The final installation of the 2022 Positional Rankings comes with the biggest players in the draft – the centers. While there likely won’t be many, or possibly any, taken in the lottery, there is a lot of maturity and readiness with this group with just two freshman in the lot.
Here is a look at our top 10 candidates to do just that as our positional rankings series comes to a close with the NBA Draft a couple days away.
1. Mark Williams 7-1 240 Duke Blue Devils
Despite many having the higher rated recruit Duren first, we feel the skill and length of Williams gives him a close edge. While not quite the physical specimen of Duren, he’s got more readiness and appears to have a more consistent motor. He has shown some ability to defend the pick-and-roll with his size and mobility can contest outside jumpers.
Offensively, Williams is just as impressive, shooting with better efficiency from the field (72%) and solid from the free-throw line (73%). He didn’t make a single 3-pointer in college, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he adds this to his game in the next few years, especially considering the great touch he showed at the charity stripe. With such a loaded roster at Duke, it’s entirely possible that a player like Williams was unable to completely display his potential and ends up a steal.
2. Jalen Duren 6-11 250 Memphis Tigers
The gap is close between Williams and Duren (pictured), but it’s enough to knock the once top rated player in his class down a notch. The lack of production from the perimeter is a big reason why Williams leaped Duren on the list. Granted in the right situation (ie Spurs), Duren could potentially flourish.
The 6-11 freshman is the epitome of a specimen at 6’11 and 250 pounds and really knows how to use his frame to create space for himself down and be a lob threat. He’ll have no trouble developing his rebounding or shot-blocking, but a center with his profile is becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, dropping his intrigue from a top ten to a mid first in many team’s opinions.
3. Jaylin Williams 6-10 235 Arkansas Razorbacks
While the top two centers in this class are a cut above the rest, Jaylin Williams shines with intangibles and basketball IQ. No one recorded more charges than Williams and his defensive instincts and clutch play give him a lot of intrigue. He has the versatility to guard the perimeter and was constantly finding ways to contribute with over a block and steal per game in his sophomore season.
He draws comparisons to a former Razorback in Bobby Portis because of this defensive tenacity and his ability to stretch beyond the arc and knock down threes. He may not have the superstar highlight reel or stats to match others on this list, but Williams has always been a winner who steps up his level of play in big games on both ends, which makes him an underrated potential first-round prospect.
4. Walker Kessler 7-1 255 Auburn Tigers
Unlike Williams, it is clear to see what makes Kessler special when looking at his sophomore year stats. The 7-1 UNC transfer blocked 4.6 shots per game in just 25 minutes per game and posted a pair of triple doubles with blocks as his third category. His historic shot-blocking season ranks in the top-25 all-time and is the most blocks in a season since Anthony Davis in 2011-12.
Kessler’s massive length and impeccable timing in the lane makes him an outstanding rim-protector and it gives him a good shot to get taken in the late first round. He has a great build and moves really well for a player his size. A team will hope that he can improve as a switch defender and be usable when teams key on him with picks and rolls.
5. John Butler 7-1 175 Florida State Seminoles
One of the big shockers of the withdrawal deadline was the fact that Butler kept his name in the 2022 NBA Draft field. He is arguably the rawest prospect in the field and needs to put on a ton of weight to compete at a professional level.
Still, his flashes of outside shooting and athleticism at 7-1 were intriguing enough to make him believe he is ready to move on and start a professional career. And it could be enough for a team to look past the fact that his motor ran hot and cold in both his prep and college career and he’s barely the weight of many of the point guards in this draft. It is doubtful that he’ll be ready for any meaningful minutes in his first two seasons, but with the G League in place, perhaps a team will love his long term potential enough to draft him in the late first.
6. Christian Koloko 7-0 220 Arizona Wildcats
Tommy Lloyd did plenty of great things in his first season at Arizona and Christian Koloko may have benefited the most with the new coaching staff coming to town. The junior center started all 37 games and shot a drastically improved 63% from the field and 73% from the free-throw line while averaging a career high 12 points per game for the Wildcats. Not to mention he doubled his blocks per game total to 2.8 while anchoring the Arizona defense.
Koloko is certianly in the mix to be a late first rounder and his shooting touch gives him promise to develop into an outside threat. Matched up with Kofi Cockburn, the most physical big man in college basketball, Koloko blocked five shots, forced five turnovers and held Cockburn to a season-worst 33% shooting on 15 attempts from the field. Arizona also played one of the fastest offenses in the nation, and the junior center was able to keep up and run for 25 minutes per game earning him All-Pac 12 honors and Defensive Player of the Year.
7. Ismael Kamagate 6-11 230 France
Our first foreign (playing) prospect at the center position had first-round buzz at certain points of the season. He has the mobility and vision to be an effective passer in the middle of the floor. He also moves very fluidly with solid footwork to alter many of the shots taken in the paint. A team with a solid developmental staff could look to fill a positional need at center in the second round with Kamagate.
8. Orlando Robinson 6-11 245 Fresno State Bulldogs
Robinson is easily the most polished scorer and post player on this list up and was a durable 90-game starter in his three years at Fresno. His shot-blocking numbers are poor considering the competition, exhibiting his lack of speed and athleticism, but Robinson is a gifted offense scorer who averaged nearly 20 points this season while shooting 35% from beyond the arc. He won’t block many shots, but Robinson is a modern big who can spread the floor and be a useful player in the right system. Robinson doesn’t have much hype behind him, but could end up being one of the big sleepers from this list.
9. Ibou Dianko Badji 7-1 240 Senegal
Our second and final foreign prospect is much more of a project pick at just 19 years old. He has tremendous size and length and often flashes athleticism and quickness that is rare to see from a player of his size. He needs a solid coach to refine his skills and help him develop the outside jumper that could potentially become part of his game, but with the right coach, Badji could be an excellent late pick in the right situation.
10. Bryson Williams 6-8 240 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Bryson Williams started his college career with Fresno State in 2016 and eventually finished his career with Texas Tech as a 24-year-old super senior who led the team in scoring. His breakout performance came in an overtime loss to Kansas in January as he dropped 33 points on the eventual national champions on 74% shooting in one of the toughest places to play at Allen Fieldhouse. His potential is not much higher than the player he is now, but Williams can play valuable minutes as a small-ball five with his developing 3 point shooting and high motor and intangibles.