Noel's health, MCW's rise, more draft buzz

NBA scouts were impressed by how Michael Carter-Williams carved up the Indiana defense. Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images

This time of year, when I'm not putting together NBA mock drafts or debating point guard prospects with Jay Bilas, I'm usually on the phone with NBA GMs, scouts and agents trying to get a handle on what's happening before the draft.

With an updated Big Board coming next week, here's some of the latest buzz and how it relates to the fluid draft stock of some of the top players.

• How worried should the Cleveland Cavaliers and other teams be about Nerlens Noel's knee? Noel's surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, is confident that Noel's rehab is going well.

"We're really happy with his progress," Andrews told ESPN in a phone interview. "He's several weeks ahead of schedule on his rehab. He's improving on a weekly basis. He has a completely stable knee. The bone plugs are completely healed into the bone. His muscle and weight is returning. He has had no setbacks at all."

Noel's trainer, Kevin Wilk, concurred. "He's well ahead of schedule," he said. "He's now out on the court for about an hour doing free shooting. He's running in the pool. I don't know too many guys who could do that at this stage."

Still, don't let the rosy rehab picture fool you. Noel still has a ways to go before he'll be ready to play at the NBA level.

"Whoever gets him has to go slowly with him," Andrews said. "It's going to take him a while to get back to the level he was before he was injured."

Noel will visit Cleveland on June 20 for his formal interview. Until we get different feedback from the Cavs -- that they have concerns about Noel, or there is a player in the draft they like more -- he remains the No. 1 prospect on our Big Board and the No. 1 pick in our mock draft.

• Michigan point guard Trey Burke rode a strong season in the Big Ten and a run to the NCAA championship game all the way up our draft board. While his play in the tournament was a bit uneven, his reputation as a winner who could carry his team blossomed in March and pushed him into the top 5 of our Big Board.

But in the past few weeks, Burke has been getting major competition from Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams for the title of best point guard in the draft. Carter-Williams has risen to No. 7 in our rankings, just one spot below Burke.

Why? Sources say a number of teams that rely heavily on analytics have Carter-Williams rated higher than Burke. While both players look good in the various analytical approaches teams employ, Carter-Williams is coming up at No. 1 and No. 2 overall on several teams' reports. For teams that value analytics, that's a big deal.

Second, the more old-school scouts and GMs are looking at Carter-Williams' performance against Indiana. Carter-Williams sliced through the Hoosiers' defense -- anchored by Victor Oladipo -- as if it were warm butter. Carter-Williams' ability to get to the basket and finish (31 percent of his shots were at the rim, and he shot 62 percent from the field) is impressive.

Finally, teams are always looking for upside in the lottery. Carter-Williams has extraordinary size for his position. He is a terrific athlete. He sees the floor as well as any point guard in the draft. His weaknesses -- primarily his shaky jumper -- are the only thing holding him back from being a top-5 pick right now.

On Thursday I reported that Croatian forward Dario Saric, ranked No. 11 on our Big Board, is leaning toward withdrawing from the draft.

For the teams that coveted Saric, it was a blow. The Pelicans, Blazers, Sixers, Thunder and Mavericks all have been giving Saric serious consideration.

Mavs GM Donnie Nelson and Pelicans GM Dell Demps had made recent trips to Croatia to see Saric play and meet with him.

"He's one of the few players in this draft with All-Star potential," one GM told me. "He was very high on our board."

For teams that weren't particularly high on Saric, his pulling out of the draft would be a setback nonetheless, as it would reduce the pool of potential lottery picks.

"I don't think we would've taken Saric," one GM said. "But I know a lot teams were. Where we are sitting in the draft [middle of the first round], we always saw him as a guy who would go ahead of us and push someone down in the draft that we liked better. A weak draft just got a little weaker."

That'll be the case if Saric goes ahead and decides to withdraw. But it isn't over yet. Saric has until June 17 to decide. A couple of team executives told me they're considering making a personal plea to Saric. I'm not sure if it will work.

