With the NBA Draft approaching on June 21, here are the top ten prospects at a very strong center position.
1. Deandre Ayton, Arizona
Ayton is a huge prospect, both figuratively and physically. He’s 7 feet tall and 260 pounds. In high school, he didn’t always work hard or play a disciplined style of basketball, but his year at Arizona answered many of the concerns about him. He averaged a double-double and didn’t fall in love with the outside shot while still showing that he is a capable shooter. Despite a myriad of distractions at Arizona this past season, Ayton showed that he is deserving of consideration for the number one overall pick. He has the size to bully smaller big men in the league, the versatility to pull opposing big men outside, and the ability to rebound and block shots. He truly has all of the skills a team wants in a big man in today’s NBA. If he somehow slips beyond the top pick, don’t expect him to fall far because he has more star potential than anybody else in this year’s draft.
2. Wendell Carter, Duke
Carter was overshadowed at Duke last year by sharing a frontcourt with Marvin Bagley. However, just because he was overlooked, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a really good player. At 6’10”, 260 pounds, he would have probably been a power forward in previous eras. However, he looks to be an ideal center in today’s NBA. He’s a player that can bang on the low block, score from mid range, operate in the pick and roll or pick and pop, or even take the occasional long range shot. Carter is a player that excels at the fundamental aspects of the game. Carter isn’t overly fast or athletic, but he is a player that can contribute to his team in a variety of ways and doesn’t often force the issue. While he doesn’t produce a lot of highlight plays, he can do the dirty work inside and in the high post. His value goes far beyond what one might see just looking at a box score. He very well could end up being the best player chosen in the 6-10 range.
3. Mohamed Bamba, Texas
Bamba, as you’ve probably heard by now, was the biggest winner from the NBA Combine. He has some incredible measurements and profiles as a dominant defensive big man. In his single season at Texas he averaged 12.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and a whopping 3.7 blocks per game. He wanted to show in college that he was more than just a big body that could block shots and shot just under two threes per game. However, he shot less than 28% and it is clear that he lacks the offensive versatility of a player like Ayton. However, the things he does well, blocking shots and deterring shots and drives, are things that he does better than anybody else on this list. With his incredible wingspan and ability to block shots both on the ball and on help side, if he focuses on being a defensive big man similar to Rudy Gobert, he could really help an NBA team.
4. Mitchell Robinson, Western Kentucky
Speaking of a player looking to get taken based off of potential, there’s the unique case of Mitchell Robinson. He enrolled in Western Kentucky only to leave the school without playing a single game for them. As a result, here he is in the draft despite sitting out the past year and not being seen in a competitive setting. He has excellent size and could potentially be a very good player. He projects as an athletic rim running style big man who can rebound and contest shots as well as finish offensive possessions around the rim. However, after not being seen against top level college players and sitting out the combine, it will be interesting to see if his skills have developed and if he can compete at this level. He doesn’t have a great post game and often got by with being bigger and quicker than his competition, and that may or may not transfer to the NBA.
5. Omari Spelman, Villanova
Coming off an NCAA Championship, Omari Spellman opted to remain in the draft. He’s a big-bodied forward/center with range out to the three point line. He’s a good, but not great, rebounder who has the size and strength to matchup with big men at the next level. He projects to be a pick and pop player due to his large frame allowing him to create separation for guards coming off his screens and his ability to catch and shoot. His versatility to be able to score both inside and outside will be appealing to teams, but he still needs to develop his footwork inside to be able to score consistently inside. While most of the players on the list above Spellman could succeed on just about any team, the fit for Spellman will be much more important. The team that selects him will need to play to Spellman’s strengths in order to get the most out of him.
6. Moritz Wagner, Michigan
Moritz Wagner was a really good college player, but will have to find what will work for him in the NBA. At the collegiate level, he excelled at taking advantage of mismatches by taking smaller guys inside and pulling bigger men out to the perimeter to either face them up or shoot open jumpers. However, the longer, more athletic defenders in the NBA should make things much more difficult. He projects to be a stretch 4/5, but will likely have to develop other parts of his game to stick in the league. He isn’t a great rebounder, although he took a big step forward in that area over the past season, so there’s hope that he can continue that development. His lack of shot blocking will likely hurt him; as he isn’t somebody that can be counted on to protect the rim, meaning he will typically need to be paired with a shot blocker.
