TrueHoop: Nerlens Noel

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 7 grades

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
12:36
AM ET
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
ESPN.com


Thirteen notable performances from Day 7 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: B+
The good: Wiggins went to the line a whopping 20 times, drawing contact against smaller defenders and getting fouled on step-back jumpers and swing-through moves. The bad: Down three with the game on the line, Wiggins allowed a blow-by in an isolation situation, then turned it over the very next possession. The ugly: All the quiet time spent at the free throw line was interrupted by a fan yelling “You’re going to get traded!” -- Foster

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: D
If this was your first time seeing him, you’d probably wonder what all the fuss is about. This was Exum’s worst performance in summer league by a long margin, as he mostly floated in the background and deferred to a fault. Even when he’s stuck in the mud of a 1-for-8 shooting night, though, you can still catch a little glimmer: Exum attempted a two-footed, Derrick Rose-style dunk from outside the paint that he was fouled on. You just wish there was more of that, though. -- Foster

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers | Grade: C+
After briefly making the city of Philadelphia nervous by leaving the game with injury, Noel returned to the floor. Even though there weren’t many flashy moves or insane athletic displays, Noel planted himself right in front of the action at the front of the rim and used his superior length to his advantage quite nicely. He’s capable of much more, but it’s nice to see that he knows where he’s needed. -- Foster

Jordan McRae, Philadelphia 76ers | Grade: A
He was almost perfect. McRae scored 25 points and didn’t miss a single shot all night until, ironically enough, he air-balled an open 3-pointer late. You hear a lot about length leading up to events like this, but McRae puts his crazy 7-foot wingspan to real use offensively on the wings, as his ability to get shots off in traffic and finish over the top of defenders bodes well for the next level. -- Foster

Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B
A lot of the rookie hesitation in Snell’s decision-making has gone by the wayside, as he pulled the trigger a few times with little breathing room to spare. That willingness to fire up shots coming off screens is a nice development, as Tom Thibodeau runs a pretty structured offense that largely revolves around his ability to get shooters open looks from off-ball action. There aren’t many potential contributors for championship contenders here, but Snell is one of them. --Foster

Shabazz Muhammad, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: B
It happened. Muhammad finally had his first eye-opening summer league performance, dropping 24 points in a “playoff” loss to the Kings. It’s not that Muhammad hadn’t scored at all before Thursday; he just hadn’t done so efficiently. Against the Kings, he got to the hoop, made a few moves out of the post and attempted 11 free throws, a high for him at summer league, while also making more than half his shots in a contest for the first time in Vegas. -- Katz

Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat | Grade: C-
Apparently, Shabazzes offset. The man with two z’s in his name looked like he was catching some z’s throughout the game, appearing lethargic getting back on defense and while guarding in the half court. Napier wasn’t impressive on the other end, either, settling for jumpers (he was 5-for-18 on field goals) and failing to create for his teammates off the dribble just one night after his appearance at the ESPYs. -- Katz

Austin Daye, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: C-
It’s simple: Daye has to make 3s to warrant playing time again at the next level. His 2-for-9 showing from behind the arc is a bad sign for his stretch 4 aspirations, as it’s incredibly unlikely he’ll be able to get into the paint at the next level due to his lack of speed and molasses first step. The silver lining here, though? Daye isn’t passing up open looks when they come his way. Play for the job you want, right? -- Foster

Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets | Grade: A
The Rockets are a fun summer league team to watch, if only because you can clearly identify who has previous experience on their 3-happy D-League affiliate team in Rio Grande. Canaan is one of those players, and his unabashed love for pull-up 3s (4-for-8) and hard drives right to the rim (28 points) tips it off. It’s fitting that Canaan’s trademark moment -- a lefty drive against Wiggins with a strong finish to ice the game -- came in such a manner. Keep his name in your back pocket. -- Foster

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz | Grade: B
He’s a no-frills player. Hood has a really good sense of when to beat off-balance defenders with strong straight line drives to the rim, and his intelligence cutting to open spaces on the floor at the right time would make former Utah coach and Flex enthusiast Jerry Sloan proud. On nights like this when nothing is coming easy for the young backcourt of Exum and Trey Burke, Hood can act as a low-risk safety valve. -- Foster

Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks | Grade: C
Everyone likes to make the Rajon Rondo comparisons with Schroder, but at this point, the greatest similarities between the two point guards probably come on defense. Rondo may not drain 3s, but he has a killer midrange game. Schroder, who started Thursday’s game off with a couple of turnovers in the opening minutes, is still learning how to shoot, clanking a few 16-footers off the bounce after dribbling around screens. Per usual, the German was a pesky on-ball defender, but if the shots aren’t falling, he can’t afford to toss careless passes in the wrong direction. -- Katz

P.J. Hairston, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B+
After a pretty rough stay in Vegas thus far, Hairston showed why he’s considered such a natural scorer. Other than a few impressive feats of athleticism on dunks at the rim, the thing that stood out most was the quick, high-arcing release on his jumper that he’s certainly not bashful about letting fly. Even though he’s a high-usage player, Hairston’s penchant for shooting a high percentage of his shots from behind the arc (4-for-9) is a good sign for a Hornets team that desperately needs that type of production. -- Foster

Ray McCallum, Sacramento Kings | Grade: A-
Just because he was in relative basketball obscurity at Detroit Mercy, we all forget that McCallum was a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school -- and even at summer league, playing on a floor conducive to chaos, he looks like a coach’s son. At least against guys who are still learning how to play the game, McCallum has turned “making the right play” into his M.O. Now, he’s even added some moves, including a nice step-back off the dribble, to his arsenal. -- Katz

The Fresh Prince of ... Las Vegas?

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
2:12
PM ET
By Adam Reisinger
ESPN.com
Archive

Now this is a story all about how the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers had some fun on social media at the Las Vegas Summer League on Tuesday.

The two teams met in one of the final games of the day, with Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel sitting out as a precaution. But the Suns Twitter account was more focused on another Philly prospect who had his life turned upside down.


Will Smith, aka The Fresh Prince, is a 76ers minority owner, though he no longer sports the high-top fade and we don't expect to see him shootin' some b-ball outside of the school any time soon.

While the Suns won the game 97-88, it's safe to say both teams won Twitter for the day.

Las Vegas Summer League, Day 4 grades

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
12:52
AM ET
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
ESPN.com
video
Eleven notable performances from Day 4 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: A-
All we’re going to talk about is that dynamic dunk off Wiggins’ dreidel move in the second quarter of the Cavs’ game against the 76ers, and maybe that’s deserving. That was maybe the smoothest offensive move he’s made at summer league, but all that being said, it may not have even been his best play of the game. That belonged to a Mutombo-like swat he had on Nerlens Noel, coming over in help defense and skying as high as the rim to slap away a potential layup. All he was missing was the finger wag. --Katz

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers | Grade: B
Watching the 76ers' summer league team is entertaining if only because this could end up being their actual regular-season roster –- and Noel only helps with that entertainment factor. There aren’t many guys who can re-jump quite like him. That’s part of what makes him so successful on the court -- his ability to leave the ground quicker than everyone else after the initial leap. Monday, he showed that off as a defender, blocking four shots. He also ran the floor as well as any big man in Vegas, finishing on a couple dunks in transition. --Katz

Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: B
Randle’s got handles? Monday, he showed off exactly how skilled he is on the perimeter. There were possessions in the fourth quarter when the Kentucky product was actually running point forward -- taking the ball up the floor, penetrating and facilitating for teammates, even kicking out for a corner 3 off a drive once. Grant Hill compared his dribbling ability to Anthony Mason’s. It was a little Blake Griffin-like, as well, exuding a sort of controlled chaos. He did struggle a bit on the boards and his screen-setting was ineffective at times, but the offensive production with the ball was solid enough to make for a quality performance. --Katz

Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: C+
The comparisons to Carmelo Anthony are apt, at least in the sense that Parker is similarly high-maintenance when it comes to space to operate. When Parker’s defender was on an island, his moves were brutally effective. But when there was weakside help or a crowded lane? Parker’s attempts were essentially sets for Rudy Gobert to spike. Is Milwaukee going to be able to provide Parker with the space he needs to thrive? --Foster

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: B
Don’t let the uninspiring stat line 6-and-2 fool you. Exum was quick and decisive in the pick-and-roll, looking more like a veteran practitioner than the “unknown entity” he was labeled as leading up to the draft. While there weren’t nearly as many flashy displays as there were in his debut, Exum showed tonight that there’s some steak with his sizzle. --Foster

