CLEVELAND — Nerlens Noel wants to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Cavaliers like Noel.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take him with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Noel is a 6-foot-11 center from the University of Kentucky. He injured his anterior-cruciate ligament in February then underwent surgery. He’s been making good progress since.
On Friday, Noel told Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps on 92.3 The Fan he’s hopeful he’ll be a member of the Cavs when training camp begins in the fall.
Again, that’s a possibility.
Again, the Cavs are said to think he has a high-ceiling — with his length and shot-blocking ability considered his most inspiring traits.
While the Cavs and other teams think Noel will turn into a presence in the NBA, they don’t necessarily think he’ll become anything close to a physical specimen.
Noel is just 19 years old and played less than one full season as a freshman at Kentucky. But there’s no getting around the fact he weighs just 206 pounds.
Along with his weight, the Cavs seem to be concerned with Noel’s knee, and if true, understandably so.
Early projections have him returning to the court in December, but according to sources, the Cavs think that’s a bit optimistic. February or March may be more likely.
So the bottom line on Noel and the No. 1 pick as of today: When Cavs general manager Chris Grant said the top spot in the draft was wide open, he wasn’t just blowing smoke. It appears the Cavs still aren’t sold on any one individual just yet.
More Draft Stuff
• The Washington Post reported the Cavs will consider Georgetown small forward Otto Porter with the top pick, and FOX Sports Ohio sources confirmed those discussions are indeed taking place within the organization.
• Porter isn’t seen as the type of huge difference-maker you expect to land with the first selection, but the Cavs view him as someone who might fit right in alongside young guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Porter’s defense and consistent perimeter shooting are the things that appeal to Grant most.
• Another small forward the Cavs supposedly really like: Sergey Karasev of Russia. Karasev, also just 19, can already fill it up from the outside and is a strong passer. Defense definitely isn’t his strength, but he’s not awful in that area, either.
• Questions exist about Karasev’s coachability and attitude in the draft, but few doubts surround his talent. Most projections have him going in the middle of the first round, and sources say the Cavs are willing to move their later picks (Nos. 19, 31 and 33) to potentially trade up and take him.
• Grant and his staff are also said to be involved in serious discussions focused on Maryland center Alex Len. The Cavs really like his all-around game, and he may be in the fold should the Cavs trade down out of the No. 1 spot.
Trades & Free Agency
• Despite widespread speculation, multiple FOX Sports Ohio sources said the Cavs have no interest in exploring a trade for Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
• Like everyone, the Cavs are appreciative of Cousins’ size and wide range of skills. But his constant issues with previous coaches Paul Westphal and Keith Smart, as well as several Kings teammates, have the Cavs avoiding that potential path altogether.
• Unlike Cousins, the Cavs do have a high interest in Minnesota power forward Kevin Love, an All-Star before being sidelined by a hand injury this past season. However, the Timberwolves have made it clear that Love is unavailable. The Cavs have tried, sources said, but won’t get anywhere.
• With Love off the market, the Cavs are expected to make a play for Wolves center Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent. That’s no surprise — as Pekovic is exactly the type of pick-setting, rebounding and scoring inside presence the Cavs could use.
• FOX Sports Ohio sources also seconded reports that the Cavs have made a couple of inquiries about Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers, however, have repeatedly turned the Cavs away. A Portland source said the team has no interest in Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters or draft picks, and plans to keep Aldridge.
• Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen, an unrestricted free agent, has the Cavs’ attention. Allen is exactly the type of outstanding wing defender coach Mike Brown covets. Allen’s unrestricted status means he can be signed without Grizzlies getting an opportunity to match.
• Allen has gone on record saying he believes he’ll re-sign with the Grizzlies. But that typically means little in the game of NBA free agency.
• The Cavs aren’t expected to attempt to re-sign free agent forwards Omri Casspi and Luke Walton. Also, sources said while they like guard Shaun Livingston, he’s seeking a deal larger than what the Cavs are willing to offer.
• Shooting guard Wayne Ellington, another free agent, is held in high regard by the Cavs. They love his consistency and outside shooting, and hope to retain him.
• Finally, the status of forward/center Marreese Speights, acquired with Ellington in a January trade with Memphis, remains up in the air. He can opt out of his contract in July, and the Cavs are more than OK with him testing the market. Nothing outside of Speights’ mid-range game impresses anyone on a regular basis. Odds seem to be against Speights returning to Cleveland.