We said all through April and May and June that there is no real consensus No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft — but Nerlens Noel of Kentucky was certainly the favorite. Long defensive big men from proven programs with proven numbers don't fall far, and in a weak-at-the-top draft, Noel looked like one of a few potential game-changers. There were and are valid concerns about his potential, primarily concerning his offensive polish. But again: the guys behind him on most big boards were undersized guards, less-than-aggressive scorers and question-mark bigs. Noel made the most sense as a No. 1.
But he fell, as the Cleveland Cavaliers went with Anthony Bennett. And as the Orlando Magic stuck with Victor Oladipo. And as the Wizards, Bobcats and Suns took players they had targeted, Noel kept falling. And his face kept falling. It was the biggest upset at No. 1 in memory, and then the most stunning slide in memory. The New Orleans Hornets picked him up, then flipped him in a stunning trade (sensing a trend?) for All-Star Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday.
The trade signifies that Philadelphia will rebuild from scratch under new general manager Sam Hinkie. (The Sixers also get a lightly protected 2014 first-round pick.) The slide signifies that teams had far more questions about Noel's potential than they let on over the past three months.
Noel has a long time to prove Cleveland, Orlando, Washington, Charlotte and Phoenix wrong. But it's safe to say that until the draft began, Noel has no idea he'd be in a position to have to do so.