7. Brandon McCoy, UNLV
Brandon McCoy has good size at 7’1” and 250 pounds, but his value doesn’t go much past that. He had success last season at UNLV, but he was a prominent player on a team devoid of a lot of other talent. He averaged 16.9 and 10.3, but stats don’t tell the whole story. He isn’t especially athletic or fluid when moving, meaning he doesn’t project as a rim runner. His shot isn’t broken, but he’s not a threat to truly step out and threaten a defense with his perimeter jump shot. Because of this, McCoy is currently viewed as a shot blocker without top level athleticism. That really limits his value unless he can further develop his game.
8. Isaac Haas, Purdue
Isaac Haas is an extremely large man, and because of that, teams will give him a look. However, it’s rather unlikely that he makes a career at the NBA level. Standing 7-2, and being right around 300 pounds, he is a capable shot blocker and can deter people from looking to score at the rim. However, he doesn’t do much beyond that. He rebounds poorly for a man his size, as evidenced by his 5.7 rebounds per game last season, and is unable to rebound outside of his area. He can score down low, but the league is going away from that type of offense, as post ups aren’t very effective in modern offenses, and if he can’t provide much beyond that, it will be difficult for a team to play him major minutes. The fact that he is also coming off an elbow injury doesn’t do him any favors as well.
9. Tyler Davis, Texas A&M
Tyler Davis is another back to the basket style center that will likely struggle to make an NBA career for himself, at least at this moment. He’s a fluid player that has a high understanding of the game and was very productive at Texas A&M. He can rebound, score, and plays an unselfish brand of basketball. If this were the 90s, Davis would have a spot in the NBA. However, despite working to develop his mid range shot, he simply doesn’t fit the mold of a modern NBA center. His skill set isn’t diverse enough right now, and unless he can add something to his game, being a strong low post player likely won’t be enough. If he can develop a more reliable jump shot, he could maybe mask his limited explosiveness and athleticism, but it is likely most of his career will be spent playing in Europe.
10. Dusan Ristic, Arizona
Dusan Ristic spent last season playing on the same roster as DeAndre Ayton, and that gave Arizona an extremely tough 1-2 punch inside. With Ayton, Ristic should have had the opportunity to show a more diverse skill set. Without having to be down on the block all of the time, it was expected that Ristic would be able to show more of his outside skills, primarily his shooting touch. However, he didn’t take that opportunity. He shot 40% from outside, but on only 15 attempts, it’s hard to see if that shooting stroke will be a consistent weapon. He’s strong and has the size to carve out space on the low block, but he doesn’t rebound particularly well and is not a shot blocker, so if he hopes to make an NBA roster, he must show teams that he can knock down open jump shots and play off of his teammates. He has the skill set to make it, but will need to expand upon his game and find the right fit in order to have a chance to make a roster.
Honorable Mention: Angel Delgado 6-9 245 C Seton Hall Sr., Drew Eubanks 6-10 250 C Oregon St. Jr., Egemen Guven 6-11 220 C Karsiyaka 1996, Tryggvi Hlinason 7-1 250 C Valencia 1997, Ben Lammers 6-10 235 C Georgia Tech Sr., Jock Landale 6-11 255 C St. Mary’s Sr., Khadeem Lattin 6-9 215 PF/C Oklahoma Sr., Jo Lual-Acuil 7-0 225 C Baylor Sr., Reggie Lynch 6-10 265 C Minnesota Sr., Anas Mahmoud 7-0 215 C Louisville Sr., Doral Moore 7-1 265 C Wake Forest Jr., Yankuba Sima 6-11 225 C Oklahoma State Jr., Thomas Welsh 7-1 255 C UCLA Sr.