Nerlens Noel: Phoenix Suns 2013 NBA Draft profile

Editor’s note: This is the first entry in our 2013 NBA Draft prospect profile series. We’ll be focusing on all three of the Suns’ draft picks by alternating between in-depth prospect profiles for players that could be selected at the fifth and 30th picks and on all posts throwing out second-round options that could make sense for Phoenix.


Noel’s best attributes come in his length, athleticism and defensive instincts. He should immediately be able to contribute as a rim-protecting big man who uses his explosiveness and timing to block shots – he averaged 4.4 per game as a college freshman – and rebound the ball. Averaging 10.5 points and 9.9 rebounds in 24 games for the Kentucky Wildcats, Noel proved in a decent enough amount of college minutes that he has a consistent motor and basic fundamentals to grow into the elite defender that many people expect.

Already, Noel should be the counter to the pick-and-roll heavy offenses of the NBA; he can hedge and recover because of his fluid mobility on the perimeter. And because he’s an excellent rebounder and shot blocker, the 19-year-old will be able to use his speed to run the floor and score easy buckets in transition.

Noel could also be a decent pick-and-roll finisher off the bat, and his ability to put the ball on the deck once could be a tad underrated at this point. He’s also already a very good offensive rebounder who like Tyson Chandler can get many of his points in that way.

Question marks

For the purposes of this draft, Noel’s ACL injury doesn’t seem to be a big issue in the long term, but it’s obviously going to keep him from a good number of games. Basketball Prospectus and ESPN writer Kevin Pelton notes that there is a strong relationship in a player’s age and their ability to recover to full stretch off an ACL tear, so the injury shouldn’t do much to unseat Noel from the first overall pick.

At 6-foot-11.75 in shoes at the draft combine with a 7-foot-3.75 wingspan and 4.2 percent body fat, Noel’s biggest physical issue is his strength. He checked in at 206 pounds, which will hurt him in playing the center position if not the power forward slot. Lower body strength especially will hurt him hold position in the paint – and finish through contact when attacking the basket.


Noel’s offensive identity is the one undeveloped part of his game. He’s not a good back-to-the-basket player at this point and will most likely have to develop a jump shot to truly become an offensive threat. While that doesn’t mean he has no offensive game, he’s young enough where the development here certainly could turn him from important role player to elite-level talent – remember, Amare Stoudemire didn’t have much of an offensive game either.

How would he fit with the Suns?

As unlikely — and as much of a pipe dream — it is for the Suns to either move up to select Noel or for the big man to fall in the draft, it’s hard to say he won’t fit on any NBA team. The Suns could use a developmental type of player with such upside, and considering he’ll be out a good portion of this next year as is, it won’t matter much that the Suns have big men Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat coming back next season – that list doesn’t include Channing Frye, who could also be back from his heart ailment. We expect a roster makeover will happen and more than two of those players could and should be elsewhere within the next year.

In short, a lucky nabbing of Noel would bring the most excitement to the Valley since Stoudemire was selected in 2002.

And 1 … A second-rounder to consider

To get my Arizona bias out of the way, the Suns could get a solid player in Solomon Hill with their 57th pick. On a very similar track as Jared Dudley – high basketball IQ, above-average shooter, played out of his NBA position in college – the former Wildcat swingman could become a great role player in time. Plus, he could find time to develop if the Suns ship off Dudley or any of the other 2s or 3s.

Tags: 2013 NBA Draft

  • Forever is2long

    Kev, Good article. While absolutely he will help the Suns, I think the big concern with Noel outside of his weight and offensive limitations, is he allegedly had a knee injury to the same knee I believe his senior year in high school. A report I read indicated a doctor instructed him not to play last summer and he played on his club team anyway. I have no idea if this report was accurate and if playing in defiance of alleged doctor’s orders was a factor in his present condition but you can bet teams will be exercising their due diligence before the draft. I think the only way he drops to the Suns is if teams fear he has a chronic knee condition.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Thanks. Found that story. Looks like it was possible a break in the knee was related to the torn ACL. One of those situations where the team docs have to be trusted. I’m sure they all know of this so will be interesting to see if he drops, which is of course why we had to do a draft profile for him and the Suns.

  • Scott

    I still think that – just because of the name – Nerlens Noel should play for New Orleans (NOLA). Seems like fate, doesn’t it?

    As for playing defense in the NBA, at 206 lbs Noel would get pushed around like Molly Shannon with the Roxbury Boys.