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz | Grade: A
This was fearless rim protection at its finest. Gobert seemingly contested every Buck bold enough to venture into the paint, and even when Giannis Antetokounmpo caught him on a dunk, he came right back down the floor and returned the favor. Jazz-Bucks was one of the best Summer League games I’ve seen in four years from an individual performance standpoint, and the presence of a shot-blocker and athlete of Gobert’s quality only made it feel more legitimate. --Foster

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz | Grade: A
This might have been the best shooting performance we’ll see this year at Summer League, but there was more to it than just knocking down 7-of-10 from deep. There was a lot of nuance present here as well, as Hood put it on the ground and found open teammates, and when he was off the ball, his ability to float to open spaces and relocate was downright superb. Having a corner shooter like this with a point guard who can penetrate (think John Wall-Trevor Ariza) can lead to some beautiful jazz. --Foster

Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B
He may have deferred a tad too much when it came to creating offense, but Stauskas made good on nearly every open chance he received on the perimeter by letting loose with that picture-perfect release. It’s not often you see a high draft pick readily accept a lesser role offensively and be patient for the ball to find him, but considering the makeup of Sacramento’s roster, that tendency might not be the worst thing. --Foster

Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B+
There’s something to be said for looking comfortable out there, and Vonleh seemed so fluid, even as his team got rocked by the summer Knicks. He may have finished with a tame 13 points and five rebounds, but Vonleh did a little more than advertised in his third summer league contest, including dishing out some crafty big-to-big passes from the high post. He was a bit hesitant to shoot at times, but what we saw Monday was someone who was more physical and versatile than just a pick-and-pop big. --Katz

Austin Daye, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: B+
I’m filing a motion to approve the nickname “slow-mo-bros” for Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw and Austin Daye. There’s a high degree of difficulty with this particular Gregg Popovich reclamation project, simply because Daye is incapable of bending his knees and moving laterally. Even with that being the case, it’s just so hard to quit on a 6-foot-10 guy who can display all the traits of the modern stretch 4, no matter the speed at which it all happens. --Foster

Bruno Caboclo, Toronto Raptors | Grade: C
At the draft, Fran Fraschilla described Caboclo as “two years away from being two years away.” We saw some of that Monday, especially on the defensive end, where his 7-foot-7 wingspan stayed mostly dangling by his hips (or knees) rather than stretched out. He didn’t dribble much, but when he did, it was usually a panic move. Bruno’s microcosmic end to the third quarter was all you needed to see from his disappointing day: sitting on the bench, towel over his head, after following up getting dunked on with a technical foul. --Katz

Orlando Summer League: Day 1 notables

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
9:02
PM ET
By Tom Westerholm
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
Here, in no particular order, are some notable performances from Day 1 of the Orlando Pro Summer League:

Aaron Gordon, Magic
lastname
Let’s begin here: Gordon grabbed a shot out of the air in the fourth quarter. It was breathtaking in person, the type of play that wakes up everyone watching after nearly six hours of basketball. Then Gordon followed up his highlight-reel play by trying to take two defenders off the dribble down the court and wound up turning it over. The sequence is probably going to be a solid metaphor for Gordon’s first couple of seasons. He will simultaneously thrill and frustrate -- cutting hard back door and rising for a massive slam at one moment, then taking a step-back 3-pointer that comes up well short another. But he is what was advertised: athletic, solid passer, great defender and good ball handler. He finished 3-for-11 from the floor with seven points and five rebounds.

Marcus Smart, Celtics
lastname
Playing basketball against Smart does not look fun. The Celtics’ rookie plays brutal on-ball defense and uses his size and his athleticism to bully his offensive opponent. His off-ball defense is somehow tougher -- he picked off two entry passes and seems to have an excellent understanding of passing lanes and where the ball is going. His jumper, which was supposed to have a hitch, looked smooth, though he didn’t shoot particularly well. Smart finished 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from behind the arc, but his shot selection improved as the game went on, and he appears to have a good understanding of how to get to his comfort zones out of the pick-and-roll.

Nerlens Noel, 76ers
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Much will be made of the fact that in the first possession of Noel’s NBA career, he faked an opponent into the air, pivoted and slammed home a one-handed dunk. But Noel’s offensive game (6-for-11 from the floor, 7-for-7 from the free throw line) isn’t as exciting for the Sixers as his defense. Noel looks even longer and more athletic than advertised. His arms stretch for miles, break up passing lanes and stop rolling big men in pick-and-rolls. Meanwhile, his incredibly quick feet help him cut off ball-handlers, which makes him an ideal trapping big. Playing within a system takes time, but Noel appears to be an NBA-caliber defender already.

