature of his near 7'0" frame with a 7'4" wingspan and explosive athleticism, most of the questions have to do with his body.

Weighing in at 206 pounds and coming off of a torn ACL are certainly ways to cause some to question your ability to be a dominant interior player at the next level.

The truth of the matter is, Noel is not the issue with this year's draft, as he'd likely have gone in the top 10 of the 2012 draft. The true issue is that Noel joins his peers in a draft without a transcending athlete.

For that reason, it all comes down to fit, as the value is unclear.


Who Needs What?

There are more than a handful of teams that could use Nerlens Noel, as rim protecting centers are the heart of almost every title contender. With that being said, there are also teams that feel confident at center and could thus pass over Noel.

That includes the Orlando Magic, who possess the best odds to win the first overall draft choice.

Need has rarely been an issue for teams drafting first overall, as there is often a superstar ripe for the picking. In 2013, however, we experienced a season in which no individual college or international athlete emerged as the cream of the crop.

To this date, we still haven't found that player.

For that reason, it's going to come down to which position a team targets in this year's draft. If that isn't center, then Noel has yet to prove he's the future All-NBA selection that going No. 1 overall would suggest he is.

Unless that changes from here until the draft, there's no reason to draft blindly.


Balanced Draft

When it comes right down to it, Nerlens Noel has yet to separate himself from any of the top players in this year's draft. Noel may have a higher upside, but since his injury, all we've had to go on is the success or failure of his competition.

With Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Trey Burke and Anthony Bennett all proving enough to warrant consideration, that makes this decision even more difficult.

The top debate is between Noel and McLemore, as they appear to be the class of the draft at their respective positions. McLemore is an elite jump shooter with tantalizing athleticism and the frame to develop into a strong physical specimen, while Noel is a dominant interior defender.

The rest of the group simply adds intrigue.

Burke was the National Player of the Year, winning both the Naismith and Wooden awards, while Porter is easily the most complete player in the draft. Bennett, meanwhile, is 6'8" and 240 pounds with a 7'1" wingspan and explosive athleticism.

And we haven't even touched on Victor Oladipo—the player who I've consistently labeled as the best in this draft.

One way or another, the decision made on draft night is going to be one that comes without ease. No player is a guaranteed star, nor are they proven in the sense of being able to lead a franchise into the future.

Noel may be the most attractive name, but one thing is clear—no one is guaranteed to do anything in this year's draft.