  • Azbballfan

    If Noel isnt there at number 5, or if we dont trade up for him, Alex Len is a pretty good option at number 5 as well

    Yeah. there is no Lebron in this draft, but with the 5th pick you can get a pretty good building block

    I hope the Suns FO does a ton of work to identify the right guy for the Suns

    we have gotten almost nothing out of the NBA draft since, what 2008 when we got Robin Lopez

    but he only gave us averages of 8 points and 4 boards a game and a block

    our last GM drafted 3 guys who look like career backups

    the front office has to hit home runs or atleast doubles with these next 2 drafts

    if the Suns go big in this draft, i would think that would send a message that the morris twins are on borrowed time

    in fact, anyone brought in by Blanks will be looked at by McD as trade bait

    I expect us to wheel and deal on draft night

    we have 3 picks, we have expiring deals, we have young guys

    trade Jared Dudley and the 30th pick to Atlanta for the 17th and 18th picks

    Trade Gortat to Detroit, OKC or Dallas for their Lotto Picks

    OKC is still in win now mode and is probably looking to upgrade the center position, seeing as they got all of 2 points a game out of Perkins in the last playoffs

    A trade like this would work

    Suns send Gortat, Dudley, and the 30th pick to OKC for

    Perkins, Lamb, and Perry Jones, and the rights to the 12th pick

    I heard McD came in and fired almost all of Blanks scouting staff people

    thats a good 1st start

    time to get on the phones and see what draft picks are for sale!

    come on front office!

  • Azbballfan

    I was just looking around the internet on who the Suns could take with the 57th pick in the draft

    if for some reason we go bigman/wing player on the 5th and 30th picks and we still want a shooting guard, we should consider Nemanja Nedovic

    he is 21, good size, 6’4 in shoes, really, really athletic

    just watch his draft express scouting video he can really get up and elevate

    42 inch vertical thats some major hops

    he also plays good D, can come off the screens and shoot it, has great speed to go with athleticism, just blows by people for dunks in his scouting video

    especially the rediculous 2nd clip

    he looks to be well worth drafting if he is there at 57

  • DBreezy

    It’s hard to ignore the idea of Len being the guy they want because of the source, Coro. He’s been pretty spot on in the past regarding who the Suns are targeting and he’s gone as far as saying that he’s the favorite of Suns scouts. CBSSports put out a little graph of where all of the WC teams have drafted over the last 15 years and the Suns highest percentage have come from the ACC fwiw.

    I get the sense that McD hopes to be active this summer and a Len pick would likely start te ball rolling on that. Not only would it be another signal that Marcin isn’t long for the valley, it would do little in the short term to address the Suns need for more scoring and shooting. It’s hard to see them not trying hard to address that need in the draft. They’re unlikely to be big players in the free agent market and its questionable whether their current players can fetch those kinds of players directly in trades vs getting picks.

    McD should be able to line the prospects up well, now lets hope Lon can get some interesting draft day deals done.

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan: Sounds like a good idea for a trade.

    You and/or others suggested this last year but OKC was not ready to do anything. Now with barely having played Lamb and Jones, and Perkins having been an expensive underperformer, this would work for them. Gortat just wants to win and will surely extend with them. Ibaka can supply what Gortat cannot, and vice versa.

    If Gortat does not fit for them they can just do sign and trade with someone on him.

    Clearly their front line is undermanned and not championship caliber, considered as a group.

    We could throw in some additional draft pick, or Shannon Brown, or perhaps someone else if a sweetener would help. I believe they might take interest in Marcus Morris.

    The only thing this awaits is the resigning of Kevin Martin.

  • Forever is2long

    Scott, While I have been saying Gortat to Thunder for 2 years, there is no way they trade us Lamb, PJ III and their # 12 pick for Gortat. They might give us Lamb and #12 but I doubt that unless we also throw in Dudley if salaries are consistent with NBA parameters. I just do not think Gortat will net us much any more.

    I would have no problem in drafting Len and pick up Franklin, Hardaway or Snell later in the draft. That would be a good draft.

  • Scott

    @Forever -

    I’m not sure OKC sees Lamb, PJ, or this year’s #12 as valuable assets. I’m not sure what they want to do to make their team more competitive, or how happy they are with Perkins, but I would not want the Suns to take Perkins unless they were sure they could deal him to another team. He’s a grumpy looking guy, and moving to a losing team wouldn’t make him any happier. ;)

    I would like the Suns to get draft picks in the 10-18 range, though. So deals with OKC or Dallas or Philly, etc., sound good to me.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I have no opinion on Len, as there has been no update or video for him on DX yet. Any chance this rumor from Coro is just misdirection or the opinion of the old scouting staff?

