While Noel might not be the No. 1 pick in every expert’s mock draft, he is always at the top of their big board, meaning he’s the top prospect in the class. Cleveland will likely be deciding between the former Kentucky center and Alex Len from Maryland.
If the Cavs take Len—or someone that isn't Noel—the Magic are “leaning strongly” toward selecting Noel at No. 2, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.
The problem is that Noel is doomed if he gets taken by Orlando. While he could end up being the best player on the team once he returns from his torn ACL, he will never be in title contention. He would be the centerpiece in Orlando while he would be a piece of the puzzle in Cleveland.
Orlando has done a horrific job drafting players the last few seasons and doesn’t have much talent on its roster since Dwight Howard left for Los Angeles. The players that the Magic do have are more like guys who are a part of a surrounding cast. Orlando lacks a big-time leader.
Noel is a good player, but it’s unlikely he’s going to be the guy getting the big shot at the end of the game or giving a motivating pep talk at halftime. Noel isn’t going to be the player the Magic need. The better fit for Orlando is Len, and it’s not even close.
If Cleveland passes on Noel and the Magic pick him up, the former Kentucky center is only going to be bound for personal success. It’s not like Noel is going to come back and join a team that’s already in playoff contention. Orlando won’t be in the playoffs for a few years even if Noel is on the roster. The Magic need too much help.
Noel is better off being a piece of the puzzle in Cleveland.
Cleveland has been setting itself up for a title run for the last few years. The past two years have been fantastic for the Cavs in terms of drafting future stars. Kyrie Irving is already one of the best point guards in the league, Tristan Thompson is an up-and-coming big man and Dion Waiters will soon be a top shooting guard.
That trio needs one more star player in order to make a deep run into the postseason in 2013-14. In a few years, the Cavs would be one of the best teams in the NBA and title contenders for many seasons to come. Noel is the perfect addition to Cleveland’s previous top draft picks.
Going to Cleveland is a win-win for Noel.
Which team is Nerlens Noel better off with?
Noel will make the Cavs’ backcourt considerably better. Last season, Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game in 82 starts. Anderson Varejao was hurt for most of the year and Cleveland could start to phase him out of the rotation once Noel makes his return to the court.
Alonzo Gee started every game of the season for the Cavaliers a year ago, averaging 10.3 points in 31 minutes per night. While he isn’t the best small forward in the league, there’s room for improvement and he’s really the guy with the least amount of pressure on him. Gee will likely be the afterthought of the Cavs’ starting lineup.
Together, the starting five for the Cavs will achieve a lot of success in the coming years with Noel on the team. That's not to say that they won't with Len on the roster, but Noel has to hope he goes No. 1. If he doesn't, he'll be the next Howard, counting the days until he's a free agent or the Magic trade him.
With Cleveland, Noel will be bound for individual success and team success. That's what he needs.