Victor Oladipo, Magic
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Orlando started pressing against Philadelphia in the second half, and it was extremely effective, in large part due to Oladipo’s individual defense against Philly’s ball handlers. Oladipo defended like a junkyard dog, aggressive and snarling, and put heavy pressure on whichever unfortunate point guard was trying to bring the ball up the court for the Sixers. Oladipo’s combination of length, size and lateral quickness made him a nearly impossible roadblock to circumvent. He also shot well: 6-for-11 for 18 points and 2-for-4 3-point shooting.

Shabazz Napier, Heat
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Napier’s Summer League career started horribly, as an 0-for-10, eight-turnover drought spanned three quarters. Phil Pressey’s pressuring on-ball defense and quickness bothered him off the dribble, and Napier didn’t appear prepared for Smart’s size initially. But in the second half, Napier appeared to find his rhythm and knocked down a pair of threes and a tough spinning layup in transition that almost brought the Heat back into the game. He showed flashes, but much like Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke this past season, Summer League might be a necessary-but-difficult transition period for Napier. He finished 3-for-15 from the floor and 2-for-9 from 3-point range.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pistons
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This version of KCP looked absolutely nothing like this past season’s tentative version. Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 26 points on 8-for-19 shooting and was an impressive 8-for-9 from the free throw line. He was never hesitant looking for his shot and knocked down two jumpers from behind the arc, several from midrange and a variety of swooping layups around the basket that also got him to the line. He also made a difference on the defensive end and came away with six steals.

Elfrid Payton, Magic
lastname
The learning curve from Louisiana-Lafayette might be a little stiff for Payton, if first impressions are to be believed. Payton struggled in his debut; he turned the ball over four times in 17 minutes and scored just two points on 1-for-4 shooting. He showed plenty of athleticism, however, and dished out a game-high five assists. But he struggled at times to bring the ball up the floor against smaller guards such as Philadelphia’s 5-foot-10 Casper Ware, and Payton never looked particularly comfortable running a half-court offense. Like Napier, we might see an upswing in production from Payton as the week goes on and Orlando’s offense begins to gel.

Kelly Olynyk, Celtics
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Olynyk dominated Summer League last year, so it’s not particularly surprising that he picked up where he left off against Miami. Olynyk scored 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. He never moves particularly fast, and that can get him in trouble. Defensively, Miami’s Jeff Hamilton found space on the floor frequently, and Olynyk struggled to recover and contest. But defense has never been Olynyk’s specialty, and he moves effectively on offense and utilizes a variety of spin moves and dribble drives to find space and score around the basket.

The great blight hope

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
10:04
AM ET
By Tom Sunnergren
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
Henry SimsAP Photo/Eric GayBehind those 25 consecutive losses and that 15-56 record, there's still a ray of hope in Philadelphia.
On Dec. 15, 1968, during halftime of the final game of a 2-12 season, a group of Philadelphia Eagles fans threw snowballs at a 19-year-old kid who was dressed as Santa Claus. There’s a longer version of this story with some quasi-exonerating context, but that’s the upshot. A gang of angry men pelted a teenager with snow because they were frustrated with the local football team.

Sports media figures in Philadelphia hate to be asked about this incident. Partly because they maintain it’s a cartoonish and grotesque distortion of the values of the city’s fan base -- which it sort of is -- but largely because it forces them to confront a pathology that, although maybe on the wane, still survives and thrives in pockets of their constituency.

Which is to say: It hurts because it exposes an uncomfortable truth.

There’s an angst, a deep-seated dissatisfaction, that pervades Philadelphia sports culture. It’s so ambient and consuming, so normalized, that it’s difficult to really see or feel while you’re inside of it -- to cut to the punch line of an old joke, "What the hell is water?"

“Passion” is what some Delaware Valley partisans attribute this cantankerousness to -- “love” and “loyalty” are also frequently cited -- but it’s probably best understood as a highly developed palate for unhappiness.

All of which makes it strange and noteworthy that, with the 76ers poised to tie an NBA record for consecutive losses Thursday, the modal attitude in this angsty, angry city isn't frustration, despair or apathy, but something that, if you squint just a little, looks suspiciously like optimism. Maybe even hope.

