1. Alex Len – Len is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft. He has the potential and upside to be a top three pick but an injury has kept him from working out in front of scouts at the combine as well as in some individual workouts. At just 19 years of age (20 this week), Len still has plenty of room to grow and mature physically. At 7’1 he has the prototypical size for the center position in the NBA. He showed flashes of brilliance during his sophomore year at Maryland but was limited by inconsistent guard play on a team that struggled to get the ball into the low post. He struggled at times in college with foul trouble which limited both his minutes and touches. He projects to be a back to the basket five in the NBA and will benefit from an improving jump shot and ability to run the floor and protect the rim. Must improve on his free throw shooting and footwork while defending outside of the post.
2. Steven Adams – If you are a numbers guy then not a whole lot of what Adams did at Pitt will wow you. He averaged just over seven points and six rebounds for the Panthers and wasn’t much of a factor considering he was so highly touted coming out of high school. He wasn’t featured a lot in Jamie Dixon’s offense which led to him dropping on a lot of draft boards mid way through the season. But an outstanding combine has launched his name back to the top of many draft boards as he wowed scouts with his improved jump shot. He wasn’t expected to enter the draft after the season but he is looking to cash in on what is a weak draft for centers, and overall. Some scouts believe that he has a bigger upside than the aforementioned Len but he looks to be more of a long-term "project" player currently.
3. Kelly Olynyk – Olynyk is without question the most polished offensive center in this group but he has nowhere near the athleticism or upside of his counterparts. His combine numbers really exposed his lack of athleticism as he measured out at the bottom of both the standing and max vertical jumps. It didn’t surprise many scouts as he has never been a great athlete but for a guy who will be relied on to block shots and protect the paint at the five spot, those numbers are somewhat of a red flag. He put up over 18 points per game last season at Gonzaga and could thrive in a system that would allow him to play alongside a more defensive minding power forward that can help cover up some of his shortcomings on defense. Regardless, you can’t teach size and Olynyk has plenty of that at 7’0 and 234 pounds.
4. Gorgui Dieng – Louisville’s deep tournament run did wonders for Dieng’s draft stock. Outside of Peyton Siva, Dieng was the Card’s most important player on the court. He protected the rim, rebounded and consistently hit that 15-20 footer from the top of the key that seemed to bury ever team they played. He has never had much of a back to the basket game and probably won’t ever develop one. His strength to any team that drafts him is going to be completely on the defensive end. He is an excellent shot blocker and has surprisingly quick feet. He stays in front of smaller players, slides his feet well and rarely bites on the pump fake which forces players to try and shoot it over the top of his 7’4 wingspan. Dieng isn’t a game changer and probably won’t ever be an All-Star but he has solid value late in the first round for a team in need of depth in the front court.
5. Rudy Gobert – Much like Olynyk, Gobert isn’t much of an athlete but has unbelievable length. If it weren’t for his height (7’2) and his wingspan (7’9), Gobert would be an average prospect at best. After watching him at the combine it can be argued that he would come into the league and automatically be the slowest player from Day 1 from a lateral standpoint. He looks as if he is running in mud with a refrigerator on his back most of the time and will struggle to stay on the floor in the NBA when teams use that Miami HEAT style lineup with a stretch four at center. He projects as more of a stretch four offensively as he doesn’t possess much of a back to basket game. He doesn’t have much range on his jump shot but he has natural length that allows him to alter his fair share of shots. If he can add some bulk to his thin frame he could be a solid contributor in a few years.
6. Jeff Withey – Withey is the type of player where what you see is what you get. He doesn’t project to ever be a starting center in the league and has hit his ceiling as a basketball player. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the player that he has become can make a name for himself in the league. He came back for his senior season at Kansas hoping to improve his draft stock and while he played extremely well, he didn’t do anything to really separate himself from the rest of the centers in the draft. He is an above average shot blocker and can affect the game on the defensive end. Offensively he is limited and gets most of his points off of put backs and dunks that are set up by other teammates but he knows his limitations and therefore doesn’t get out of his comfort zone on the offensive end of the court. Call him Zaza Pachulia with shot blocking ability.
7. Dewayne Dedmon – Keeping with the theme of centers with limited offensive games, Dedmon is another guy who needs work on becoming a better scorer in the post. Another player that surprised some people when he declared for the draft, Dedmon really could use another year at USC to work on his game. He is athletic and loves to get out and run on offense but he lacks true post moves and really didn’t put up the type of numbers during his two years at Southern Cal that you would like out of a draft pick. He still has room to improve as he didn’t start playing basketball until later in life. A team could take a flier on him in the second round and let him sit in the D-League for a few seasons which would allow him to get a better feel for the game and would help him make strides toward becoming a more polished offensive player.
8. Trevor Mbakwe – Before his ACL injury in 2011, Mbakwe was on his way to a first round selection. Now, two years removed from the injury, he is fighting to stay in the second round. Mbakwe does everything well but doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. He is an average offensive player with good athleticism and decent defensive prowess. He lost some of his explosiveness after the ACL surgery and, at 24, is the oldest player in the draft. He is very similar to Ekpe Udoh except that Udoh didn’t undergo ACL surgery. Some team will take a flier on him in the second round as he is a very well accomplished player who will be able to come in and contribute right away. The lack of explosion post-surgery are concerning but given another year or so to get completely healthy and there is no reason why he can’t be back at 100% of what he was just a few short years ago.
9. Colton Iverson – Iverson, no relation to Allen Iverson, is an average prospect at best. He is the type of player that any team would love to have on the end of their bench and in practice. He has a very high basketball I.Q. and is one of the toughest players in this draft. He really flourished at Colorado State after transferring from Minnesota. He nearly tripled is scoring output as he became a focal point of the Rams offense. He isn’t athletic but he uses his length and frame to punish opposing players in the post. He is an above average rebounder that out-hustles everyone on the court. If he could develop a mid-range jump shot then he could really carve out some minutes for himself on a team. He likely won’t get drafted but is almost guaranteed a free agent contract and a camp invite for some team strictly based on his motor and intangibles.
10. Mouhammadou Jaiteh – Unless you follow a lot of international basketball then Jaiteh isn’t probably someone you’ve heard much about. He is a 6’11 center prospect from France who will be the anti-Mbakwe in that he will be one of the youngest players in the draft as he won’t turn 19 until November. Jaiteh is a good rebounder and defender but is yet another center who has issues with his offense. He is still extremely raw and doesn’t project to come over to the NBA for at least 2-3 years. A team could take a flier on him and keep him overseas until he develops before bringing him over.
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