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ESPN: “Why so many teams passed up Nerlens Noel”

We promise not to spend the rest of Sunday talking about Nerlens Noel and Thursday night’s draft. With that said, ESPN ran an interesting article the other day speculating on the real reason why so many teams passed up on Nerlens Noel.  The author, Henry Abbott, made an interesting point that essentially every team had a shot at Noel in one way or another and simply chose to pass. Five teams had a direct chance to draft Noel on Thursday night. The rest of the league had a clear cut opportunity to make a move for Noel when the Cavaliers very openly shopped around the number one pick. None of the teams were willing to package together a deal. The risk was too great. But why?

The obvious answer is the injury. Noel’s recovery from a torn ACL mid-season put a major red flag on the promising young big man. Injured players get drafted though. Alex Len and Anthony Bennett being two prime examples of injured players who were drafted over Noel on Thursday. Rumors flooded over the last few weeks that other red flags for Noel were in play, such as the people he chose to surround himself with being questionable. All of that seemed a little far-fetched to be the reason why so many teams would pass up on the chance to draft an athletic big man, who has a knack for blocking shots at an elite clip. So again, why was the risk too great for nearly every single team in the NBA?

Abbott offered his best explanation:

“The best answer is creepy and just about impossible to get on the record. But it goes like this: As a player with a known medical issue, Noel falls into one of the NBA’s most damning cracks, between what’s good for teams and what’s good for general managers.

In short, Noel is the kind of player who can get a general manager fired, and most front offices couldn’t stomach it.

There are different ways players fail in the NBA. If he doesn’t work hard, it’s on him. If he doesn’t fit the system, it’s on the coach. None of that threatens highly paid and career-minded general managers… But things go down differently if the team fails because it bet on a player known to have been injured and injuries are his undoing. That tends to be seen as the front office’s fault…

Abbott brought up prime examples, all of which we have heard plenty about in the past: Yao Ming and Greg Oden in particular. Talented big men. Gambles. Never paid off for the front office. No one wants to be the next general manager tied with a similar type of situation. The pay off if Noel pans out and winds up being fine could be great for the one team willing to take the risk: the 76ers. They traded away their young and talented point guard, the closest thing to the “face of the franchise” that they had. Jrue Holiday is out, and Nerlens Noel is in. Packaged with a high 2014 draft pick, Noel is the future the 76ers are going to try to build around. Will the gamble pay off? The gamble that virtually no other team in the NBA was willing to take…

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

26 Comments for ESPN: “Why so many teams passed up Nerlens Noel”



  1. card4life
    11:41 am June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Or maybe he just sux boy shouldn’t even been in 1st round



  2. James
    11:47 am June 30, 2013 Permalink

    #1 Nerlens kicked your boy Gorgui’s butt one on ow just like Anthony Davis and Josh Harrellson did before him. Maybe that soft as charmin big man you all love so much shouldn’t have been drafted in the first round. There’s a reason he want a lottery pick: he’s old, he’s soft and the last player that Pitino made into an NBA superstar was Antoine Walker. But thanks for coming to a UK site. Your Kentucky obsession is appreciated.



  3. card4life
    11:54 am June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Yea u of k gets lots of players in the league bit they never do nothing once they get there last one to doaanything was rondo u rember where he’s from



  4. jealous
    12:00 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    There is a logical answer to this. #1 is a total DUMBASS!!



  5. Truebadoor
    12:00 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Nerlens also had to be picked up by a team willing to say “we’re not going to be good this year.” Also, Nerlens will not be the face of the franchise. He’s going to be a spectacular 2nd or 3rd star. The face of the franchise is going to be whoever the 76ers grab near the top of the 2014 draft (Wiggins, Randle, Parker, Harrison, etc.). That’s really what this pick was about. Take a player who is not going to help you this year (but could be great eventually), so you set yourself up for the top of the draft next year.

    Cleveland and Washington are looking to win THIS year. Orlando, Charlotte, and Phoenix just “missed.”



  6. Parker
    12:02 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Ignoring #1 and #3. They are just idiots.
    I can understand passing on him some picks. Cause those teams need help right off the bat, but ANTHONY BENNETT?? And then CODY ZELLER??
    Is cal in the car again today??



  7. ukgrimm
    12:02 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    It’s pretty hard to ask one player to just turn around an organization when most of them get drafted so high to bad teams, something you would know nothing about. Also, there are plenty of UK players that play on teams that make deep runs in the playoffs EVERY year. All your statements are wrong.



  8. James
    12:03 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    You’re right. John Wall, Tayshaun Prince, Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins have all been complete busts. Prince and Davis have Olympic hold medals and Wall and Cousins were All NBA rookies. Cousins is one of the best big men in the league and Wall exploded last year after coming back from injury. Not to mention the fact that Eric Bledsoe is one of the most sought after free agents on the market. You clearly know exactly what you’re talking about.

