Nerlens Noel is the latest and greatest thing to land in Lexington Kentucky. Fresh off a National Title John Calipari once again reloaded with a talented crop of freshman but really one has risen above the rest. Big man Nerlens Noel was considered a lock as a top three pick in this years NBA draft and many considered him the frontrunner for the number one spot. Last night provided a pretty big scare, and while the end result is still to be determined, it calls into question the current one and done format.
Noel went down late in Kentucky's loss to Florida and was carried of the floor. He was taken out of the arena in a wheelchair, examined and will receive another examination when this Kentucky team returns home. Early word would seem to indicate that the injury is something that will keep him out for the remainder of the season, but ideally it won't affect his longterm prospects. That's good news, but what if that weren't the case?
Noel was a player that would have been drafted in the lottery a year ago had he been eligible. The NBA has a rule requiring players to be one year removed from high school and that is a rule that they feel is in the best interest of the league. In many cases it might be. The speculative drafting that was taking place prior to this rule being put into place was getting out of hand, scouts were afraid to miss on potential so they were whiffing on production. The word bust became a pretty common phrase.
Unfortunately rather than holding their own people accountable, the NBA enacted a rule that has forced players to go to college for at least a year before entering the draft. This has been a great thing for a lot of players who have probably had their egos and hopes inflated only to come crashing down during that rocky freshman campaign. To date, it hasn't been a detriment to anyone necessarily. Players have come in, they either sink or they swim and then they move on. It's another step to help expose weaknesses of a player to potential NBA employers.
Last night was a little different. For the first time we had a player that could have gone pro out of high school, a player that was fulfilling expectations in college and a player that was now clutching his knee and being carried off the floor. Now the good news is that if everything checks out reasonably well Noel is a player projected high enough that he will still get a very favorable draft position and one wouldn't think it will hurt him too much in the long run based on what we're hearing now. If that weren't the case, and this injury were such that his career could have been in jeopardy, what does that do to the one and done argument?
If Noel goes down last night with a career crippling injury the NBA never sees the benefit of employing a player fully capable of working his way into an NBA lineup out of high school. Noel goes from hot commodity with a huge payday coming his way to what? There have long been advocates of a rule like that used in Major League Baseball, a player can declare out of high school and go to the professional ranks, or he can go to college. Once in college he is committed to that program for three years. For basketball maybe two is the right number, maybe it is still three, maybe it's even one, but the point would be that players capable of reaching that level out of high school would be afforded that opportunity.
It's hard to say if the NBA would ever move in that direction or if they would ever have the motivation to move in that direction, but it seems a player like Noel and a scary situation like last night calls into question the current rule. A shift on some level would seem to benefit the players, the college game and even the professional game if it is managed correctly. I don't think anybody wants the free for all declarations that were happening a few years ago, but it's hard to deny that there aren't a half dozen players every year that are perfectly capable of moving on to the NBA.