    Maybe you should look at CBSSports to see where Boston has been picking over the last 10 years.

    I’m not all that keen on Len knowing that he’s 19 and he already has a stress fracture in his foot, the bane of big men.

    Of course, both Lopez brothers have already had theirs, and they’re playing okay.

  • bill.thomas

    I am not opposed to Len, but I am concerned about the stress fracture.

    Any chance we make a play for Oden? I don’t think there’s anything to stop us from talking to him and working him out if he’s interested.

    Agreed with the above commentary, if we take a big there are several acceptable wing players to draft.

  • Azbballfan

    Yeah actually they are

    Lopez put up similar numbers to Gortat, Brooke had a good season

    alot of people have stress fractures sometimes its just happnes, and sometimes its a red flag for future problems

    obviously we want to avoid a greg oden scenario

    But, if Len checks out with our wizard medical staff, i dont have a problem taking him number 5

    although ideally, the Suns could draft someone else at #5 and then trade for Len later whenever he gets drafted

    (#10 to Portland?)

    Yeah im not sure if they would give up Lamb and #12 pick, but most GMs hate this draft

    and Kevin Martin wants to resign, didnt lamb spend most of the season in the NBDL?

    Gortat, Dudley and the #30 pick is probably enough to pry away two little used role players and Perkins and a low value late lotto pick

    but hey there are other options

    Several Teams are rumored to have picks for sale, but i think both Duds and Gortat would love to go to OKC

    I think Perkins has two years left on his deal, and 7 mil aint that bad

    if we have to eat a 2 year deal to get what we want so be it

    Maybe he can teach our big guys to play actual defense?

    rebounding and defense is one of the things we really have to improve on, we could do alot worse than Perkins

  • foreveris2long

    Yeah I could live with Perkins if we got Lamb , PJIII or #12 draft pick. Scott it is my understanding OKC is very happy with PJ III as they feel he was one of the steals in the draft. It is way too early for them to determine they have little or no value to the team. There is no way they are giving up 2 second year players and the #12 pick along with Perkins for a 30 year old under achieving center with a big mouth.

  • foreveris2long

    I remember telling DBreezy a year or so ago the Suns needed a good big man coach. Now they have one in Ralph Sampson but do not have a young center to groom. The more I think about it the more I think Len makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons, including having Sampson in place.Probably another reason he makes a lot of sense is the absence of any superstar wings in the draft and we could likely get a comparable wing to Oladipo later in the 1st round.

  • bill.thomas

    Unless they like Polish sausage !!!!

  • bill.thomas

    Noel’s measurements place him as an overly tall, long small forward. Ooops, watch out, Mike Beasley !!!

  • hawki

    Hard to tell about Len…remember one time watching Maryland play & I focused on Len but he hardly ever touched the ball…not that it was all his fault but it was an up & down game with a lot of 3 pt shooting & Len seemed for the most part a non-factor.
    He was effective at times on defense but at other times seemed clumsy & out of position.

    Len could turn out to be a good player but just as likely join the Suns “Ring of Stiffs” alongside such luminaries as Jake Tsakilidis & Danny Schayes.

    With the status of Gortat up in the air the Suns might have to take the chance.

  • Azbballfan

    That is a very good point, this draft has some intriguing centers, but all the very top players are guards or wings, especially if you feel Noel will slip due to injury concerns

    unless Charlotte takes len at number 4, he should be there at the 5th pick

    by the way, Cleveland might be looking to get out of this draft entirely

    They have two 1st rounders and two second rounders i think, and they have said” We will listen to offers for the 1st pick”

    This is exactly the kind of scenario the Suns and Mavs need to jump on.

    I have got an idea for a 4 team mega deal and it goes like this

    Suns trade Marcin Gortat, Michael Beasley, P.J. Tucker, and the rights to the 5th pick, to Cleveland for the rights to number 1 pick and Anderson Varajo and Kevin Jones

    Suns send Verajo and and Jared Dudley to Dallas for the 13th pick

    Cleveland, needing a wing player, then sends the 5th pick to Charlotte for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

    Everyone wins in this deal

    The Suns pick #1 overall and still have the 30th pick and 13th pick

    Cleveland gets MKG, Gortat, Beasley, Tucker

    Dallas gets rebounding machine Varajo for a pick they weren’t going to use

    and Charlotte gets back to back 4th and 5th picks in a draft where they have multiple positions of need.

    everyone improves their team, or saves money, or does both

    i could see the Suns taking Noel and then the best player availbile at 13 and 30 and 57

    I could see Charlotte taking Oladipo and Len at 4 and 5

  • hawki

    Gotta hand it to you Azbballfan, those are some interesting, if not convoluted, trade scenarios.

