UK Men's Basketball

Draft analyst says Kentucky's Noel holding at No. 1 as Goodwin fades

Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) tried to clear the ball in traffic, as Kentucky defeated LSU 75-70  on Saturday January 26, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) tried to clear the ball in traffic, as Kentucky defeated LSU 75-70 on Saturday January 26, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Former Kentucky teammates Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin are looking at two very different fates in the lead-up to this month's NBA Draft.

Noel remains the consensus choice to be selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 overall pick, despite the fact that he's rehabilitating from a torn ACL. Goodwin, on the other hand, seems to be a long shot to be chosen in the first round of the June 27 draft.

ESPN analyst Chad Ford released the fourth version of his mock draft this week, and Noel held the No. 1 spot for the fourth time. Goodwin was not listed among the first 30 picks.

While Noel has been a fixture at the top of Ford's "Big Board," the draft analyst said UK's former center is by no means a sure thing to be chosen No. 1.

Georgetown's Otto Porter and Maryland's Alex Len are two other players the Cavs are contemplating with their pick, according to Ford.

"The Cavs, like most teams, have a process they go through," Ford told the Herald-Leader. "At this stage, they are bringing players in for interviews, going over the medicals and if healthy, having players work out. Where the call is close between prospects, this can be the final determining factor.

"I think they like Noel, but I don't get the sense from them at all that this is a done deal. If someone else wows them, or if there are more concerns about Noel's recovery, they could go in a different direction."

Ford put the odds of Noel going with the top pick at "60 to 65 percent."

The 6-foot-11 Noel raised some eyebrows when he weighed in at a mere 206 pounds during the NBA Draft Combine last month, and some observers said his slight frame should be a reason for the Cavs to pass on him.

Ford said there was "not a lot" of concern about Noel's weight among teams at the top of the draft.

"He's up to 214 (pounds)," Ford said. "(He) was, at one time, up to 228 at Kentucky. Typically players lose between 15 to 20 pounds in an ACL surgery. I think he'll play at around 235 in the NBA, which puts him in line with a number of the other thinner centers in the league."

If the Cavs do go in another direction with the top pick, Noel is not expected to be available long. Ford said the Orlando Magic have expressed interest with the No. 2 pick, and Charlotte and Phoenix are also interested at the No. 4 and 5 spots, respectively.

"I doubt he slides far," Ford said. "Unless there are major concerns about his rehab, it's hard to believe he'll fall out of the top five."

Noel's doctor, James Andrews, has maintained the former Wildcat is ahead of schedule with his rehab and Ford pointed out that the Cavs can afford to be patient with Noel's recovery given the current structure of their roster.

One scenario that seems unlikely at this point is the Cavs trading away the No. 1 pick. Reports surfaced shortly after Cleveland won the draft lottery that they were shopping the pick.

The chances of that are slim, says Ford.

"It's hard to do — for both the Cavs and other teams," he said. "The No. 1 pick, theoretically, has a lot of value. So they don't want to just give it away. On the flip side, teams don't feel there's a typically 'No. 1' prospect at the top, so they aren't willing to give up much to get it. I think there's a really good chance they keep the pick — like 90 percent."

So, barring any setbacks, Noel won't have to wait long to hear his name called on draft night.

Goodwin could be hanging around awhile. The former UK guard didn't win anyone over with his performance at the draft combine. Sports Illustrated even listed him in its "Losers" category following the event.

Probably the biggest question mark surrounding the 6-foot-5 guard is his poor outside shooting (26.6 percent from three-point range last season). His only appearance in any of Ford's four mock drafts came in the second version, which was originally posted May 8.

Goodwin went No. 30 to the Suns in that mock.

Ford didn't dismiss the possibility that Goodwin would be selected in the first round, which would include a guaranteed contract. But it's more likely he'll fall to the second round.

"He could go in the first. It takes one team," Ford said. "He's the youngest or one of the youngest players in the draft. John Calipari is working the phones on his behalf. He's just a big project and few teams late in the first have the taste for that."

In the past three drafts, nine UK freshmen have decided to go to the NBA after just one season in Lexington. If Goodwin drops to the second round, he would be the first of Calipari's one-and-done players to do so.

"He clearly should've returned to school," Ford said.

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