Feb 9, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the game against the Auburn Tigers in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Auburn 72-62. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft 2013: Can The Charlotte Bobcats Afford To Pass On Nerlens Noel?


Nerlens Noel is no Anthony Davis.

Then again, not many players are.

Despite playing in the shadows of the 2012 Final Four MVP and National Player of the Year, Noel managed to create his own style at Kentucky.

Standing 6’11 with a 7’4 wingspan, Noel has comparable size and length to Davis, and is just as elite of a weak-side shot-blocker. He averaged 5.4 blocks, 11.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals per 40 minutes in a freshmen season that was shortened by an ACL tear in February.

It doesn’t take long to see the defensive instincts Noel has. What makes his upside scarier is his quickness and elite athleticism. He moves like a guard and is able to control the paint with his mobility and shot-blocking.

Despite his injury and raw offensive game, many expect Noel to be the first player selected in the 2013 NBA Draft. However, ESPN draft expert Chad Ford hears from sources that the New Orleans Pelicans and Orlando Magic would be prepared to pass on Noel if they win the NBA’s draft lotery.

The Magic have the best odds of winning the draft lottery after finishing with the worst record in the league.

If a scenario plays out where the Bobcats have the second pick, behind the Magic, can the Charlotte Bobcats afford to pass on Noel?

Bismack Biyombo, who turns 21 in August, is the starting center for the team. Despite being stronger and having a longer wingspan than Noel at 7’6, he’s struggled in his first two seasons and hasn’t always showed the flashes fans would like to see as a starter.

Next season will be a big year for Biyombo, as he enters his third year of being a starter and many excuses will start flying out the window.

But if the team has soured on Biyombo, they could move in a different direction.

Sure, the Bobcats could use more of a power forward in their lineup than another center. This makes UNLV forward Anthony Bennett a reasonable target. Shooting guard could also be a need depending on if Gerald Henderson leaves in free agency. This would make Ben McLemore a logical target as well.

However, one strategy that has proven to backfire on teams in the draft, is selecting need over talent. After all, it’s how the Bobcats wound up with Biyombo with Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried among others still on the board in 2011.

Just think about how worse it might’ve been if the Detroit Pistons selected Kemba Walker with the eighth pick ahead of the Bobcats ninth selection.

Noel is arguably the most talented player in this draft. He could end up becoming a much more reliable defensive and offensive player than Biyombo, and athletically he has much more impact.

Noel’s ACL injury doesn’t seem to be a big concern. After just turning 19 last month, he’s young enough for it not have any negative effects on his career. Reports have stated Noel is way ahead of schedule and rehabbing well.

For a team low on talent, the Bobcats could do themselves a big favor by leaving the draft with Noel if he’s available . The front office would have to figure out what to do with Biyombo in the long-term, but Noel can have a positive impact on a franchise.

Since drafting Biyombo, many are still scratching their head as to whether he can have a positive impact going forward.

Would You Draft Nerlens Noel, If It Meant Losing Bismack Biyombo?

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