HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — So much for all of those mock drafts that had Nerlens Noel as the consensus No. 1 pick.
Noel didn’t land anywhere near the top spot in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Anthony Bennett of UNLV was the stunner No. 1 pick — only Hall of Famer Sam Smith of Bulls.com had Bennett pegged for the top spot heading into the festivities. Noel’s upside simply could not match the NBA readiness of a rugged power forward like Bennett, who is viewed by many insiders as the one player in this Draft class who can make an immediate impact for a team trying to transition from the lottery to the playoffs.
Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Cody Zeller and Alex Len all came off the board before Noel.
It wasn’t until the sixth pick that Noel was picked, going to the New Orleans Pelicans where it was assumed he would form a wicked shot-blocking duo with another former Kentucky Wildcat, second-year forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft. He even bragged about the block party he and Davis would throw in the Big Easy.
That was minutes before word spread that the Pelicans were moving Noel to Philadelphia for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and a first-round pick in the 2014 Draft (a trade that has not yet been confirmed).
The deal makes sense for Pelicans, who have no need for two slender power forwards who will not be able to hold down the middle as undersized centers. Noel’s drop came out of nowhere and no doubt had to do with concerns about the knee he’s rehabbing, the one that cost him most of his lone season at Kentucky.
But as we’ve seen many times before, once a player projected to go high in the Draft starts dropping, other teams start running away from that player for fear of something they’ve missed in their own vetting process.
This has been easily the craziest top 10 of a NBA Draft in recent memory, complete with the No. 7 pick being Ben McLemore, a player once thought to be a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick, and No. 8 pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joining Bennett in crashing the top of the lottery on Draft night after being further down the list on most mock drafts heading into the night.
The craziness at the top makes things much more interesting for the rest of the first round, since someone who was projected to go higher will no doubt drop into someone’s lap in the bottom half of the lottery and beyond.