UK Men's Basketball

NBA Draft: All eyes on Cavaliers; Noel is no lock to be No. 1

Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) headed down court with a steal as Kentucky played Texas A&M on Saturday January 12, 2013 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) headed down court with a steal as Kentucky played Texas A&M on Saturday January 12, 2013 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

There's no clear-cut No. 1 pick in this year's NBA Draft, and that means the guessing game likely won't be over until the selection is announced Thursday night.

Kentucky's Nerlens Noel hopes to hear his name called first, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are keeping a tight lid on their intentions.

ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford updated his mock draft Tuesday and Noel was in the top spot yet again.

On a conference call with reporters later in the day, Ford mentioned Maryland's Alex Len and UNLV's Anthony Bennett as other possibilities at No. 1.

He also said it was possible that — two days before the draft — the Cavs haven't even decided who they'll take with the top pick.

"There isn't a franchise player or a superstar," Ford said. "They've had to take the attitude, 'Let's find out what these guys do well,' instead of obsessing over what they can't do. Because if you do that, you disqualify every player in the draft."

The Cavaliers have a solid young corps of players led by all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson.

They want to win now. Problem is, there's nobody in this draft that's seen as an immediate impact player on a contending team.

"When they evaluated this draft, they didn't see one player in this draft that they felt was going to be a starter on an Eastern Conference playoff team this year," Ford said.

"So whoever they're drafting ... the most likely scenario for them next season is that they come off the bench. So if they're going to come off the bench anyway and play a more limited role, then I think you take the best player available."

That player could very well be Noel, the UK big man whose freshman season was cut short by a torn ACL.

Ford said Noel has been at the top of Cleveland's draft board throughout the process. General Manager Chris Grant is a fan, and Noel was given the OK by team doctors after last week's visit.

Len — a 7-foot-1 center from Ukraine — has emerged as the buzz pick in recent days. But he has his own health woes (stress fracture in his ankle) and he wasn't the most productive college player during two seasons at Maryland.

Ford called him a top-five pick, but doesn't think he is deserving of the No. 1 spot.

"Everybody says Nerlens Noel is a risky pick," Ford said. "I think Len is a little bit riskier pick because the one thing that I don't always consistently see out of him is motor. And that's one thing that is always a big red flag for me with big guys."

Ford said that if the Cavs pass on Noel at No. 1, he "would be shocked" if the Orlando Magic didn't take him with the second overall pick.

"They like him, they think he's a fit. I would agree with them," Ford said. "And they're going to swing for the fences and take the guy that they think has the most potential."

Of course, there's still a chance the Cavs could trade the No. 1 selection for a veteran player to add to their young roster.

Ford said Cleveland has been shopping the pick ever since winning the lottery but other teams haven't been willing to give up much.

"We'll see Thursday if someone caves," Ford said. "But I just don't see, personally, a team giving up the talent that Cleveland's looking for."

UK guard Archie Goodwin was listed at No. 37 to the Pistons in Ford's latest mock draft.

The ESPN analyst described Goodwin — once seen as a possible lottery pick — as "one of the most intriguing players in the draft" and a player that would likely go in the 25-40 range.

Ford pointed out that Goodwin is the second-youngest player in the draft pool — older than only Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo — and praised his "elite speed and quickness" and ability to finish with creativity around the basket.

His highly inconsistent jump shot and questionable decision-making are giving teams pause. And his perceived lack of improvement in one season at UK has raised other questions.

"I think Archie Goodwin has been a head-scratcher because (John) Calipari has a long track record of getting the most out of players," Ford said. "You see these young players improve their weaknesses and improve their whole overall basketball IQ (under Calipari), and we just didn't see that out of Archie this year. He looked a lot like the same player we saw at the start of the season.

"Now (the questions are) 'Can you not accept coaching? Are you not working on your game? Are you just unable to work out your flaws?'"

Four other players with Kentucky ties could be selected in Thursday's draft.

Ford has Murray State point guard Isaiah Canaan pegged at No. 21 to the Utah Jazz and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng at No. 26 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Though they didn't make his latest mock draft, Ford mentioned Murray State's Ed Daniel and U of L's Peyton Siva as possible second-round picks.

Daniel — a 6-7 power forward — has been a surprise during team workouts over the past few weeks.

"He's such a great rebounder, and a great leaper," Ford said. "He has a terrific motor. He's impressed a lot of people in his workouts."

Siva helped Louisville win the national title in April but wasn't seen as much of an NBA prospect despite four solid seasons with the Cards.

At 6 feet, he's undersized for an NBA point guard and lacks a pro-ready offensive game. But his defense could get him drafted Thursday.

"Teams will look at him as maybe a guy who can go in and slow down a Russell Westbrook a little bit," Ford said. "Or slow down a John Wall a little bit. And just make their life miserable for maybe 10-15 minutes a game.

"And, for that, he might make the second round."

Chad Ford's mock draft

The latest mock by ESPN draft guru Chad Ford:

1. Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)

2. Magic: Victor Oladipo (Indiana)

3. Wizards: Otto Porter (Georgetown)

4. Bobcats: Alex Len (Maryland)

5. Suns: Ben McLemore (Kansas)

6. Pelicans: Trey Burke (Michigan)

7. Kings: C.J. McCollum (Lehigh)

8. Pistons: Anthony Bennett (UNLV)

9. Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia)

10. Trail Blazers: Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse)

21. Jazz: Isaiah Canaan (Murray State)

26. Timberwolves: Gorgui Dieng (Louisville)

37. Pistons: Archie Goodwin (Kentucky)

NBA Draft order


1. Cleveland

2. Orlando

3. Washington

4. Charlotte

5. Phoenix

6. New Orleans

7. Sacramento

8. Detroit

9. Minnesota

10. Portland (from Charlotte)

11. Philadelphia

12. Oklahoma City (from Toronto via Houston)

13. Dallas

14. Utah

15. Milwaukee

16. Boston

17. Atlanta

18. Atlanta (from Houston via Brooklyn)

19. Cleveland (from L.A. Lakers)

20. Chicago

21. Utah (from Golden State via Brooklyn)

22. Brooklyn

23. Indiana

24. New York

25. L.A. Clippers

26. Minnesota (from Memphis via Houston)

27. Denver

28. San Antonio

29. Oklahoma City

30. Phoenix (from Miami via L.A. Lakers and Cleveland)

y-may be conveyed to L.A. Lakers; z-may be conveyed to Dallas

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