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.
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.
ESPN 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.
Becky 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?