Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore go later than expected in draft but are happy
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Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore heard their names called out by David Stern in back-to-back fashion, just as projected. But that occurred nearly 30 minutes later than they had expected.
Projected to be chosen by the Cavaliers as the top pick for the last few months, Noel slipped all the way down to the New Orleans Pelicans, who held the sixth pick of the 2013 NBA draft. McLemore, a shooting guard, was taken by the Sacramento Kings with the subsequent pick.
"I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn't thinking I was the No. 1 pick," Noel said. "I was just staying open, and I'm definitely very blessed and fortunate to be drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans. I'm just looking forward to it."
But sliding all the way down to the sixth spot might not have been the biggest slight of the night for Noel. Even worse for the 6-10 center, he wasn't even the first big man off the board. Center Cody Zeller and center Alex Len were selected in successive picks immediately before he was chosen.
Dropping to No. 6 couldn't have been what Noel was prepared for, but his eventful night didn't end after he walked across the stage and shook Stern's hand.
Almost immediately after the Pelicans selected him, he was shipped along with a 2014 protected first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for point guard Jrue Holiday.
"I feel very well about that," Noel said. "It shows how much confidence they have in me. I'm just really staying positive through this and looking to get down there and work hard."
Despite tearing his ACL late in his lone season at Kentucky, Noel is seen as a highly touted prospect because of his potential on the defensive end. Before injuring himself in February, Noel led the nation in blocks (4.4 per game) and was the top rebounder in the SEC (9.5). Noel earned SEC defensive player of the year and SEC freshman of the year honors despite playing only 24 games.
McLemore, who was projected by many analysts to be scooped up by the Magic with the second overall pick, fell to the Kings directly after Noel's selection. During his only season at Kansas, McLemore averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game and shot nearly 42 percent from beyond the arc.
"Right now, I'm feeling great," McLemore said. "This is a great opportunity for me. I'm blessed to be here to get drafted and I'm happy. I'm very excited and my family is excited. Just the start of my journey."
With a group of young, talented players already in a Sacramento uniform, including center DeMarcus Cousins and guard Tyreke Evans, McLemore is excited to make his presence felt for the Kings.
"I feel great," he said. "Ready, prepared and I feel I can come in and help a lot for the Sacramento Kings."