According to a release out of the University of Kentucky, freshmen center Nerlens Noel has torn his right ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Noel was averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game.
If you look at Noel, you see a young man with great potential.
When you see him play, you see a premier defensive player who has a high motor and plays with a lot of energy.
ESPN’s Chad Ford had Noel as a likely candidate as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. This knee injury is likely to decrease his chances of becoming the top overall pick in April. However, this is considered a weak draft class, so the injury may not drop him as far as some may think – but no one really can determine what his fate is for sure.
Noel is a player that NBA GMs can be iffy about. He is an elite defensive player, but offensively he doesn’t bring too much to the table. This makes a lot of people question if he is worth a top-5 pick.
Chances are the Cavs will end the season in the lottery once again and will end up in the Nos. 3-9 range and Noel will likely be on the board when we pick. But with a six-to-eight month recovery time expected after surgery, Noel will not be able to participate in draft workouts – but may be available when next season begins at the end of October.
Noel sent out an encouraging tweet:
Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback!I love you all and can’t thank y’all enough for the prayers.
— Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) February 13, 2013
The injury also brings up the topic of the age minimum the NBA has. In 2005 NBA commissioner David Stern instituted a new rule that all NBA Draft participants must be one year removed from high school – preventing standout high school athletes going straight from high school straight to the NBA.
The age minimum was supposed to be addressed during the player strike when the Player’s Association and the NBA were working on the collective bargaining agreement. However, the money situation got the best out of the situation and the age minimum was never changed.
Some people argue that athletes should be able to become draft eligible right out of high school and shouldn’t have to worry about a year in college, or playing professional overseas for a year.
In Noel’s case, the age minimum of the NBA could cost him.
It’s hard to determine if entering the NBA is better for a player or a year of college – because each player is different. Each player learns in a different way and at a different pace.
You definitely can’t determine if this injury would have happened if he were in the NBA. But you can say that he would be receiving a paycheck each week if he were in the NBA and not still in college. However, he does go to the UK, coached by John Calipari, who has been found guilty of recruiting violations. So who knows, maybe he does get paid to play at UK.
However, when teams that draft in the lottery, they don’t draft a player for them to come in and make an immediate impact. In other words, winning Rookie of the Year isn’t on a GM’s mind when they draft a player. They draft a player for them to be good in four to five years. And that is the exact type of player Noel is – a player who may not be great right now, but with some experience he can become a great player.
In any other sport an ACL tear would kill the draft stock of a player. But in the NBA, so many teams draft on potential and future rather than immediate impact.
Will Cauley-Stein will assume Noel’s role as starting center for the Wildcats. Cauley-Stein is another player who has NBA GMs buzzing over his potential. Soon enough, Big Blue Nation will move on from the injury and embrace Cauley-Stein just as much as they have Noel. Take a look at his high school highlights in football and basketball.