Nerlens Noel has been projected to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft for quite some time, but there have been rumblings that things could change in that regard before the Cavaliers make that pick on Thursday.
It may be due to the fact that Noel is still recovering from a torn ACL injury that has prevented him from participating in team workouts (and likely won’t have him ready for the start of the season), or it could be that this year’s draft class features no certainties in terms of players who seem destined for long-term, star-level success.
While nothing has been decided and we won’t know for sure until the draft is officially underway, there’s a very real possibility that Noel could not only be passed over at number one, but could slide two or three slots down the board depending on how things shake out, and how highly teams are valuing other players near the top like Ben McLemore, Alex Len, and Otto Porter.
Noel seems to be prepared for that possibility, and is trying to keep things positive.
“It definitely won’t be the end of the world,” Noel said of not being the top overall pick. “I mean, look at the past. Look at how many great players haven’t gone No. 1 and see what they’ve done with their careers. You can still become an All-Star and be successful. I mean, look at Carlos Boozer. He was a second-round pick. I mean, when you look at guys who went No. 2, you have Kevin Durant and a lot of other successful guys. If that happens, I’m just going to stay focused and use it as more motivation. I’m still going to be the player that I want to be. It’s all about your attitude and approach.”
The only difference to Noel if he isn’t selected number one overall — besides where he’d play — would be a financial one.
Rookie contracts are set in stone in the NBA for players picked in the first round, so the second or third pick automatically will make less on his first professional deal, and the difference between being drafted first to going third is close to a million dollars per season.
But that’s only for the first three years of a player’s career, so if Noel turns out to be as good as advertised, those hundreds of thousands of dollars that may be lost by dropping down the draft board will seem like pennies once that rookie contract is up.