2010 NBA Draft: Centers

Thu, 06/17/2010 - 2:41pm

It took about five years for Kendrick Perkins to make his impact for the Boston Celtics.

The Texan was the typical prep-to-pro center, not at all ready physically or mentally for the rigors of the NBA when he entered the league at 18 years old. Slowly, he developed into one of the toughest players in the league, a physical force who nullifies the best post players in the league on a regular basis.

Perkins absense looms large over Boston for today's Game 7 of the NBA Finals. With him, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum could expect to be roughed up inside by Boston. Without him, the Celtics look a bit softer and a lot shorter.

You can't teach size. Perkins – and, for that matter, fellow prep-to-pro Bynum – was raw and inconsistent when he entered the league. He was immature. But he had the type of broad shoulders and tall frame necessary to anchor the middle of a championship defense.

DeMarcus CousinsDeMarcus CousinsIf you've got Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, your team can afford to start Luc Longley at center. If not, any hope of a title comes with a legit big man attached. He doesn't need to be a star, or even offense-capable. But be it Tim Duncan or Ben Wallace, Gasol or Perkins, in the NBA, size matters.

The 2010 NBA Draft is, as a recent feature noted, loaded with forwards. There's this absurdly talented point guard guy that's supposed to go pretty high in the draft, too. And there are quite a few skilled scorers on the wings.

The lacking position is the most important in basketball: the center. Just four centers appear to be lottery prospects, none likely for the top-three spots in the draft. After that wave, it's not clear another true center will be picked in the first round.

Making the situation even more unique, each of the top four center prospects has a clear set of strengths, weaknesses and concerns. As a result, DeMarcus Cousins, Cole Aldrich, Hassan Whiteside and Daniel Orton have volatile stocks.

While Cousins looks like a sure-fire top-10 pick, he could go as high as fourth or as low as ninth. Aldrich could slip into the top eight or fall to the low teens. As far as Whiteside and Orton – opinions on the two freshmen vary so much each has been reported as a possibility to Detroit at No. 7 but could slip all the way out of the top 20.

At the top of the draft, it's wise to pick the best player available. Still, each of these particular center prospects should be evaluated in part based on fit, alongside their readiness and potential.

DeMarcus Cousins, 6-foot-11, 292-pound Kentucky freshman

The biggest elite prospect in this class is probably also its most criticized. Despite his thick, sturdy frame and great knack for scoring and rebounding around the basket, Cousins has drawn the ire of those curious about his background and personality. It's tough to know what to say about the anger issues rumored about this kid since he was in high school. We don't know the facts, but it's understandable that red flags would be raised in the minds of teams about to commit millions of dollars and a high pick to a 19-year-old.

What we can evaluate is his performance on the court. Cousins can be a dominant force, but he can also be domineering. When Kentucky was operating at its free-wheeling best, Cousins often was relagated to secondary status in the offense. Ten years ago, the NBA was played at a much slower pace than it is now, and the hulking big man was in fashion. Today, teams built for speed will not want to wait up for a player like Cousins, despite his potential.

In addition, Cousins' defense was half-hearted at best. He proved a rebounding machine but played lackadaisically in post defense and fouled too often when going for shot blocks. These are common mistakes for a young center, but if teachability is a concern, they could be far-reaching.

As a result, a team that picks Cousins will need to be committed to him. He may not take kindly to playing a supporting role on a bad team, as is the fate of so many mid-lottery picks. At the same time, he needs a coach and a team that will push him.

Utah would be a great fit, should the Jazz give up on Carlos Boozer. Paul Millsap has played alongside top post scorers before, and Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan provide smore stability than any other lottery team can offer. Still, it's not likely Cousins will last that long – he's too talented. A situation such as Golden State could poison him, as the Warriors have a selfish reputation, instability throughout the organization and a fast style of play.

Cole Aldrich, 6-foot-10, 236-pound Kansas junior

On the surface, Aldrich seems the safest option at center. He's a three-year college veteran who has won a lot of games. He's a proven rebounder and defender. He even made the beloved decision to return to school despite being a likely lottery pick last year.

The issue, then, is where do you want to draft a player who may never emerge as anything more than a sturdy backup? Aldrich faded into the background on the offensive end last season for Kansas, and he has yet to prove capable of providing anything more than rebounds at that end of the floor. In addition, his weak defense on Northern Iowa 7-footer Jordan Eglseder in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was worrisome.

Aldrich doesn't have elite size or athleticism. These are factors that will limit him throughout his NBA career, no matter what he can do on the court. Still, he's smart, hard-working and has a tremendous knack for shot blocking. Such players can be key cogs for a winning team.

The Minnesota native is ready to step into a real role immediately for an NBA team. An offseason of workouts should help him bulk up a bit, but he played in a good system. The best fit may be New Orleans, which could use post defense help, but the Hornets have other needs to address and an identity to figure out. Toronto would be another solid fit, with or without Chris Bosh.

Hassan Whiteside, 7-foot, 227-pound Marshall freshman
Daniel Orton, 6-foot-10, 269-pound Kentucky freshman

Put them next to each other, and these two are exact opposites. Whiteside is in the Tyson Chandler mold, a long, athletic and thin defensive presence with a developing offensive game. Orton is a thick, hard-nosed banger with a lot of confidence, similar to Marreese Speights.

But the issue for each is mystery. No one can be quite sure how good either of these two are, in Whiteside's case, because he never played top competition, and in Orton's case, because he rarely played at all at Kentucky.

It would be tempting to assume a player like Florida State junior Solomon Alabi would be a safer pick because of his experience. But each of these prospects was in a unique situation: Whiteside was heinously under-recruited while Orton wound up with a new coach and a lot less playing time than he expected at Kentucky.

Whiteside has already shown more offensive prowess than many of the “projects” he's been compared to, including last year's second overall pick, Hasheem Thabeet. He's got a nice jump shot and developing post moves, to go along with his innate shot-blocking ability that was unmatched in college basketball.

Orton has impressed in workouts, and his frame is NBA-caliber. By choosing to declare early, he may have hurt his stock. But many believed he was a top-10 pick for 2011 and a player who could have emerged as a top option for the Wildcats had he stayed. He's practiced with top competition, and he may not be as raw as his 3 points and 3 rebounds a game make him look.

Still, each has the issues that so often come with freshman big men. Maturity and work ethic are issues. Some have said Whiteside doesn't seem to take the game seriously, while others question Orton's weight and his knees. Either case will require a lot of structure, but both should be good gambles for any team picking in the late lottery or mid-teens.

TaylorCondrin's picture
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Even though there aren't many

Even though there aren't many sure-fire NBA starting centers in this draft, the second round holds potential diamonds in the rough (jerome jordan, art parakhouski, solomon alabi, dexter pittman, etc)

thunderforthewin's picture
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i thought luc longley was a

i thought luc longley was a mad center

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Where's Greg Monroe? His versatility and passing skills will allow him to contribute significantly even if he never becomes an elite scorer.

Art Parakhouski is a flat-out steal for whoever drafts him (should be a fringe 1st rounder, IMO). He's an immovable object inside (6-10, 6% body fat) who can hit a mid-range jumper. He also has a great attitude and upside to spare as he's only been playing basketball for 5 years.

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Bill Wenningto, Luc Longley &

Bill Wenningto, Luc Longley & Will Perdue rocked it for the Bulls at center!

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There are some pretty

There are some pretty important centers. Of these children come true champions nurseries. Unfortunately not allocated sufficient funds nor popularized these centers that children really good to get there. Reach only those who know them.piese auto import

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