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June 27, 2013

Noel, Goodwin await draft fate Thursday night

NBA DRAFT
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV: ESPN
A look at where some mock drafts have Kentucky draftees landing:
Nerlens NoelESPN: Cleveland (No. 1)
DraftExpress.com: Cleveland (No. 1)
SI.com: Cleveland (No. 1)
CBSSports.com: Washington (No. 3)
Archie GoodwinESPN: Detroit (No. 37)
DraftExpress.com: Portland (No. 39)
SI.com: Not listed (first-round mock only)
CBSSports.com: Oklahoma City (No. 29)
One is certain to be selected at or near the top of the draft.

The other could go in either round.

But both Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin are expected to be selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday night, and, although their names may be called far apart, it will continue a record-breaking streak of draft picks for Kentucky.

John Calipari's Kentucky rosters will have produced 17 picks in four years, a record for any program in a four-year stretch (North Carolina, which produced 11 from 2009-11, is second) since the draft moved to two rounds in 1989.

And if Noel is taken at No. 1 - which ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford expects, although he isn't certain the Cleveland Cavaliers have officially decided on him - it will be the third time in four years a Kentucky player went first overall.

No other school has produced more than two top choices since the modern era of the draft started in 1966.

Noel is vying for the No. 1 spot, with Maryland center Alex Len and UNLV forward Anthony Bennett also in the mix, Ford said.

"Noel has been the guy who's been at the top of their Big Board all year," Ford said. "He fits the criteria that I've heard Cleveland talk about all year about (taking) the best talent available."

Noel's torn ACL kept him out of the final weeks of Kentucky's season and prevented him from going through basketball workouts leading up to the draft. Ford said multiple team doctors have been pleased with Noel's rehabilitation and recovery schedule.

Even with the injury, Ford said Noel is a safer pick than Len because of two things - Len didn't show a consistent motor, which is a "red flag" as a big man, and because of Noel's two-pronged defensive play.

“All the analytics say Nerlens Noel should be a star," Ford said. "Almost all of them, but not all of them, most of them say Alex Len shouldn’t. And it really comes down to one number. They [the systems] find a predictive quality in steals. When big men get steals they have found that number is predictive of NBA success.

"You get a lot of steals as a big man, the people who have done that in the past in college have gone on to have great NBA careers. If you don’t get steals, it shows the opposite, that big men who can’t get steals in college when they get to the NBA they fail."

Assessing Goodwin's draft stock is a more difficult proposition.

Goodwin was projected to join Noel in the lottery of the draft throughout the college season, but his position slid over the course of the last few weeks.

Teams have reservations about his position and his shooting, Ford said, as well as questions about why Goodwin didn't show much on-court improvement in a year under John Calipari when virtually every other player in the same situation has.

"You just didn't see that (improvement) out of Archie this year," Ford said. "He looked a lot like the same player we saw at the start of the season. And that's what gives people pause. Can you not coaching? Are you not working on your game? Are you unable to work out your flaws?"

Goodwin is expected to go anywhere from No. 25 to No. 40, Ford said. He's the second-youngest player in the draft and will be an "upside" pick for whatever team takes him.

The one that does, though, gets a player with enticing potential. Speed, quickness, explosiveness and youth are all working in his favor, Ford said.

"There's talent there," Ford said. "He was one of the highest-ranked high school players in the country. NBA GMs know him. "A team drafting late in the 20s might look and say, look, he's not ready now, but he might be the best player you can get in the 20s.

If Goodwin slides into the second round (Ford has him projected at No. 37), he will join a list of seven players since 2008 (when the NBA banned players from entering the draft straight out of high school) who went one-and-done and then weren't selected in round one.

The others (DeAndre Jordan, Bill Walker, Hassan Whiteside, Lance Stephenson, Tiny Gallon, Josh Selby, Quincy Miller) have had varying degrees of success since leaving college.

Goodwin, however, was urged to prepare for the additional challenges of being a second-rounder.

"My thing when we sat down: 'Here's the worst that could happen. Can you deal with this?'" Calipari said this week. "(Goodwin said), 'Yeah, I can, Coach. I want to do this. I can do this.' I'm convinced that he's in the frame of mind (that) he's prepared to deal with the worst that can happen."


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