NBA Draft 2012: Ranking the 5 Best Centers
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The 2012 NBA Draft has plenty of talent at the center position.
Andre Drummond is arguably the most talented of all centers available, and it's likely that he'll be taken very early in the first round.
While the rest of the centers aren't quite on his level just yet, each has the potential to flourish in the NBA.
This ranking will only concern "true centers." This means that the likes of Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger will not be ranked on this list.
While each has the size to be a fringe-center, their skill sets and production levels would suggest that they are best suited to play power forward at the next level.
Even without the likes of Zeller and Sullinger on this list, the talent available at the center position is undeniable.
5. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
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Festus Ezeli may have ranked higher on this list had he not suffered an injury-plagued senior season at Vanderbilt.
A bad knee sprain hampered him through the season, but he seems to be fully recovered and ready for the draft.
He averaged 13 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his junior year, a vast improvement from the 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds he compiled as a sophomore. The most remarkable stat about his play as a junior was his 87 blocks. That equates to 2.6 per game.
Ezeli plays very well with his back to the basket. His bread and butter moves under the basket are his hook shot and drop-step spin move, but he can score in a variety of ways in the paint.
While he has the potential to be a solid offensive force in the NBA, he will make his mark on defense. He is a shot-blocking presence and will likely rank amongst the league leaders in that category.
If he plays as many analysts have projected him, he figures to profile as a Marcus Camby type of player.
He'll likely go early in the second round to either the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 33 or No. 34, or the Golden State Warriors at No. 35.
4. John Henson, University of North Carolina
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John Henson is very similar to Ezeli in that he profiles as a Marcus Camby type of player, but what sets them apart is Henson's offensive potential.
Henson is still undersized at 216 pounds, but he'll soon fill into his 6'10" frame. He is very athletic and is capable of getting to the rim and finishing with a bang.
In his final season at North Carolina, Henson averaged 13.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He also shot an efficient 50 percent from the floor.
Bjorn Zetterberg of SwishScout.com sums up Henson well in his "Long Story Short:"
Super long forward who shuts down the paint defensively with his ability to alter and block shots around the basket, in addition to using his length with a strong motor to crash the boards. Henson has a lot of work to do filling out his body and continuing to refine his perimeter shooting touch, but he has some great NBA post skills and the length to make him an impact player at the next level.
Even without a refined shooting touch, Henson already has the potential to be an impact player. Just imagine if he develops anything resembling a consistent jump shot.
We could be looking at one of the game's best centers in a few years if he continues to work hard on improving.
He has the potential to be a late-lottery pick, but will likely go towards the end of the first round.
3. Fab Melo, Syracuse University
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Fab Melo, the seven-footer out of Syracuse, has size that's very hard to come by.
Even though Melo could not compete in the NCAA Tournament because of eligibility issues, the nation did not need any more proof of the Brazilian's ability to dominate in the paint.
Melo is your typical high-upside player. He worked hard during the last offseason to get into better shape. This resulted in a much improved second season at Syracuse.
He is big, athletic and has the ability to play way above the rim. His excellent shot-blocking ability is one of the key aspects to his game.
In just over 25 minutes per game last season, Melo grabbed nearly six rebounds per—an excellent number considering his low minutes.
He has shown improvement with his free-throw shooting, but he must become more efficient at the charity stripe to propel himself higher on future center rankings.
While Melo is an outstanding shot blocker, he needs to learn the fundamentals of defense. Because he constantly goes up to block shots, he finds himself in foul trouble quite often.
He has a ton of upside, but he'll have to work on these things before he can be considered an NBA regular.
Look for him to go towards the end of the first round.
2. Meyers Leonard, University of Illinois
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While Melo and Meyers Leonard both stand at 7'0", Leonard has the better size and strength. Leonard is a tough, physical center that likes to be aggressive and isn't afraid to bump bodies with other guys his size.
In just his second season at Illinois, Leonard showed great improvement across the board.
He has great coordination for a guy his size, and has the ability to run the floor if necessary. Lateral quickness and leaping ability also contribute to his overall athleticism.
Leonard is not the shot blocker that Ezeli, Henson or Melo are, but he possesses excellent timing that allows him to block shots when he needs to. The best part of his defensive game is his rebounding.
Many say that he'll be a consistent double-digit rebounder in the NBA because of his physicality and athleticism.
His offensive game is also more polished than the aforementioned centers. He is efficient from the floor and possesses a strong jump hook and turnaround jumper. Efficiency from the free-throw line adds even more to his offensive potential.
He'll likely be a lottery pick on draft day, and the Detroit Pistons at No. 9 could be a perfect fit.
1. Andre Drummond, University of Connecticut
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Players like Andre Drummond don't come around all that often.
He offers the complete package—fantastic measurements, brute strength and unparalleled athleticism for a guy his size.
He is very strong with his back to the basket and possesses a great repertoire of post moves. Finishing around the rim is his specialty, as his explosive athleticism and great leaping ability helps him make some highlight-reel plays.
Shot blocking is another strength of his, though it put him in foul trouble early on with the Huskies. He has since improved, and is no longer a liability to consistently foul out.
The only question many have with Drummond is his dedication to work on the defensive end. He is lax with boxing out on occasion and doesn't hustle to get the rebound. That being said, he has the potential to be an elite rebounder in the NBA.
While there are no guarantees in the draft, it's nearly a guarantee that Drummond will be a top 10 selection. He could even be top five if the Sacramento Kings are willing to give him a shot.
If he capitalizes on his great potential, Drummond could be joining Dwight Howard as one of the most dominant centers in the game today.