We get it. Nerlens Noel can play defense, and according to Alex Kennedy of USA Today, he appears to be recovering well from his injury. That still doesn’t lower any of the other red flags that have been raised throughout his basketball career.
He can not go first in the 2013 Draft. It’s too much of a gamble.
First, as much as today’s technology has advanced in medicine, a torn ACL is a torn ACL. While there are a few recent professional athletes who have made full recoveries, it’s still not a guarantee Noel comes back good as new. His skinny frame doesn’t give much support and the risk of a bump on the court turning into something worse is increased.
What’s more, per Kennedy’s report, whichever team drafts him will have to wait until Christmas. As a rookie, you want as much time as possible to get acclimated to the league. As the team that drafts first, you’re probably not very good and need everything you can get out of your pick.
Then when he gets back from injury, Noel has to deal with his original problem of offensive inefficiency.
There are those who think he can develop some moves. But when someone mentions a lengthy seven-foot draft pick who was great defensively but struggled offensively, what NBA players come to mind?
Brandan Wright. Ed Davis. John Henson. Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside isn’t even in the league anymore, and while the others have become productive players in the league, none of them deserved to be picked first overall. Also, none of them have consistent offensive performances.
History is against Noel.
But here's perhaps the most old-school sign teams should pass on the Kentucky product first: he couldn’t win as a Wildcat.
Obviously he certainly couldn't win just by being Nerlens Noel. He couldn't win with three other 5-star prospects in his recruiting class. He couldn't win with two other former 5-stars, or with John Calipari.
He was practically handed the trophy on a silver platter, and his team couldn't stay ranked for half the season.
He’s a lottery selection, but he’s not number one.