NBA Draft 2013: Nerlens Noel Fitting in D.C? (Josh Kays Q&A)


Nov 29, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) warms up before the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Joyce Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel is one of the most intriguing NBA Draft prospects in quite some time, so when reports arose about possible concerns regarding his ACL injury which could cause his draft stock to fall, I had to contact someone who knew more about Noel than myself and the majority of NBA fans.

The guys over at Fansided’s Wildcat Blue Nation have covered Kentucky basketball and Nerlens Noels’ short stint at the program this entire season and were willing to answer a few of my questions regarding Noel and his future in the NBA.  

This is the first year in quite some time in which there isn’t necessarily a consensus number one overall choice in the NBA Draft. In fact, there have been numerous reports that teams may look to trade down in the draft if they do indeed win the NBA Draft Lottery. If Nerlens Noel is viewed as the top prospect, even though he’s dealing with a significant ACL injury, how does that reflect upon his game and this years draft?  

I think it tells a lot about the kind of player Nerlens Noel is, because even though he is going through rehab for his ACL, most people still consider him the best overall prospect in the draft. I think a reason for that is because how he was developing before the injury at Kentucky. Noel came into Kentucky as a defensive presence only, with no offensive game. By the middle of the season he had a great turn around hook shot, and was always in the right place at the right time. High School recruits see that kind of development, and want to come to Kentucky for the same reason Noel did. This year’s draft is also one of the weakest in recent memory, but I believe in the long run this draft will produce some good pro players with Noel being one.

Nerlens Noel is obviously the best defensive big man in this years draft class, especially from a shot blocking standpoint (4.4 blocks per game). Unfortunately, he’s been scrutinized for his lack of talent on the offensive side of the floor. The NBA has witnessed many raw offensive players fail to develop offensively to the point in which they could effectively contribute in that department. Where does Noel stand offensively? Should the team selecting number one overall take a chance on Noel, even though he struggles to score and doesn’t have much of post game?

Like I said earlier Noel came into his freshman season at Kentucky known for his defense, but left Kentucky with a subpar offensive game that was improving daily before the injury. Credit to Kentucky’s coaching staff for developing his offensive game which made him a better pro prospect. Yes, he still needs work, but he was the only one on Kentucky’s roster this season to give 110% effort every game.

What are some parts of Noel’s game which seem to be overlooked? Are there any misconceptions about Noel which casual fans tend to make?

The part of his game that gets overlooked is his work ethic that I mentioned earlier. I have never seen somebody work so hard on every possession like Noel did. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was that type of player, and Noel works just like him but probably even harder than he worked. I keep hearing people say “We are worried about his knee”, well a lot of athletes have ACL injuries and come back better than ever.  

Noel surprisingly has a very high awareness level, especially since he played just one year of college basketball. Aside from becoming a significant defensive presence, how will Noel impact his team right out of the gate?

He will impact that game when he gets healthy with his awareness on the floor, and his ability to be coached. I never saw one time where he talked back to Calipari or his staff. He’s a great kid all around. On and off the floor he handles himself better than anybody his age.

Even though he’ll probably be selected amongst the top prospects, should a team like the Washington Wizards, which haven’t done a particularly great job in developing their raw players and struggled offensively this past season (Jan Vesely comes to mind), take a chance on Noel?

If Noel is available with the 3rd pick the Wizards should take him. John Wall is emerging as one of the league’s best point guards, and if he and Brad Beal can feed Noel the ball on a consistent basis he will become a very good player in the league.  

Where do you see Noel ultimately being selected in this upcoming NBA Draft? Which NBA player does he most resemble? 

I think Cleveland takes him with the #1 overall pick, and I believe he resembles Dikembe Mutombo.

Give us your final assessment on Noel and his future in the NBA.

I believe he needs to take a season off, and make sure the knee is 100% healthy before trying it out. I honestly believe he will develop into a top 5 big man in the league in a couple of years.


I want to thank Josh Kays and Wildcat Blue Nation for answering some of our questions. Hopefully this helped shed some light on Noel and his possible, but unlikely, future with the Wizards.