The Cleveland Cavaliers have won the 2013 NBA lottery, giving them the rights to the No. 1 pick in June’s draft. That selection very well may become Nerlens Noel out of the University of Kentucky, as the big man fits in perfectly with what this young and upcoming franchise is trying to do.
At 6’10” with nearly a 7’4” wingspan, Noel possesses adequate height and plenty of reach. When healthy, he’s a tremendous shot-blocker that uses his athleticism and long arms to send back anything that goes up in his vicinity.
Approximately two weeks prior to tearing his ACL in mid-February, the freshman set a UK record with 12 blocks in a game. His ability to consistently alter and swat away shot attempts is easily his best asset.
However, Noel isn’t a slouch in other areas, as he has big, quick hands that allow him to swipe steals easily. He’s also a great rebounder who can bounce up and clean the glass with ease.
Those are all areas in which Cleveland needs to improve. As a team, the Cavs were +0.28 in steals per game last year. That was only good enough for 20th in the NBA, according to NBA.com.
Rebounding wise, Thompson and Anderson Varejao can each hold their own on the glass, but Noel's lanky, athletic presence will give teams another factor to worry about on both ends of the floor.
While he may be able to soak minutes right away as a defensive specialist, the flat-topped star will require a good bit of polish on his offensive game.
The raw talents are certainly there, but Noel has to put the time in before they show. He already can throw down oops without effort and catch lob passes in the paint for easy finishes, but he has to work on contributing to a set offense and honing a back-to-the-basket game.
Due to his non-stop motor and high ceiling, it’s hard to see him failing to develop into some semblance of an offensive force for the Cavaliers. With Tristan Thompson's budding game drawing attention in the post, it shouldn’t be long before Noel is piling in buckets on a regular basis.
The other main concern that Cleveland must address is Noel’s weight.
This prospect’s stock took a blow (membership required) at the scouting combine last week, when it was revealed that he tipped the scales at a mere 206 pounds—the lightest player listed at center in the past decade.
Some of that skinniness can be attributed to his injury and inability to work out regularly, but he’s going to need to add some serious bulk between now and his Christmas time target for a return.
Regardless, Noel is the closest thing to a consensus top pick this class has to offer. Although he isn’t laden with superstar potential and may not be the piece Cleveland needs to push to the next level, he could be a starting-caliber big man that plays big minutes on a nightly basis for years to come.
He doesn't make the Cavaliers a finished product in the Eastern Conference, but he certainly pushes them further in the right direction. If he can expand on his limited offensive repertoire, he could exceed early expectations and make Cleveland fans very happy in the process.
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