Rumors: Noel remains Cavs' top option
With the 2013 NBA draft a little less than a month away, players continue to slide up and down draft boards while teams assess their best draft fits and options.
On Tuesday, following the draft combine and several workouts, we provided our updated top 30 NBA draft prospects to go along with our Top 100 ranking and Mock Draft 3.0.
Here's a look at the latest draft rumblings I'm hearing from around the league.
Cavs' top options with No. 1 pick
The Cavs are on the clock with the No. 1 pick. Sources say that Kentucky center Nerlens Noel remains atop their team Big Board. However, Georgetown forward Otto Porter Jr. and Maryland center Alex Len are also in the mix.
Why is Noel the front-runner?
Cavs general manager Chris Grant and his staff spent more time than anyone watching Noel this season, according to Kentucky head coach John Calipari. In fact, Grant recommended the surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, that Noel used for his ACL surgery. The Cavs also lean heavily on advanced metrics, and those numbers, regardless of the system, strongly favor Noel.
The three biggest issues with the Cavs taking Noel? His ACL, weight (or lack thereof) and pressure from owner Dan Gilbert to make the playoffs next season.
The ACL issue is an interesting one. I've heard rumblings from several teams that their doctors were pessimistic (after examining Noel in Chicago) that he would return to play at all next season. However, I've also spoken with a handful of teams that said they didn't see any issues with his recovery. Noel's camp contends he's ahead, not behind schedule on the rehab. No word yet on the Cavs' assessment of the injury.
The weight issue is quickly becoming a non-issue. Noel weighed in at 206 pounds at the draft combine, creating a bit of a furor. Calipari told me that Dr. Andrews actually recommended Noel lose weight to help speed up the ACL recovery. Calipari said Noel weighed 222 pounds when he was injured. Noel told me in Chicago the number was actually 228. He weighed 215 pounds when he came to Kentucky. Assuming that he gained between 7-13 pounds at UK -- and assuming full-time training before the draft could have easily added another five pounds to his frame -- Noel would've come into the camp weighing between 227-233 pounds. At those numbers, he would have been heavier than Anthony Davis when he was drafted -- and the issue would completely go away.
The playoff issue might be the biggest reason why the Cavs don't pick Noel, or anyone else for that matter, with the No. 1 pick. Sources say the Cavs have already begun to explore what they can get with the No. 1 pick. If they can get a young big or small forward in return, Gilbert will be pushing for them to trade the pick.
Who can they get? The pickings will be slim. Teams aren't dying to get the No. 1 pick. But one name that you shouldn't totally rule out is the Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins. Bradford Doolittle mentions this in his draft trade scenarios piece today.
If the Cavs are willing to put up with his immaturity off the court, he might be the best young big man in the game.
Other draft-related destinations for Cousins
The Cavs won't be the only team calling the Kings once they get a new GM in place. Sources say that the Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks will also have interest in Cousins if Sacramento's new management decides to cut ties with Cousins.
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan doesn't want to be mired in the rebuilding process forever. If the No. 4 pick could net him an established low-post scorer, he'd bite. Cousins would be more of a "Plan C" for the Mavs if both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard decide not to join the Mavs this summer, but Cousins would give them a young presence in the paint to build around.
Cousins has enormous talent, but his off- and on-court antics caused major issues in Sacramento the past few years. Will new ownership, management and coaching be able to help him right the ship? Or would the Kings be better off trading him now and get a high pick in this year's draft? They won't get a huge offer because he's a perceived troublemaker who is going into the final year of his contract before he hits restricted free agency. Getting a high lottery pick might be the best the Kings can hope for.
Magic to make a draft move?
Despite their need at point guard, sources say the Magic aren't sold on Trey Burke as the second-best player in the draft.
While they certainly haven't ruled out Burke with the No. 2 pick, Orlando is also eyeing Indiana's Victor Oladipo and Kansas' Ben McLemore. However, Oladipo and McLemore play the same position as Arron Afflalo, the Magic's leading scorer last season. What gives?
Sources say the Magic have a lot of interest in Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe and would be willing to trade Afflalo for Bledsoe and Caron Butler's expiring contract.
Would the Clippers bite? Afflalo would give them an established veteran and a big upgrade at shooting guard to pair in the backcourt with Chris Paul.
Notes from Tuesday's workout
The NBA held its second large group workout in Minnesota on Tuesday. The players there were essentially the same ones we detailed last week in New Jersey.
I spoke with a number of NBA GMs and scouts who told me that Arizona State's Carrick Felix, USC's Dewayne Dedmon and Iowa State's Will Clyburn were the standouts at Tuesday's workouts.
One player, French big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh, struggled according to several sources inside the gym. Jaiteh was projected as a potential first-round pick by some before a so-so performance at the Hoop Summit exposed his lack of athletic ability. We now have him sliding into the late second round.