Wizards doing due diligence with Nerlens Noel
There are three things the Wizards may be interested in knowing about Nerlens Noel: He has gained 12 pounds since last month’s combine, he’s not cutting his flattop and his knee is just fine.
Noel visited with the team Friday and Saturday. Although he can’t work out because he’s still recovering from knee surgery, it was the Wizards’ first chance to talk with Kentucky's Noel, 19, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the June 27 draft. Noel was not among the players the Wizards interviewed at last month’s pre-draft combine in Chicago because they were projected to pick eighth at the time.
The Wizards moved up five spots after the draft lottery, however, and will pick third.
“It’s really coming along,” Noel said of his left knee in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in February. “Two-a-days (are) really paying off. I’m starting to feel good. I’m starting to do some core work, defensive slides, form shooting.”
Noel, who expects to return to play in November or December, is only doing three visits. He already met with the Orlando Magic (No. 2 pick) and will head to the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1 pick) on Thursday.
Since Wednesday, the Wizards also have interviewed likely high lottery picks Otto Porter (Georgetown) and Anthony Bennett (UNLV). The status of a visit from Ben McLemore (Kansas) remains murky because of his lack of representation by an agent. One person with knowledge of the situation told CSN Washington that he believes that is hurting McLemore's draft status.
At the combine, Noel raised eyebrows by weighing only 206 pounds. He’s 6-10 out of shoes and has a 7-4 wingspan. He insists he has begun to address the weight problem with more meals and protein shakes. His lack of strength, along with his knee injury, may hurt his stock and he could fall to the Wizards, who need size and offense. They were tied for last in the NBA last season in scoring at 93.2 points per game.
Noel is a defensively exceptional, but offensively he's raw. He averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals in 24 games played. If he doesn't have the strength to compete as a center, which is where he played in college, he'll have to be more versatile away from the basket to play at power forward.
“All year I was around 215,” Noel said of his weight before the injury. "I've been eating really well. By the time the season starts and I’m playing again I want to be around 225, 230. I think I could easily do that four or five months from now.”
Though Wizards point guard John Wall went to Kentucky, too, Noel doesn't know him. He played against shooting guard Bradley Beal on the AAU circuit but doesn't know him well, either.
Wall already has said if Noel becomes his teammate, he’s going to make him get a new hairstyle. The one Noel has played out about 20 years ago.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I got it, me and my best friend (for) good luck. … I grew up watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air before I went to bed. It means a lot to me.
“Obviously, he’s joking.”