Nerlens Noel had every reason to believe he would be the first pick of the 2013 NBA Draft but, after he was slowly passed over by a couple of teams, it was apparent the 6-11 big man would become the focus of the night for all the wrong reasons—and that includes being traded.
After five picks in Thursday nights' NBA draft — with a camera continually directed on the young man's perplexed face — the Kentucky star finally heard his name when the New Orleans Pelicans selected him with the sixth pick.
When the snubbed Noel realized he'd be teaming up with last year's No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis, he found a reason to force a smile. "I'm just happy to be with the Pelicans," said the semi-enthusiastic Noel.
That consolation didn't last long.
The Pelicans dealt Noel and a 2014 first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday and this year's 42nd pick.
Which is why Noel will have one goal when takes the court next season.
"I'm going to make them pay," Noel said of the teams that passed on him.
The Sixers took a big chance on Thursday when they traded their best player to land Noel, but if he makes good on his promise, it will be well worth it. Noel has the potential to be one of the most athletic centers in the league. His combination of speed, size, and athleticism could make him a franchise changing player if he can return from his ACL injury to be the player he was at Kentucky.
Noel will have every chance to make good on his word. The Sixers traded their franchise player to get Noel, effectively handing the team to him. When he's healthy, he'll start, and he'll be the focal point of the team.
Now Noel has to be true to his word and prove those teams wrong.