    On a simpler note, I’d rather see the Suns trade down & get Gorgui Dieng at say 10-12 then get Len at 5.

  • DBreezy


    Coro has definitely said that the old scouting department, several of whom remain, like Len. McD is definitely the wild card in this, but usually if Coro bothers to say something like this he’s got solid info. He tends to let Gambo throw the WAG’s in there along with true info.

    Besides at 5 in this draft, how much of a need for misdirection is there? If Len’s who they want, they’ll get him or another very good player will drop to them. Btw, if OKC is infant willing,I’d be fine with taking Perk off their hands for Lamb and #12. Perk has history with McD and will likely fit whatever system he’s trying to implement for the short term while being a veteran to mentor and cover while they brings guy like Len along. Lamb would give them a 2 guard prospect and they could see who the best guys are at 12 and 30. Perhaps Schroeder, Franklin, Pope, Diemg, etc. Maybe Bazz does fall that far which would be a strong haul. The team would still likely be the worst in the West next season, but they’d probably well along in retooling and setup nicely going into the 2014 draft and free agency period.

  • Azbballfan

    Great post DBreezy. It is ALL about the future for the Suns

    we are looking at a total team reset this summer, why else would be getting both a new GM and Coach?

    I forgot all about Luis Scola as well, but i dont think we can move him until July 1st which is after the draft

    The Suns need to assess his value, would a veteran team lioke dallas take him in exchange for a future 1st?

    This draft is so wide open and the Suns have so many options.

    Credit Lon Babby for not bogging the team down with bad deals and making this summer and next summer possible with cap space and draft picks

    the Morris twins and Marshall may not have been great, but atleast they have value in a package for someone that could help in the long run

  • Azbballfan

    Hey Hawki

    Could Len and Dieng play together in the front court?

    thats a scenario i didnt think of

  • Scott

    My impression is that in this draft Dieng is the best defensive center. With his size, mobility, IQ, and length, I tend to think of Adams as probably the next best, but at 19 he’s more of a project.

    I assume Len is going higher because he’s younger and has some sort of around the basket offense …?

  • DBreezy


    Yeah the Suns can’t move Scola to July which is a shame as his affordable deal could really be an enticement to a team weighing that salary number vs a draft pick value wise.


    While this probably true of several other prospects as well, but when looking at the centers I believe that you really have to look 3 years down the line. That’s seems pretty much standard these days for young NBA 5′s if you look at many of the All-Star or near All-Star caliber bigs. Demarcus Cousins was probably the most NBA ready center from a skills standpoint coming out of college in awhile, though I suppose you could include Brook Lopez in that as well. The rest took time, including last years #1 Davis who probably will take off after another season under his belt.

    That said, Dieng is probably the most mature defensive 5 right now although he will need to gain weight as well. Noel is probably the best in 3 years as he has SF tools at that position. Noel can be a young KG like nightmare on S/R’s, recover with ease, attack passing lanes and will probably finish some steals on the break. Len is where he is because he’s shown more ability to translate his considerable athletic skills to basketball than Adams has. When looking at Adams, consider that nearly all of the current buzz on him comes from what he did at the combine which was mostly one on none skills. Even Meyers Leonard, last years’ workout wonder big, had shown advancement in his game in his sophomore season. Like Adams, Leonard was highly touted coming out of HS but showed little more than being a big athlete his freshman year.

  • CalSunsFan

    I’m torn between Len and Oladipo with the 5th pick. Good bigs are not easy to come by, just look at the Lopez flop. However, all reports are that Oladipo could very well be the second coming of my favorite all-time Suns player, Sweet-D. Taking Oladipo is probably the smarter pick, coupled with Glenn Robinson Jr. with the 30th pick and the Suns would be vastly improved with their own picks.

    Any combination of Gortat, Beasley, Morris twins, and/or Dudley to OKC for Lamb and their #12 pick would make 2014′s Suns a lot better team. Likely still a lottery participant in ’14, but at least on they would be making the good moves and on their way back.

    So Kevin, who are most likely top dozen players for the 2014 NBA draft?

  • Scott

    @forever -

    BTW, I think you may have confused me with Azbball, as he’s the one who proposed “Suns send Gortat, Dudley, and the 30th pick to OKC for Perkins, Lamb, and Perry Jones, and the rights to the 12th pick.” I didn’t say anything about OKC myself, except in response to you.

