Wizards doing due diligence with Nerlens Noel
On June 27, the Wizards will take part in the 2013 NBA draft. Currently the owner of picks 3, 38 and 54, the franchise could go in almost any direction with those selections - including trading them - as Washington attempts a sincere playoff push.
Washington's primary needs, some of which can be addressed during free agency, include adding overall scoring punch, finding a power forward with perimeter touch, a long-term answer at small forward, plus backups for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Between now and the draft, we’re going to identify some of the players the Wizards might target whether the team stays pat or moves around in the first round with analysis from coaches, scouts, beat writers and national analysts.
Up next, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, who met with the Wizards this weekend. Check below for a running of list of all our draft profiles.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Draft Express overall ranking: No. 2
Height/Weight: 6-11.75, 206 lbs (combine data)
Key stats: 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks in 2012-13
The player: For the second straight year, the No. 1 overall pick could be a University of Kentucky shot-blocking center with a distinctive look. That's because during his 24 games with the Wildcats, Noel, the top recruit entering college last year, used his 7-foot-4 wingspan and sensational athleticism to dominate defensively. The flattop sporting Boston native led all of Division I in blocks per game and his exceptional leaping proved potent as a rebounder and finisher around the rim. However, unlike the unibrowed Anthony Davis, the first pick in 2012, the 19-year-old Noel currently offers little offensively - and ended his freshman season injured after tearing his left ACL against Florida back in February. Despite collective struggles scoring, the Wildcats rarely designed plays for the big man and Noel only shot 52.9 percent from the free throw line. Injury and limitations aside, he's remained the favorite for the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first selection, though perhaps a shaky one.
The fit: The Wizards ranked among the top-10 defenses last season with Emeka Okafor anchoring the interior. The veteran is entering the final year of his contract and there is no obvious rim-protector replacement on the roster, even in terms of spelling Okafor this season. While Noel would not improve one of the worst scoring attacks in the NBA last year, adding him as a long-term defensive stopper playing behind Wall and Beal is arguably the better plan over selecting a small forward. With Okafor, Nene and Kevin Seraphin, the Wizards can be patient with Noel and just use him in ideal matchups against lighter bigs. Even if his shooting touch is miles away, he does show potential as a high-post passer.
The issue: What if the Wizards, a franchise without a playoff appearance since 2008, are done with a patient path. Noel told reporters on Saturday that while his rehab is on track, he's not expected back on the court until November or December. Factor in physical rust, adjusting to the pro game after one full season out of high school and offering minimal offensively, it's safe to say Noel will not help the Wizards next season. Oh, didn't mention his slender frame, which is not ready for the NBA wars. Noel said he's now at 218, 12 pounds above his combine weight, and hopes to be at 225-230 when he returns. Then there is the Jan Vesely factor. While not the same type of player as the No. 6 overall pick in 2011, the Wizards could not play Noel and Vesely together because of their offensive woes. That doesn't mean pass on Noel, but another move would have to follow.
Wall's words - From the day after the NBA regular season concluded, John Wall on if his fellow Kentucky product could help the Wizards: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. To tear an ACL, that’s a tough injury. To still be projected to still go No. 1 that lets you know how good you are. I think he comes in he’ll be a shot-blocker type person and do a great job. He’s just got to cut his flattop."
The analysis (as told to CSNwashington):
John Thompson III, Georgetown head coach (Noel's final college choice included the Hoyas): "What Nerlens does well will translate to the next level. I think Nerlens is an exceptional shot blocker, Does that change against bigger guys, both taller and heavier, yes, but I think he's going to be a presence at the defensive end wherever he goes. [Offensively] he's got a ways to go - and he knows it; I read an article where he acknowledged that. That's the first step. Some kids don't think they have to progress, they think they're a finished product already. His speed will get him basket. Prior to the injury, he changed ends of the court like a guard, like a fast guard. You know he's going to get offensive rebounds. You know he's going to get baskets in transition, you know the hustle plays he's going to be able to make if he comes back the same person health wise. Is anyone going to throw it to the block and say 'Nerlens, go to work', I doubt it initially."
Ed Isaacson, NBA Scout, NBADraftBlog.com, NBCSports: (Noel vs. Alex Len) "Assuming he comes back from his injury 100 percent, Noel already makes an impact on the defensive end so you're already getting something. With Len, there is a lot of potential there, but you just don't know if you're going to see it [reached]. At least with Noel, you're going to get the defensive part and you can sort of bring him around on the offensive end. You're not drafting Noel to be star next year or the year after. At worst, you're getting a defensive stopper. ...I'm not sold 100 percent that he should be the No.1 pick, but when you compare him to everyone else, that defense gives him that edge."
Nicole Auerbach, USA Today: "He's very entertaining to watch, so athletic. Maybe the average college basketball fan expected more offensively because he came in with so much hype, but that really isn't his game, though he definitely improved as the season went on. But, he was the defensive guy and played really well. [Kentucky coach John] Calipari always had nothing but praise for him even though he struggled to do the same with the rest of the team."
The summation: From a 2013-14 mindset, Noel's injury and skill set deficiencies, well, let's say it would be ideal if the Cavs or Orlando Magic take him and leave Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. or UNLV's Anthony Bennett for the Wizards. From a truly big picture perspective, his lane presence combined with the rising backcourt of Wall and Beal makes for an intriguing core. Ultimately, Noel is more Ben Wallace than Anthony Davis. In a draft loaded with uncertainty at the top, receiving that level of player in this draft isn't so bad.
NBA Draft profiles:
Tony Snell, SF, New Mexico
Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown
Lorenzo Brown, PG, NC State
Alex Len, C, Maryland
Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, SF/SG