Noel had dropped from No. 1 overall to No. 3 immediately after his season-ending knee injury earlier this month. Kansas guard Ben McLemore continues to hold the No. 1 spot.
Other UK players considered first-round picks on Ford’s board included Alex Poythress (12th), Willie Cauley-Stein (13th) and Archie Goodwin (19th).
Ford later chatted with fans on ESPN.com. You can (and should) read the entire chat by clicking on this link.
Here are Ford’s answers to questions about Noel, Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Goodwin:
Q: Should Nerlens Noel declare for the draft, where might he get picked? Does the ACL injury knock him down far enough to remove him from a first round pick?
Ford: He’s a lock for the Top 5 as long as there aren’t any complications with his surgery or rehab. Players completely recover from ACL tears these days. In fact, he might be ready to go by NBA training camp in October. I’m not sure if he will declare or return to school. Either option will be a good choice. I know GMs were a bit hesitant right after the injury to say he could be the No. 1 pick, but I’ve seen them back off that assertion lately. If the right team gets the No. 1 pick, he could still be the guy.
Q: Your thoughts on Cauley-Stein? He seems to have trouble with some of the simple parts of being a post player, such as dribbling the basketball successfully and not traveling. Is he really going to be a top-10 pick this year?
Ford: Upside: He checks a lot of boxes. Long, athletic, good shot blocker, an emerging offensive game. He’s a long ways away from being a productive NBA player, but if he comes out now, my guess talking to scouts is that he goes somewhere in the late lottery to mid-first round. I hope he stays. He still needs to learn the game. But I’d understand if he wanted to take the money and run.
Q: What’s the deal with Alex Poythress? Some boards have him in the lottery, some don’t even have him in the first round. Any chance he comes back to Lexington for another year?
Ford: Wish I had a good answer. Some nights, like the game against Missouri, he looks like a top-five pick. Other nights, like his recent game against Tennessee, he looks YEARS away from being an NBA player. The draft is so weak this year that some team is likely to gamble on him in the late lottery and hope that he eventually lives up to his potential. But right now? He’s the most frustrating player in this draft. So much talent, but so inconsistent.
Q: With so much talent coming in next year, is it a given that Archie Goodwin leaves Lexington despite the fact he obviously needs more time?
Ford: Goodwin, Poythress and Cauley-Stein all really need another year under Cal. The problem, and no one talks about this as much as they should, is that Cal has a big-time incoming class who are all expecting to start. It puts pressure on everyone if they stay. In addition, especially in Goodwin’s case, I’m not sure he’s as good as the player (Aaron Harrison) that is coming in who plays his position. Ditto for Poythress if Andrew Wiggins commits to UK. That’s a dilemma for everyone involved and why these kids typically end up leaving.