A case can be made that center and not small forward is the top position group for this year’s draft. And there’s no denying that this draft has a stronger center class than usual.  This draft is highlighted by two traditional bigman, Clingan and Edey, who will attempt to turn back the clock on the NBA, plus the likely number two overall pick and another 2-3 projected first rounders.

1. Alexandre Sarr 7-1 225 C Perth Wildcats 2005

the likely number two pick in the draft, Sarr spent two years at “Shot Doctor U”, also known as Overtime Elite. He spent that time improving, and came out with a much cleaner looking release and can now really knock down shots in a practice setting. The key will be applying that muscle memory to the speed of games, and adding better ability to create shot opportunities. So far, he’s more of a defensive standout, with the ability to defend on the perimeter at a really high level for a 7-footer, and also rim protect. If he continues to fill out and add some ability to create offense, there’s a lot to love about his potential.

2. Donovan Clingan 7-3 280 C UConn So.

Clingan is a two time champ and has a lot of momentum behind him. He’s got a massive frame and pretty good body control. He also shows a solid ability to pass and a good feel for the game. Where he struggles is with foot speed and he doesn’t get much lift. He finished dead last in the combine athleticism testing, so whether he can improve on his mobility over time with better conditioning remains to be seen. Clingan has a mean streak and really loves to compete. He may struggle to defend in space, but could be a real weapon as a rim protector.

3. Kel'el Ware 7-1 230 C Indiana So.

Ware has both the physical profile and skill set to be a starting NBA center. When he’s firing on all cylinders, he looks like a lottery pick. The dilemma has been that Ware’s motor has a tendency to run hot and cold. He doesn’t always show the initiative to dominate and impact games to his ability. If the light goes on, and he lands with a team and situation that’s able to get the most out of him, he could end up a nice pick in the mid to late first round/

4. Zach Edey 7-5 300 C Purdue Sr.

Perhaps the most interesting case study in this year’s draft. Today’s NBA has a habit of chewing up and spitting out “tradition” bigs, as the dominant post game doesn’t carry as much weight when a player struggles to guard in space on defense and stretch the floor on offense.  “College Yao Ming” aka Zach Edey, was a dominant force, and is now seen by many as a likely top 20 pick. He has really worked hard to shed weight and gain better conditioning. He absolutely obliterated the competition all season, including the UConn bigman that is expected to go 10 or more spots higher than him (prop bet?) on draft night. While Clingan is younger, there are actually a number of scouts that feel that Edey is the bigger, stronger, quicker, better shooting and ultimately better NBA prospect.

5. Yves Missi 7-0 230 C Baylor Fr.

Souting Missi’s footage, there are some incredible highlights, but also a lot of lowlights. He is still working through figuring out the nuances of the game, and his lack of much game experience is often exposed with missed assignments or ugly shot selection and poor decision making. Missi is a high level athlete with great ability to rim run as well as rim protect. His upside is clearly very high, but a team will likely have to live with the growing pains for a couple of seasons before he becomes a reliable contributor.

6. Kyle Filipowski 7-0 230 PF/C Duke So.

Filipowski is a below the rim bigman with an impressive two year career at Duke. He’s a confident, overachiever type who utilizes his size and mobility well and has shown to shooting potential. If he can continue to improve his outside shooting ability, it will make him a more effective pro. He’s not a standout athlete, lacking length and explosiveness, but he’s got mobility, and he finds ways to contribute with his intangibles, with passing, and effort on defense and rebounding.

7. N'Faly Dante 6-11 260 C Oregon Sr.

Dante was denied an extra year of eligibility so he’s in the 2024 draft. He finally had a breakout season with both productivity and health. He is an imposing big with length and some impressive athletic gifts. he no longer has the speed and explosiveness that he had entering college as injuries have taken their toll on his knees and explosiveness. But depending on how his physicals check out, he’s an intriguing bigman if he can consistently play to his abilities.

8. Adem Bona 6-9 245 C UCLA So.

Bona has some of the most insane combine numbers ever with a wingspan that is nearly 7 inches bigger than his height, a 9 foot standing reach and a 40 inch vertical. He’s older and there are concerns about his lack of shooting and skill level, but he’s a high motor guy with a obscene combination of length and explosiveness.

9. Keshad Johnson 6-7 225 PF/C Arizona Sr.

The super senior transfer from SDSU had an outstanding senior year. He added a three point shot to his repertoire and became a more efficient scorer. Johnson is an elite level run jump athlete, who at 6’7 has a small wingspan 6’10 but a huge vertical, measured at 42 inches at the combine. he had plays where he blocked shots at their pinnacle, something you usually only see the most athletic 7-foot centers accomplish.

10. PJ Hall 6-9 240 C Clemson Sr.

Maybe the most shocking result from the NBA Draft Combine, along with Reed Sheppard’s 42 inch vertical, was PJ Hall’s 39.5 inch vertical. He clearly has good athleticism based on his play at Clemson, but a near 40 inch vertical out of a center is elite. Hall has expended his game, adding more strength and range on his shot. He’s not the fastest player in the open floor and lacks size as a 6’9 center with a surprising 7’1 wingspan, but a disappointing 8’7 standing reach. Hall is definitely on the small side for a bigman.


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