Now he's the likely No. 1 pick.
Noel still can't jump because of surgery for a torn ligament and might not even play until two months into the NBA season. But he can block shots and rebound and . . . what else exactly?
If he turns out to be a solid pro, his delayed NBA debut is a small price for a team to pay over the four-year run of his rookie contract. But the Noel case is indicative of one of the weakest drafts in recent memory.
Want more ambiguity? Don't look any further than our own backyard.
Some NBA minds think Shabazz Muhammad is already ready, legitimizing his ballyhooed reputation before he even landed at UCLA as a one-year rental. Others think he'll need some time to develop. Still others think that might never happen.
And who's this Alex Len guy?
Like Noel, he's a big man who underwent surgery (ankle). Unlike Noel, his physical measurements mysteriously weren't taken at the scouting combine, other than a wingspan of 7 feet 4.
And yet, there's a chance the Maryland center, who averaged 11.9 points last season as a sophomore, will go very high in the draft.
Next year's draft features once-in-a-decade prospect Andrew Wiggins. In the meantime here's a look at the possible first-round picks for this year's less heralded (to say the least) crop.
Oh, and the Lakers won't have a first-round pick for a sixth consecutive year. This one was traded to Cleveland as part of the Ramon Sessions deal.
What follows is our mock draft, with team, player, college/country, most recent year completed, position, height without shoes and weight.
1) Cleveland: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky, freshman, PF, 6-10, 206)
His college career ended in February because of a knee injury. Now he'll sign a rookie deal worth potentially $23 million. God bless America. And the NBA.
What's not to like about the draft's top pure scorer? Par for this year, though, he could be the top pick or slide a couple of more spots from here if the Magic and Washington, which already has two young scoring guards, take a pass.
Hate it when picks make too much sense. Porter is plenty familiar with the Wizards' arena after playing college games there. The Wizards have John Wall and Bradley Beal in their backcourt but need more scoring down low.