Sources say Saric is happy with his role at Cibona right now and is concerned that he won't get playing time in the NBA or will spend all of his time in the D-League. After a rocky start to the season, Saric, just 19, became a team leader in the Croatian playoffs and led Cibona to a league title, averaging 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds a game during the playoffs. Saric believes that with another season of experience, he'll guarantee a bigger role with the team that drafts him.

It's going to take more than a promise he'll go in the lottery. He's going to want assurances that he'll get on the court next season.

• A number of NBA scouts and GMs are in Treviso, Italy, this weekend for the annual adidas Eurocamp. A number of prospects, including Rudy Gobert, Lucas Nogueira, Livio Jean-Charles, Nemanja Nedovic and Raul Neto will participate.

Last year, France's Evan Fournier used a strong performance in Treviso to catapult from the second round to the 20th pick. Two players, Nogueira and Nedovic, could make big pushes if they play well here. Nedovic in particular might be able to move himself into the mix with the other second-tier point guards in the draft.

But the guy everyone wants to see is Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo. A number of NBA scouts believe Antetokounmpo has as much upside as anyone in the draft. However, his lack of playing experience against even marginal competition makes him the biggest unknown.

Antetokounmpo won't be playing in the Eurocamp, but he will be playing June 8-10 for the under-20 Greece national team versus Croatia. Expect a stampede of NBA scouts to go see how he fares against much better talent than he faced in the Greek second division.

If Antetokounmpo plays well there, he'll rocket up the boards and could end up taking Saric's place in the lottery. Likewise, if he struggles here, he could end up sliding out of the first round. No prospect's stock is more volatile right now.

• Burke and Ben McLemore both worked out for the Phoenix Suns this week -- their first workouts of the year. However, both players refused to work out with the other top prospects on the floor that day, and instead opted to do one-on-none workouts.

Burke skipped on the chance to work out against Carter-Williams, C.J. McCollum and Shane Larkin in Phoenix on Thursday. McLemore passed on the opportunity to go against Oladipo and Shabazz Muhammad.

Expect both Burke and McLemore to keep that trend up as the workouts continue. It's not uncommon for the top few players in each draft to refuse to work out with other prospects, although this year teams were hopeful they would get the participation of Burke and McLemore given the fluidity of the draft. With their draft stocks sliding a little, their strategies might have to change in the coming weeks.

Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. also will forgo working out against other opponents, sources said.

• There were rumors floating around that Larkin got a promise from the Bucks after he worked out for them last Friday. The Bucks do like Larkin, but the Bucks did not shut down his workouts. He was in Utah (the Jazz pick ahead of the Bucks) on Wednesday working out.

• Speaking of promises, it appears that Russian wing Sergey Karasev did get one from a team after his workout last Friday in Vegas. Although his agent, Justin Zanick, refused to talk about a promise, he did confirm that Karasev has canceled all workouts with teams and gone back to Russia. That's a tell-tale sign that a team guaranteed to take him if he would pull out of workouts. The Hawks (who have picks 17 and 18) and the Cavs (who pick 19th) are widely regarded by NBA GMs as the teams with which he'll most likely land.

• I'm hearing that German point guard Dennis Schroeder struggled in his workouts in Milwaukee and Houston. Schroeder, according to team sources, struggled to keep up with the defensive intensity in workouts. He works out again Friday in Utah. Schroeder rode a dominant performance at the Hoop Summit into the top 30, but if he doesn't start playing better, he could be in for an equally significant decline.

• NC State's C.J. Leslie is well enough to start working out with teams after having to cancel everything the past few weeks because of a pulled groin muscle. He has workouts with the Suns, Knicks, Pacers and Bucks in the next week. A number of teams believe Leslie could be a diamond in the rough on the right team. He's currently just outside our top 30, but strong workouts could move him into the first-round range.

• Watch out for Ricardo Ledo. He has worked out in Boston, Minnesota, Denver and Memphis and the word from all four teams was that he was very impressive. With his size (6-foot-6, 197 pounds), skill, and shooting ability, he's poised for a significant rise in the rankings on our next Big Board. With Indiana's <a href="Lance Stephenson (see here for Stephenson's ordeal) thriving right now, teams believe Ledo, who didn't log a single minute in college playing time for Providence, might be able to make a similar change.