Welcome to pre-draft workout season, when NBA teams fall in and out of love with players they have scouted extensively for a year or more.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers were awarded the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, it was widely accepted that they would draft Kentucky center Nerlens Noel with the top pick. The flat-topped defensive monster entices pro scouts with his athletic ability despite being raw and coming off a major knee surgery.
That second detail may have made some teams less high on the 19-year-old Everett, Mass., native than others. A few doctors reportedly are concerned about Noel’s drop in weight to a svelte 206 pounds at the draft combine, while worrying his recovery from ACL injury may not go as smoothly as expected. Multiple media reports have said Noel will miss at least the first two months of the 2013-14 season.
“The ACL issue is an interesting one,” writes ESPN’s Chad Ford. “I’ve heard rumblings from several teams that their doctors were pessimistic (after examining Noel in Chicago) that he would return to play at all next season. However, I’ve also spoken with a handful of teams that said they don’t see any issues with his recovery. Noel’s camp contends he’s ahead, not behind, schedule on his rehab. No word yet on the Cavs’ assessment of the injury.”
Adding to the equation is Cavs owner Dan Gilbert‘s desire to make the playoffs next season. If Gilbert makes that a directive, there is almost no way Cleveland can justify drafting Noel or even Georgetown small forward Otto Porter or Maryland center Alex Len, who the Cavs are also believed to like. The Cavs then would have to look into trading the pick for a player who could help now without completely blowing up the team’s rebuilding plan.
If the Cavs are forced to trade the pick, Ford thinks Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins could be a logical target.