Consider the Sixers’ March 19 loss to the Chicago Bulls -- Chapter 68 in the tragicomic novel Brett Brown & Co. have been authoring since October. (Working title: “The 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers.”) The fans, the 13,322 paying customers scattered throughout the Wells Fargo Center that night, weren’t so much entertained as riveted by the scrappy, hopeless bunch. They roared when Thaddeus Young buried a 3-point shot to cut the (relatively) mighty Bulls’ lead to 64-61. They cheered raucously on the next possession when Henry Sims scored off a Tony Wroten assist to narrow the Chicago advantage to a single point. The rafters shook when Byron Mullens hit consecutive trifectas to make it 81-80 Bulls with nine minutes remaining.

When the game ended with the Sixers’ 22nd consecutive loss, the crowd was buoyant, even affectionate. It was like an arena full of besotted parents had just finished watching their snotty, uncoordinated, beautiful infants take their first clumsy steps. A few stumbles and scrapes, sure, but what do you expect? The kid’s skull hasn’t even fused yet.

This is unusual, especially in the context of Philadelphia, but there’s some precedent for it. When academia first saw fit to make a serious inquiry into the nature and cause of human happiness a few years back -- further evidence that progress comes in fits and starts, we started rigorously studying happiness 30 years after inventing Pop Rocks -- researchers were struck by something: The Danes were really happy. Thirty years of survey data all pointed one way. The cold, tiny, dark, hard-drinking, deeply pessimistic nation of Denmark was the happiest on the planet.

What these bewildered researchers soon came to understand was that the Danes were satisfied not despite their pessimism but because of it. Every year the citizens of Denmark braced for disaster, and when it never came, they were pleasantly surprised. Recently, economists Rakesh Sarin and Manel Baucells added to the picture, distilling happiness to a tidy equation: Happiness = Reality – Expectations. The Danes simply enjoyed a reality surplus. Imagine the feeling when your dermatologist tells you that mole on your back is just a mole on your back. That’s Denmark, 24/7.

And now it’s Philadelphia. This is a city, a fan base, that was girded for calamity in 2013-14. The team was supposed to be historically bad, so the fact that it is has been a nonissue. Happiness = Reality – Expectations. With zero expectation of success, the mounting losses are nothing to mourn. And so they haven’t been.

But this isn’t the end of the story. Sixers fans aren’t merely not miserable. In the absence of dread, something else entirely has cropped up from the once-fallow imagination of Philly hoops boosters: faith. Tucked into every loss, present in every missed shot and sloppy live-ball turnover, is a good reason to think things will someday, maybe not too long from now, get better.

Consider Michael Carter-Williams, the 6-foot-6 point guard whose combination of potential and puerility makes him the quintessential 2013-14 Sixer. Carter-Williams leads all rookies in points, rebounds, assists, steals and double-doubles, but shoots 39.6 percent from the floor and is ninth in win shares on a 15-56 team.

Carter-Williams isn't a Philadelphia 76er, he is the Philadelphia 76ers: a fresh-faced, uncomplicated, blank canvas upon which a city can project its hopes and dreams. And with Nerlens Noel still recovering from a torn ACL, MCW might not be the most gifted rookie on the team. Help, too, is on the way. With each passing loss, the team brings itself closer, if only in degrees of probability, to a potential difference-maker like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

Meanwhile, the painful reminders of past failures have been flensed from the franchise. Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner are in Indiana. Spencer Hawes in Cleveland. Doug Collins is in my living room, talking about something on TV.

In Philadelphia, even the losses themselves are encouraging, suggestive of an ability to build a thing that works the way it’s supposed to. The Sixers aren’t merely tanking -- half the league is -- they’re tanking better than anyone else. They’re the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls of deliberate losing. This thing is a work of art.

General manager Sam Hinkie traded his best player, Jrue Holiday, on draft night (and received, in return, Noel and a top-five-protected pick in the loaded 2014 draft), flipped every player on the roster with immediate value and questionable long-term appeal, and resisted the chorus urging him to use the team’s ample war chest to add a veteran or two (just to keep up appearances).

The machine Hinkie built is doing precisely the thing it was designed to do: teeter over and explode. If an organization can succeed at failure so spectacularly, imagine how wildly it can succeed at success.

