Another NBA Draft, another couple First Rounders coming from John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. With Nerlens Noel perhaps starting his first fashion trend with this tailored jacket:
Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin both were taken in the First Round, yet both were a bit of a surprise with Noel falling to #6 and Archie Goodwin coming in at #29. Nerlens was widely viewed as the #1 Overall Selection despite having had ACL surgery and not being expected to be ready until November or December. Judging by the looks he was giving around the room as one after another was called prior to his, he wasn’t happy. Shocked even. Here’s what he had to say about it.
Though his fall to New Orleans at #6 (though traded to the Philadelphia 76ers) cost him some serious $$, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman thinks it could actually be a blessing in disguise.
Nerlens Noel was confident he was coming off the board first. His people were convinced Cleveland was taking him with the No. 1 overall pick.
Instead, five general managers went in different directions. And despite costing Noel about $4.4 million dollars and a measure of pride, it may have been a blessing in disguise for the 6-foot-11 big man.
Noel thought he wanted to go first overall, but he didn’t want that label. Nobody in this draft is prepared to handle those expectations.
Sure, there were red flags. Plenty. There was the torn ACL and meniscus back in February that will almost certainly force Noel to have to sit and watch the NBA season opener from the bench.
There were concerns with the “people” he chose to surround himself, questions about how his narrow shoulders and lithe frame would hold up while battling with grown men in the NBA. Let’s not forget to toss in the fact that he doesn’t have much of an offensive game.
But Noel was the frontrunner to be selected No. 1 overall leading up to Thursday night. There was no chance he’d slip lower than fourth, not when just about everyone knew Charlotte was going with size. However, the look on Noel’s face was that of sheer bewilderment when NBA commissioner David Stern called out the name of another near 7-footer in Cody Zeller.
Then, to make matters worse, new Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough — who basically hails from down the street from Noel — followed it up by passing in favor of another big man, 7-footer Alex Len.
Noel was still on the board at No. 6. The only solace he could take from his slide was that he could glance a couple tables over in the Barclays Center and see former Kansas star Ben McLemore with the same baffled look on his face.
The fall certainly cost Noel a few bucks in his first contract, but the second deal is the one that truly matters. Now Noel has a chance to be far more marketable in a city like Philadelphia than in Cleveland. He’ll also come in with a chip on his shoulder again, similar to when he arrived at Kentucky a year ago with no shortage of skeptics.
Noel will walk into Philadelphia as just another draftee while Bennett will have the weight of No. 1 pick when he arrives in Cleveland. There’s a certain expectation that comes with being picked first overall, and some just aren’t equipped to handle it.
There was no surefire No. 1 guy in 2013, and Noel may have avoided the pressure and the curse that came with coming off the board first.
Now Noel will get a chance to be thrown into the fire when he gets healthy. The Sixers traded for Andrew Bynum, and didn’t get a single game out of him in the 2012-13 season. They are begging for someone to beat out Spencer Hawes.
Noel’s transition will be easier as he will be joined by his former AAU teammate Michael Carter-Williams, the long and talented point guard from Syracuse who was taken with the 11th overall pick. The Sixers also have young talents Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, as well as the protected pick in next year’s loaded draft and plenty of salary cap room to go after big-time free agents a year from now.
Noel can take his time, develop on the offensive end and make sure he’s 100 percent healthy. There’s no rush. He won’t have to be the savior … or anything close.
He may not see it that way right now, but that’s a win for Noel.
On Wednesday I gave Jay Bilas credit for speaking truth re: Archie Goodwin’s draft stock and last night the goods were delivered. Archie was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder who then traded his rights to the Phoenix Suns. That’s a huge win for him as they need a big wing scorer and they opted not to look at his combine workouts as much as his one season as a Kentucky Wildcat and his potential. He has things you can’t teach and passing on him is a risk the Suns weren’t willing to take.