    I’m sure you’re proud of T-Will and his gun charge and perrinial D-League stud E-5. Louisville fans for know anything about the NBA because you have no players there worth a darn. Enjoy watching the Gorgster ride the pine and you better hope there is a Direct TV package that caries European games so you can watch the little runt point guard you love so much.



  9. jealous
    12:05 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    I remember where Rhondo is from. He left. And when he came back he had enough sense to come back to Lexington & not “the evil”



  10. Downtown
    12:11 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Just out of curiosity, How was Yao Ming a bust? Wasn’t he an All-Star??
    Greg Oden? Absolutely.



  11. Al/in/Indy
    12:21 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    We as UK fan will have to admit about the direct line that Uvel has to the league….wait what? There isn’t a line unless it’s a line beard….L yeah



  12. Not an NBA fan
    12:39 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Over the years, I have been amazed at how incompetent so many NBA clubs are at drafting players. The Atlanta GM, who badly needed a point guard, took a guy that did not start for his college team at #2 over Chris Paul and Deron Williams. You can point out tremendous blunders like this every year. I would say at least half the clubs have incompetent front offices.



  13. art vandalay
    12:44 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Card4life- I will never get tired of reading comments like these….they are always good for a great laugh especially when you hear your University of Riff Raff brethren claim to be the most knowledgeable fan base in sports.

    you truly are the gift that keeps on giving.



  14. Costa Rica
    12:49 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Yao Ming!? A gamble that never paid off?? He played NINE seasons and averaged 19.0 and 9.2 for his career. He had a great career. How long did he expect a 7’6″ guy to play in the NBA… 20 years?



  15. Horatio
    1:17 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    If correct then new lesson learned by Coach Cal, don’t send up damaged merchandise. Dropping 5 places cost him $10M, my bet is that next time lottery picks will try to rehab by staying in college another year.



  16. Megan
    1:18 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Fascinating analysis. Too bad he thought of it after the draft was over. Would have been nice if someone had been thoughtful enough to raise this argument beforehand. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. We do this all the time. Humans, I mean. There’s very little we actually know, and our attempts to prognosticate are rather silly. It’s only after the fact that we scratch our heads, conduct an autopsy and try to figure out why we didn’t see it coming. Usually it’s nothing more than ex post rationalization, something we do to make ourselves feel smarter than we really are. But I think this guy’s analysis makes a lot of sense.

    I did hear some analysis that GMs were wary of picking Nerlens first because everyone remembers No. 1 picks that go bust. It’s something that can hang around a GMs neck for decades. So although scouts and nearly everyone else thought Nerlens was the best player out there, and not by a little bit, it was possible he would drop to No. 2, maybe No. 3. How could you not jump on that? Well, apparently, one-fifth of all NBA teams gave Nerlens a pass.

    Fools. The ’76s look like the smartest guy in the room. How often do you ever hear that?



  17. Big Perm
    1:23 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Rondo has actually been rehabbing his injury in Louisville and getting treatment from the uofl training staff. He also plays pick up ball in the off season with uofl players and wears uofl gear around town. So, there you go.



  18. Good News
    1:28 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    The good news for Nerlens is he became very wealthy when he and his shady handler took money from Uncle Wes and picked uahk over G-town. He would still be healthy and played for a winning team had greed not taken over. It was his choice.



  19. Dj Wilson
    1:33 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    @16 damn girl i bet u hot lemme get them digits



  20. whodat
    1:33 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    an oustanding article. Most fans/parents have no idea what is really moving and shaking things behind the scenes and this hits the nail squarely on the head. Job security for those making the decisions is what drives drafts AND recruting regardless of the sport.



  21. Wildcatsteeler
    1:35 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    There is only one thing that can stop Noel from being a successful NBA player, injury.



  22. #17
    2:02 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Is full of crap.



  23. KG
    2:09 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    card4life had better get them Papa John’s delivered before they get cold.



  24. David Wilhite
    4:03 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Yao Ming was an 8 time all-star that averaged 19 pts & 9 rebounds. Almost a 2bl 2bl for a career! Curious to see what a player has to achieve to be successful by your standards. Guessing you have already gotten some pretty good flack for including Yao in this story but that’s about as bad of an example of a ‘bust’ as you could have possibly chosen. Nice research



  25. IowaCat
    5:01 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t think it’s fair to call Oden a “bust”. Obviously it didn’t work out, but it’s hard to say how good Oden would have been if not for the knee problems. Kwame Brown was a bust because he sucks, but to put Oden in that same category seems short-sided.



  26. Dick Pitino
    9:37 pm June 30, 2013 Permalink

    Rose missing all year for the Bulls may have made teams be afraid of Noel’s knee. Sometimes players fall in the draft for not good reasons, like Aaron Rogers with the Packers. He set in the green room until the end of the 1st round. If you are really good your play will make you money. If Noel plays like most people think he can, he will make a lot of money.