This is the other side of tanking, what gets lost in the hand-wringing over the great moral failure the NBA is supposedly guilty of by incentivizing teams to lose: For many impoverished franchises and fan bases, purposeful losing doesn’t smite out hope but breathes life into it. Giving up is the only way to hang on.

Tom Sunnergren writes for Hoop76, part of the TrueHoop Network.

Bennett leads class of international flavor

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
12:29
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty ImagesUNLV’s Anthony Bennett waves to the crowd after his selection as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked everyone.

Anthony Bennett of UNLV is headed to Cleveland, becoming the second player from UNLV to be selected No. 1 overall (1991 Larry Johnson).

Bennett, a power forward listed at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, was the highest-selected Canadian-born player in the Common Draft era, going higher than future Cavaliers teammate Tristan Thompson (4th overall in 2011).

It's the fourth straight year a college freshman has been selected with the first overall pick: John Wall in 2010, Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Davis in 2012 and Bennett this year.

At No. 2, the Orlando Magic selected Victor Oladipo, who became the first Indiana player picked in the top five since Isiah Thomas went No. 2 overall in 1981.

Two picks later, the Charlotte Bobcats took Oladipo’s Indiana teammate, Cody Zeller. It's the highest Indiana teammates have gone in draft history.

Sandwiched between those picks was Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr., who stayed local and was selected by the Washington Wizards. He's the first Georgetown player selected in the top five since 2007.

Maryland's Alex Len rounded out the top five, going to the Phoenix Suns. He's the highest-drafted player from Maryland since Steve Francis went second overall in 1999.

After Len, Nerlens Noel finally came off the board with the sixth pick, to the New Orleans Pelicans, but his rights were sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in a proposed trade that would send All-Star guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans. Noel was the 11th Kentucky player to go in the first round since 2010.

Other notable picks included Michigan point guard Trey Burke, selected ninth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but was then traded to Utah for the 14th overall pick (Shabazz Muhammad) and 21st overall (Gorgui Dieng).

Tim Hardaway Jr., also out of Michigan, was selected 24th overall by the Knicks. It’s the first time since 1994 that two Michigan players were drafted in the first round (Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose).

Hardaway’s father, Tim, played 13 seasons in the NBA. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that in each of the last 12 NBA drafts at least one son of a former NBA player has been selected.

After beginning with a player born outside the United States, the first round ended with one as well: Nemanja Nedovic of Serbia. A total of 12 players born outside the United States were picked in the first round, the most ever according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was 11 in 2011.

OTHER NOTABLES
• C.J. McCollum, 10th overall to Portland, was the first Lehigh player ever drafted.

• Steven Adams, 12th overall to Oklahoma City, became the first Pittsburgh player drafted in the first round since 1999 (Vonteego Cummings).

• Shane Larkin, 18th overall to Atlanta (rights traded to Dallas), was the highest drafted player from Miami (FL) in the Common Draft era.

• With his selection as the 22nd overall pick by the Brooklyn Nets, Mason Plumlee helped elevate the family name to rare heights. His brother, Miles, was taken in the first round last year; the Plumlees joined the Zellers (Tyler and Cody) and the Grants (Horace & Harvey) as the third pair of brothers to be picked in the first round of consecutive years in the Common Draft Era.

Is Nerlens Noel worth the No. 1 pick?

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
11:49
PM ET
By Peter Newmann and Dean Oliver, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
NoelESPN Comparing Nerlens Noel to similar players from earlier drafts could indicate his career path.
The short answer is yes. But you’re not here for the short answer.

At 6-foot-11 and a feathery 201 pounds, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel has stats and physical characteristics that compare to four players: Tyrus Thomas, Derrick Favors, Greg Oden and Chris Bosh.

Part of the reason is age. All of these players were younger than 20 years old when they were drafted. Another reason is that they were all drafted in the top five.

A detailed look at the stats, though, suggests that Noel comes up a little short on most offensive metrics. He was a role player in college with limited skills, taking only 15 percent of Kentucky’s shots when on the floor. Looking at his statistical comparisons in the NBA, Tyrus Thomas hasn’t developed an offensive game, Derrick Favors is still a work in progress, Greg Oden never had a chance to develop, and Bosh serves as the main offensive star among the group – and he still gets criticized. Noel’s effective field goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and limited shot use all point at a player who won’t immediately make an impact on the offensive end in the NBA.