    As for OKC’s perceptions and needs, I still have to say I don’t know. I haven’t really been watching them. I assume they do want to strengthen their C spot, and the loss of Westbrook in the playoffs this year may cause them to consider someone who can score at C, like Marc Gasol.

    So they could be thinking of adding Al Jefferson, using the money cleared up by Kevin Martin’s expiring contract. Sam Presti has probably had this scoped out for quite a while.

    Accordingly, I expect OKC to draft young foreign players they can stash overseas. They’ve got plenty of foreign prospects they can take, including Gobert, Schroeder, Saric, Adetokunbo, Jaiteh, and Jean-Charles.

    So I don’t know what the Suns can do to get OKC’s #12 pick. OKC doesn’t really have any bad contracts they need to dump, but sure, if they did decide they wanted to drop Perkins, they could pair him with the #12 and trade with the Suns for Shannon Brown, or something.

    While I am generally interested in the Suns adding young talent to their team, aside from draft picks in my “golden” range (10-18) I’m mainly interested in the talent that has either proven itself (like Orlando’s four or five young guys), who performed well but are out with injury (Sullinger), or players who have screwed up, but still have potential, and might be had for a song (Austin Rivers).

    @DBreezy -

    So far as I can tell, there’s cause to misdirect in the draft till you get down to #60.

  • Scott

    FWIW, virtually everyone in DX’s first round projection has updated scouting and a video except for Len.

  • Russell Suns fan

    I noticed you guy’s are throwing in Beasley in a lot of these trade proposals, word to wise, no one is taking Beasley.

  • Forever is2long

    Scott, My badd, yes I meant to respond to AzBBall with regards to OKC giving up two 2nd year players, this years draft choice and Perkins for Gortat.

  • Ty-Sun

    There probably are a few teams that would take Beasley as part of a trade IF they include one of their bad contracts as part of it too. Beasley’s contract is non-guaranteed for the 2014-15 season so it would be a terrible thing to take on for a team that could afford to mostly sit him at the end of the bench this season. I don’t see it as likely but it is possible. And probably the only way the Suns could include Beasley as part of a trade would be to a team that wanted Gortat AND had a player or two that they want off their books too.

  • Ty-Sun

    My bad. I meant to write “… so it would ‘NOT’ be a terrible thing to take on for a team that could afford to mostly sit him at the end of the bench this season.” In my last post referring to Beasley and his contract.

  • Azbballfan

    Yeah i just threw Beasley in there, i am admit it, i was inflating his stock by saying he could be traded. at all.

    We either trade him or he is cut

    Brown has this year, non guaranted on his deal we could throw him in with that Cleveland i was talking about

    everyone needs a bench guy that can score

    i am surprised brown didnt work out here, he seemed like the pefect kind of player for us

    Maybe he would work better in a different system?

  • Scott

    IMO, Brown would work better on a team that doesn’t really need him for offense or defense.

  • bill.thomas

    @Scott, you got that right. Maybe the Lakers ??????????

  • bill.thomas

    I’m proposing sending Azbballfan to OKC with a typewriter to overwhelm their blog site. Should be easy work, I’ve not seen a sentence longer than 5 words on there.

  • bill.thomas

    We should not take Tyrus Thomas in exch. for Beasley in any kind of trade. Forget it.

    His smooth athleticism is probably something the Lakers could use.

  • Jrock

    At any rate, if Len is available at the 5th pick, the Suns will grab him. Odalipo would be their first choice unless the Suns trade up in the draft which I doubt. Trading Gortat to OKC would be a great possibility to getting Lamb and the 12th pick, or Portland for Meyers Leonard and their 1st rounder for Gortat, Dudley and 30th pick.

    Suns could end up getting Nerlens Noel if he falls to that level but I doubt it. From what I hear the Suns are talking to many teams to acquire another 1st rounder, so a trade may be coming in the draft. The 30th pick is all up in the air depending on what is available. Tim Hardaway Jr., CJ Leslie, Pierre Jackson, Archie Goodwin are all on the list.

    If we do acquire another 1st rounder I expect them to get Shabazz Muhammad, CJ McCollum, or Lucas Nogueira. Alot are talking about Beasley being traded, most people don’t want him due to his low IQ, but he is only 23 years old so chances are he has some athleticism the Suns could develop and keep as a scoring machine. Louis Scola can’t be moved until July 1st so they may keep him if Gortat is gone by then as a rental.

    All-in-all we need upgrades at SG and SF so contracts like Wesley Johnson, PJ Tucker Dionte Garrett and Jermaine O’Neil will be axed in my opinion.