Link: Noel still projected atop this year’s draft

If you read my game story from Tuesday night, you know I’ve been pretty high on Nerlens Noel of late.

He has been good all season long, but I think he’s really turned it up a notch over the last three games. Yes, he doesn’t score a ton, but he does everything so well. Simply look at his recent stat lines — they are ridiculous.

Over the last three games, he’s averaging 13.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.3 blocks, 3.3 steals and 2.7 assists. Those numbers show his incredibly balanced game.

While Noel may not be the best player in college basketball this year, I would argue he is one of the most valuable players in the country. In other words, if UK lost Noel tomorrow, how much would the Cats drop off? I’m not sure there are more than a few players whose loss would hurt their respective teams as much as Noel would to Kentucky.

If all continues to go well for Noel, chances are UK will have to worry about replacing him next year. Chad Ford of ESPN.com released an updated version of his top 30 prospects for the 2013 NBA Draft, and Noel is still up top.

Here is what Ford wrote about him:

Unlike the last few drafts, there is no consensus No. 1 pick in the draft. Very likely, the team with the top pick will make the selection based on need, which makes it very difficult for us to predict who will be No. 1 until the night of the lottery. But Noel has been atop our Top 100 since it debuted the day after the draft. I think he still deserves the spot. His numbers haven’t blown you away, and the Wildcats are struggling, but Noel has proven to be an athletic rebounder and shot blocker, a better than advertised passer and an emerging offensive force on the block, and he has shown a very good motor. While Noel doesn’t project to be a star, he could be an all-defensive player in the NBA someday.

Ford isn’t the only one who thinks Noel is a surefire top-five pick. DraftExpress.com has him at No. 2 in this year’s draft, NBADraft.net has him at No. 4 and MyNBADraft.com lists him at No. 1.