For the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery. It could have been three times in three years, but they lost a coin flip to the New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans) after they finished with identical records in 2012. New Orleans went on to win the lottery and selected Anthony Davis, a center from the University of Kentucky. The Cavs missed out on the opportunity to draft a Kentucky center last year, but they have the chance to do it this year with Nerlens Noel atop of most NBA expert’s draft boards. Problem: this year’s Kentucky center tore his ACL during his first and only season in college and isn’t expected to begin playing again until December – and that’s the absolute earliest.
This probably isn’t the first time you’re hearing about this, but you need to hear it again: Noel weighed in at 205 lbs at the NBA Combine. In his defense, the official UK athletic website had him at 228 lbs. If that is in fact true, that is a respectable weight for a 19-year-old kid getting ready for his first season in the NBA. But this reminds me of the time Michael Beasley from Kansas State was one of the top prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. KSU said that Beasley was 6-10. But when he was measured at the combine, he only measured at 6-8. Only two inches, but it’s a big difference when you’re talking about a power forward. However, as of right now, Noel weighs 205 lbs; five pounds heavier than Daniel Gibson. All NBA GMs love his upside and potential, but they all have to fear his size, especially Chris Grant. The Cavs play in the Central Division where they have some of the most physical centers in the league.
Chicago Bulls – Joakim Noah, 6-11, 232 lbs
Indiana Pacers – Roy Hibbert, 7-2, 280 lbs
Detroit Pistons – Greg Monroe, 6-11, 250 lbs/Andre Drummond, 6-10, 270 lbs
Milwaukee Bucks – Larry Sanders, 6-11, 235 lbs
That’s a lot of weight that Noel will have to match up against. It doesn’t matter how many shots he can block, he would get absolutely abused in the post if he doesn’t gain weight soon. I’m not saying he won’t gain weight, but that is a tough task to ask to ask a teenager to gain 30 pounds while recovering form ACL surgery.
This can be summed up pretty easily: he doesn’t have it. But it’s my job to explain it, so let me do that.
- Dunking is a big part of Noel’s offense – he had a lot of success doing it in college. If you take that away from him, his offensive game is limited.
- He doesn’t have a jump shot, or anything that could draw a defender out of the paint.
- Even in the post he isn’t a threat for the defense to be concerned about when he gets the ball on the block.
- He’s a poor foul shooter too, but that isn’t that surprising. He’s a seven-footer with enormous hands, making it difficult to guide the ball in the hoop at the charity stripe. I think Shaquille O’Neal said it best when he compared a big man shooting free throws to an averaged size man shooting a tennis ball – not an easy task.
Noel tore his ACL in February in a 17-point loss to the Florida Gators. He has said he is ahead of rehab schedule, but he isn’t expected to begin his rookie season until December. Based on the history of centers taken in the lottery – and you add in the injury factor – Noel doesn’t have a good shot to succeed when he does return. Names such as: Greg Oden, Darko Milicic, Yi Jianlian, Fran Vazquez and Hasheem Thabeet are all centers that have never lived up to the hype they had in the draft.
No one can really label Noel as “injury prone” yet, but he is not off to a good start. Noel would fit right in with Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving – who combined to miss 80 games last season. This team can’t afford to draft another guy who may be “injury prone.” No matter how talented the player is, if he is always missing time due to injury, then he won’t help your team and make it any better. You can’t predict if a player will endure a lot of injuries through his career, but you have to protect your franchise and try and avoid injuries. At one time the Cavs had three of their starters in masks last season. This team can’t go through injuries like they have the past two years, or else we’ll end up in the lottery again next year.
“We were hoping regardless of what pick we got that this would be our last lottery,” Dan Gilbert said. “We thought originally after everything had to be reset that it would be a three-year process. You never know. It could be four. We thought three years, but having No. 1 and 19, we’ve got a pretty good chance of this being the last one for a while.”
Those are the exact words coming from the man in charge. He doesn’t want to make a return trip to New York for the lottery next season. He wants to win, and he wants to win now. By drafting Noel, it doesn’t give your team any better of a chance to win. He’s a project, a big project. He needs to work on his size, post moves, foul shot and stay healthy before he becomes a good pro; that’s a lot of things to work on for a 19-year-old kid.
The Cavs can take any player they want in this draft. They have endless possibilities they can do with the No. 1 pick: select, trade down or trade the pick outright for a proven player. Whichever Grant decides to do, they will build the team to compete next year. Not necessarily for a championship, but a No. 6 seed in the playoffs wouldn’t be a stretch. Gilbert seems to be just as impatient as Cavs’ fans. The draft picks are here for the team this year. This offseason will define Grant’s tenure as GM – he needs to stay away from Noel if he wants to continue working with this team.