Let me preface, I have no idea how bad the injury is, I just know it looked bad for Nerlens Noel.
Basketball can be unfair.
In watching Noel play this season it became clear that the lengthy center is a pure athlete with an insatiable appetite for smashing basketballs back to earth. It's also obvious Noel is destined to be in the National Basketball Association. A clear-cut number one consensus for June's draft.
Then that play happened. And this Tweet happened:
@Andy_Staples: Noel being taken out of the O'Connell Center in a wheelchair.
Pure hustle resulting in an ugly injury that may prove to be...what we all assumed it to be, possibly season ending -- maybe career altering. And it did get me to thinking, if Noel's draft status is, at the very least, a little up in the air right now, that could have a direct impact on one Michael Carter-Williams.
Obviously, Noel and Carter-Williams play two entirely different positions, they are two entirely different type of players, but if Noel's status does change, hurting what many experts already consider a weak class, Syracuse sophomore point guard could find himself moving up the draft board.
It's been over two months since last we checked in on what the NBA world though of Michael Carter-Williams. So, as I pondered how Noel's potential injury could affect the draft, I figured we should pop in on the NBA mock draft world to see if analysts still were loving them some MCW. Turns out, yes, yes they are.
But before we go further, if you don't pay much attention to the NBA, you may be thinking, "First, I have to say, Matt, you're the freakin' best. OK, now on to my question: How in the world is Carter-Williams still considered a Lottery Pick, anyway?" Well, thank you for the kind words. As for the answer to your question, there's two reasons really.
- The NBA is all about ceiling - As in, potential. As in ignore the first half of the game at Louisville and focus on the second. Carter-Williams, despite going through major growing pains this season has an extremely high ceiling. A six-foot six point with a you-first attitude, who also happens to posses a quick first-step is like gold to NBA scouts and general managers. (Shooting issues and body strength are big draw backs, but seen as fixable issues. We'll see about that.)
- Carter-Williams has proven he can play - Despite the struggles, the sophomore still leads the nation in assists (8.5 per game), is third in steals per game (3.09), and although he plays point, Carter-Williams is averaging nearly 5 rebounds per game, too. Plus, lets not forget he is running point for a team holding a 20-3 record and one poised for another high seed come tourney time.
And the reason for Carter-Williams to bounce after the year, other than money, fame, and the chance at pursuing his dream?
- Basketball is fleeting - Who knows what will happen with Noel as this column was written before any official news came in (and let me say, I hope it's not an injury that looked worse than it is and that he is back to a hundred percent soon), but it's more than a good enough reminder to take advantage of what you can while you can. For Carter-Williams that probably means jumping to the next level.
(Also - come next season, Carter-Williams will be 21 years old. Not old in earth terms, but old enough in the scouting world of the NBA.)
So let's have a look around the NBA mock draft landscape to see what the analysts think of Michael Carter-Williams' future:
- CBSSports - (Updated 2/5) Carter-Williams No. 11 (Rakeem Christmas in as last pick? Waaah?!), two behind Michigan's Trey Burke, widely considered the nation's true top point guard.
- DraftExpress - (Updated Monday) - Carter-Williams No. 10 to Detroit. Seven spots ahead of Burke, but three back of Oklahoma State's frosh point Marcus Smart.
- NBADraft - (Updated 2/7) - Carter-Williams No. 9 to Detroit. Smart is off the board here first, at No 3 to Orlando, while Burke comes in at No. 22 to Utah.
Lastly, ESPN's Chad Ford still ranks Carter-Williams as the ninth overall prospect, second best point guard.
You'll notice, with only one exception, that Noel is the top dog for 2013. If he is out, by default, Carter-Williams' name will move up the board. All the more reason for the sophomore to move on after the season, despite what it's looked like at times.
So as we watch the final 8 regular season games, we are assuredly also watching the final games of Carter-Williams' Syracuse career. Bigger and better things ahead, God willing.