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Kentucky's Noel claims top spot in first mock draft

POSTED: May 29, 2013 8:48 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Matching big man Nerlens Noel with a backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters could be special.

This is the same new beginning for the Cavaliers, even with the coaching change to Mike Brown, which, come to think of it, isn't such a new thing in Cleveland. It's still trying to get back to the playoffs in their post-LeBron James world, still trying to build around rising star Kyrie Irving and still trying to end the waiting to get to the future.

Which makes Tuesday night interesting in so many ways. The Cavs won the lottery for the second time in three years, this time with Nerlens Noel as the likely target as help for the unit that finished 30th in the league in shooting defense. But the Kentucky power forward-center will miss summer league and training camp and at least one full month of the regular season, by his own estimate, while coming back from knee surgery.

The team that has enough young players will obviously consider trades heading toward selections on June 27. But with this draft class and this player that would not have been No. 1 any other year, even when healthy, the offers won't be pouring in.

That goes for everyone as players are finally assigned specific teams in the first official mock draft.

1 Kentucky | PF | 6-11 | 220
The Cavaliers' medical staff is now on the clock. Cleveland will have to wait until approximately Christmas to get Noel back from a torn knee ligament, but he is a better outcome than No. 2 and McLemore for the team that is set in the backcourt with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

2 Kansas | SG | 6-4 | 195
Trey Burke will have a strong appeal to fill a need at point guard, and the Magic have Arron Afflalo at shooting guard, but McLemore is the second-best prospect, at worst, on the board. Take him, gather assets, make a trade.

3 Georgetown | SF | 6-8 | 200
The Wizards get a very good outcome. Porter is a position need and coming off a season as the Big East Player of the Year that moved the versatile small forward into the top five.

4 Indiana | SG | 6-5 | 210
With his defensive abilities previously established, Oladipo shot up draft boards by expanding his offense and becoming a dependable shooter. Imagine pairing one of the best two-way players available with small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as lock-down defenders on the wing.

5 UNLV | PF | 6-7 | 240
An undersized power forward who can play some small forward (though while likely struggling there on defense), Bennett is a positive step in the Suns trying to return to respectability.

6 Michigan | PG | 6-1 | 175
He left school after a standout sophomore season partly because the decision by Marcus Smart to return to Oklahoma State gave Burke a clear path to being the top prospect at his position, a great held to a draft standing. Talk about a point guard who sees the court.

7 Indiana | PF-C | 7-0 | 240
Say goodbye, DeMarcus Cousins. Zeller doesn't have nearly the upside as DMC as the Kings move in a fresh direction under new ownership, but Zeller also isn't nearly the, um, headache.

8 Syracuse | PG | 6-5 | 175
He has stayed in contention for the top 10 despite shooting 39.3 percent, thanks to the lure of being a 6-5 point guard with vision who can handle. Hoping to address the obvious problem, Carter-Williams has been working on his perimeter game since the end of the season.

9 UCLA | SG | 6-6 | 225
Tough call. It's no longer hard to find an exec who says Muhammad could fall out of the lottery, but the Timberwolves need a scoring punch in the backcourt and Muhammad was in the mix for No. 1 all of seven months ago.

10 Maryland | C | 7-1 | 255
Expect the Blazers, already playing a lot of kids and in position for a playoff push, to explore trade possibilities to add a veteran or maybe multiple players for much-needed depth.

11 Duke | PF | 6-11 | 245
The combination of a developing offensive game and already-there elite athleticism for a big man has turned the brother of Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee into a very solid choice late in the lottery.

12 Gonzaga | C | 7-0 | 240
Part of the wave of Canadian prospects in recent years, with Bennett and Texas point guard Myck Kabongo this season, Olynyk has an advanced offensive game for a big man, with the ability to score from the post and the perimeter.

13 Lehigh | PG-SG | 6-3 | 190
The scoring guard comes from a mid-major with the credibility of huge games against big names in the NCAA tournament, hitting Duke for 30 points in Lehigh's upset win in 2012 and Kansas for 26 in a loss in 2010.

14 Germany | PG | 6-1 | 180
A breakout performance for the international team playing against the top U.S. college-bound stars at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland in April moved the jet-like point guard from the second round to legitimate, even likely, lottery possibility.

15 Georgia | SG | 6-5 | 205
Offensive threat who has spent two seasons in a system that creates a lot of shooting opportunities. To put it another way: he took nearly 43 percent of the Georgia threes in 2012-13.

16 France | PF-C | 7-1 | 235
Gobert had an underwhelming 2012-13 in France, but front offices see real potential and was impressed he participated in Chicago while also planning to play with many of the top international prospects next month at the adidas Eurocamp in Italy.

17 Croatia | SF | 6-10 | 225
An apparent change of heart after initially saying he would stay in Europe puts the Toni Kukoc-like small forward with a great feel for the game back into lottery contention.

18 Louisville | C | 6-11 | 245
The run of backup centers begins. Dieng's size and mobility translate into a future as a shot blocker, with signs of a respectable offense. Being 23 years old is a drawback, giving him fewer years to develop and play.

19 Russia | SF | 6-7 | 205
He is showing potential while playing big minutes in a good league as a 19 year old. An ideal draft-and-stash candidate who could go much higher in a year or two.

20 Kansas | C | 7-0 | 235
A shot blocker who has the experience of four years in a major program is mature at 23 years old. Withey is the pick for a team wanting a backup center to contribute now, not someone to develop over the years.

21 Pittsburgh | C | 6-11 | 235
Adams is relatively inexperienced against top competition after growing up in New Zealand and playing one season at Pitt, but the interest is understandable after showing an aggressive, high-energy style of play. The Jazz may need to replace bigs lost to free agency or traded.

22 Greece | SF | 6-9 | 215
One of the late climbers on the draft board has the disadvantage of playing against competition that would be equal to Division II or III in the United States, hurting his development and increasing uncertainty about his transition to the NBA. If he does well in individual workouts, his stock will jump again.

23 Kentucky | SG | 6-5 | 195
He went from being one of the top recruits in the country to a very inconsistent rookie season but great athleticism and potential will keep a lot of teams interested.

24 Brazil | PF-C | 7-0 | 220
The NBA has been waiting for years for the athletic 7-footer to add toughness. That it hasn't happened is a bad sign. That teams able to spend an investment pick are still very interested is a good sign, and the Knicks need help inside.

25 D-League | SG | 6-6 | 210
The long road back for the son of the former All-Star small forward includes playing for the Rio Grande Vipers after being kicked off the team at Georgia Tech. He will get a lot of tough questions from executives trying to determine if he has learned from past mistakes.

26 North Texas | SF-PF | 6-8 | 235
One of the wild cards. Mitchell had a disappointing sophomore season and is the first to admit he did not play hard all the time, with a lot of NBA people willing to also say it for him. But it's easy to see teams falling back in like with his athleticism and toughness.

27 California | SG | 6-6 | 205
Denver needs help from behind the arc. Though he needs to get stronger, Crabbe has the size, accuracy and decent three-point range to fit the shooting-guard mold.

28 Ohio State | SF-PF | 6-7 | 225
Thomas is a versatile scorer with good experience after three years with the Buckeyes. The question is whether he is a tweener without a position or a stretch four.

29 Spain | SG | 6-5 | 190
Oklahoma City is in win-now mode, had two rookies this season and will be adding another player in the lottery. The last thing it needs is another first-year player. Abrines can stay overseas.

30 San Diego State | SG | 6-5 | 205
The Mountain West Conference Player of the Year will have to show he can handle the transition from college forward to primarily a shooting guard in the pros.