On the defensive end, Noel posted some special numbers in college. His block rate was 13 percent higher in college than any of those four players. His steal rate was 70 percent higher. And his defensive rebound rate was higher than Favors or Bosh. All of this while committing not even three fouls per game.

What this means is that Noel should be an immediate ball hawk on defense. He’ll force turnovers and alter shots. He’ll rebound at a high level. He may be the best defensive player to come out of college in years. As NBA teams emphasize more and more to play defense without fouling, having a defensive big who won’t get into foul trouble and can stay on the court is very important.

As to staying on the court – one obvious red flag is the torn ACL that ended Noel’s freshman season and has limited his workouts. It is expensive for teams to acquire players who will miss significant time. How much did it cost Portland to have Greg Oden on the bench for so many years? How much did it cost Philadelphia to have Andrew Bynum on the bench? This is a cost not only in dollars, but in the jobs of coaches and management. Cleveland GM Chris Grant is absolutely checking to make sure his pension is funded before taking an injury-prone big man with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

In conclusion, there is major risk in selecting Nerlens Noel with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Fortunately, this is risk with potentially great reward. Noel’s defensive prowess can be hugely valuable in the NBA, where protecting the paint is so important. If he is selected No. 1, that paint protection is what is being banked on. If he drops, it’s his offense, his injuries, and the job security of GMs that cost him.

Cavaliers weighing the No. 1 decision

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
9:43
PM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
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Nerlens NoelBecky Stein/Getty ImagesIs Nerlens Noel the future face of the franchise in Cleveland? That has yet to be determined.
Despite numerous reports to the contrary, multiple sources say the Cleveland Cavaliers have yet to make a decision concerning who they’ll take with the No. 1 pick.

The Cavs continue to mull their options at No. 1.

They are engaged in trade talks with a number of teams. Sources say the Thunder, Timberwolves and Blazers have been the most proactive in trying to get the No. 1 pick -- but so far neither team has persuaded the Cavs to move out of the top pick.

The Cavs have narrowed down their list of prospects, according to sources, and it looks like it may ultimately come down to a battle between Kentucky's Noel and Maryland’s Alex Len. I’m still persuaded, though not convinced, that it will be Noel.

Here’s my thinking:
  • Noel told Louisville's Courier-Journal on Sunday that the Cavs' lead doctor, Dr. Richard Parker, had medically cleared him. I’ve had that confirmed by several sources. The Cavs have no serious issues with his knee.
  • The Cavs are stressing that they’re taking the best talent available, regardless of team needs or development curve.
  • The Cavs believe that given the strength of their roster, it’s unlikely that they’ll draft a starter. They believe their core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao is better than anyone they could draft at No. 1. They also believe that while they have a huge hole at small forward, they’ll use their cap space to find a veteran small forward to fill that hole. Regardless of who they draft, he is likely coming off the bench.
  • That means the Cavs are less likely to focus on which prospect will have the greatest impact now. They are free to take the player they think will be better down the road.
  • If history is any guide, the Cavs have a proven track record of taking young, less experienced prospects that show big upside.
  • They also have selected players that have, historically, graded out strongly in the various analytic measures they employ. Irving, Thompson and Waiters all ranked very highly by virtually every analytical tool.
  • All of that suggests to me that Noel, not Len, is likely to be the No. 1 pick. Noel has the most upside of any player in the draft. He tests at the top or near the top of every analytical tool I’ve seen (here’s Kevin Pelton’s WARP where Noel comes out on top). In fact, if I had to put a second player down, I think it would be UNLV’s Anthony Bennett who fits the criteria best.
  • While I know Len is in the picture and is a tempting option, he has a couple of things going against him. One, he has his own medical concerns and may be on a return timetable similar to Noel’s. Two, he rates poorly on most of the analytical tools I’ve read (he came in as the 26th prospect on Kevin Pelton’s WARP). While he might be the “safer” pick, I would be surprised if the Cavs made it just out of fear.
  • One last point on Noel. Given his steep improvement from November to February, if Noel had not hurt his knee -- Kentucky is in the tournament, Noel is the leader of the team, his numbers keep improving and he's the consensus No. 1 pick across the board. So, if he Cavs aren't worried about the knee ... isn't he the same guy they had ranked No. 1 on their board all season?

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