While Jay Bilas might think Nerlens is somewhat overrated (at least for now), plenty of other folks think his current ability, as well as his upside, still make Noel the number one pick.
An NBA scout with a revolving-door list of potential number one prospects told SNY.tv that Nerlens is still very much in consideration for the first overall pick, if not the outright leader. While his points aren’t as prolific as some of the other candidates (Anthony Bennett is averaging almost nine more points per game), it’s the rest of the stat line that really speaks loudest. Specifically, 9.3 rebounds, 3,7 blocks, 2.7 steals have a way of convincing people that a player is worth consideration when it comes time to start drafting.
The NBA scout concisely describes Noel’s game as: “Great quickness and effort. Blocks everything, rebounds, steals, improving offensively. Great upside.” It’s hard to overstate the “effort” aspect, as Nerlens has obviously been setting the example for how Cal wants this team to hustle. He’s got the tenacity of DeAndre Liggins, and the size and defensive talent of Anthony Davis. His improving offense is likely what scouts will keep an eye on as the season progresses. Should it see a good measure of development, there’s no doubt that GMs will fight each other to get the top pick so that they can add Nerlens to their rosters.
Of all places, it’s probably a columnist on BleacherReport that gave the best neutral analysis of what makes Noel so draftable: “He’s an absolute machine on defense that will make a huge impact no matter what NBA team lands him. The lengthy big man has a bright future and this season should only get better for him and the Wildcats.”
All of these reasons are why Nerlens is still listed at the top of Chad Ford’s Top 100, still in the Top 3 on NBADraft.net, and still leading the Wildcats in almost every major defensive category this season. It’s a bittersweet feeling thinking that Nerlens could go number one, knowing that Cal will almost insist he leave (which is the smart decision). But for now, the moral of the story is to simply enjoy Nerlens while we can.