NEW YORK — Nerlens Noel is coming off a major knee injury. Alex Len is in a walking boot.
One of them could be the No. 1 pick Thursday in an NBA draft that appears short on stardom, and neither looks ready to get his career off to a running start.
“This draft is really unpredictable, a lot of guys with injuries and you don’t have any, like, LeBron James,” Len said Wednesday. “So it’s going to be interesting.”
Ten years after James climbed on stage to start a draft that goes down as one of the best in recent memory, the No. 1 pick again belongs to Cleveland.
The Cavaliers won’t find anyone who can play like James on the court — if they keep the pick — and even the climbing the stage part will be a challenge for the big men who opened their college seasons against each other and are competing again now.
Noel tore the ACL in his left knee on Feb. 12, ending his lone season at Kentucky. The 6-foot-11 freshman led the nation in shot blocking and his conference in rebounding, but hasn’t been able to show the Cavaliers if his offensive game has grown.
The only basketball work he did during his visit to Cleveland was shooting some free throws. Perhaps the pants he wore with his sports jacket and orange tie were just too tight, but Noel was walking gingerly as he exited a hotel ballroom after meeting with the media Wednesday.
“I wanted to do more. Unfortunately I got hurt, but I mean I definitely felt right before I got injured I was really coming along as a player and just really coming into my own during that part of the season,” Noel said. “But like I said, unfortunately I got hurt, so I wasn’t able to show as much as I wanted to.”