Nerlens Noel was projected by many draft analysts to be a top-3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Noel had been developing into a fine young big man this season at the University of Kentucky.
But last night disaster struck as the Wildcats squared off against the Florida Gators: Noel suffered a devastating injury with career-ruining potential. He tore his ACL—badly.
Kentucky players were reported to have said that Noel’s screams of agony as he lie on the court were harrowing. That doesn’t bode well for his chances of making a speedy recovery, and because ACL injuries can take six months to a year to fully recover from, that limits his draft potential. Considerably.
It’s disheartening to see a college freshman who hasn’t even had his chance to score a big NBA contract suffer an injury of this magnitude. The Orlando Magic, among a number of other lottery teams, would likely have considered the big man as a potential pick for building their clubs around.
That all changes now.
Noel’s skill-set, speed and coordination are all top flight for what many had considered to be a project player in many senses. Noel had proven himself to be great at passing out of double teams, and absolutely phenomenal at blocking shots.
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports writes of how pitiful it is that Noel was even forced to play college basketball, given the requirement by NBA commissioner David Stern that draft entrants be at least one year removed from high school before entering the draft. Forde’s sentiments have a lot of merit.
Why should talents such as Noel be forced to jeopardize their careers to play for an education, when most of them have no desire to obtain a degree anyway? What purpose does that serve?
All hopes are that Noel will recover and have a productive NBA career, but the timetable on ACL recoveries makes it highly unlikely that teams will be wiling to gamble a high pick on a player whose rehab will still be in its early stages when the draft occurs in June.
Some lucky team may benefit from gambling on Noel in the latter half of the lottery, but his potential to be a top-3 pick is now all but quashed.