NBA Draft 2011: Enes Kanter and the Top 25 Best Big Men Prospects
The 2011 NBA Draft class is teeming with high-potential big men.
Enes Kanter, the Turkish center who was disqualified from playing in college at Kentucky, leads a contingent of developed international big men that is uncommon.
There is a variety of styles represented by big men like Kanter, Jan Vesely, Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried and Trey Thompkins, but all of them bring bring substantial benefits to the table for their future teams.
The top of the draft is likely to be dominated by point guards and small forward types, but the big men will not trail far behind.
Here are the 25 best big men set to have their names called in the 2011 NBA Draft.
25. Terrence Jennings, PF
Stats: 9.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 53 percent FG
Terrence Jennings, the junior from Louisville, might be the poster child of this year's Go Back to School group.
The freakishly athletic power forward with an NBA body does not possess the requisite skill level to play in the NBA right now. Worse, many question his concentration and work ethic to improve his game.
That combination will derail any athletic hopeful in the NBA Draft.
Jennings will be lucky to be drafted in the late second round, but his decision to return to school has already passed.
24. Willie Reed, PF
Stats: 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 58 percent FG
Willie Reed, the St. Louis junior, is a strong athlete that has flown under the radar in Draft conversations. Much like Terrence Jennings, he is a great athlete who can jump.
Though he is unsophisticated offensively, Reed plays the same high-energy style that allows undersized NBA players to succeed and contribute.
Reed has strong odds to be drafted in the second round.
23. Jamie Skeen, PF
Stats: 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, one block, 52 percent FG, 42 percent 3PT
Jamie Skeen was the heart and soul of this year's tournament Cinderella, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams. Every time VCU ran up against long odds, Skeen's resiliency and never-say-die attitude infected his team, spurring them to surprise upsets en route to the Final Four.
Skeen is a deft inside-outside scoring forward who plays with intelligence and effort. What he lacks in athleticism and quickness, he makes up for with cerebral play and streaky three-point shooting, as seen in the NCAA Tournament.
He's a little older than most of his class at 23, but experience and maturity characterize his game, and those should propel him to a bench role as a second round pick.
22. Rick Jackson, PF
Stats: 13.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 59 percent FG
Rick Jackson improved significantly in each of his four years at Syracuse as his role became more central to coach Jim Boeheim's plans.
Though he is not blessed with off-the-charts skill or athleticism, he has worked hard to turn himself into one of the best rebounders in this class with his physicality and good motor.
Provided he gets his conditioning to where it needs to be in pre-draft workouts, Jackson should come out on the other side as a second round pick who will add Glen Davis-type impact to his NBA team.
21. Matthew Bryan-Amaning, PF
Stats: 15.3 points, eight rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 54 percent FG
Washington power forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning's college career resembles Rick Jackson's at Syracuse: steady improvement each year as the result of maturity and hard work.
Bryan-Amaning has all the skills: shotblocking, rebounding, inside touch. He is a great athlete possessing an explosive jump and quicks around the paint.
What he lacks are certain intangibles, like a sophisticated understanding of the game and sharp focus. He comes with little polish offensively, so he'll need to learn how to direct his attention to detail to improve his weak spots.
Bryan-Amaning's athleticism and length are definitely enough to get him into the second round, though his selection there is no guarantee.
20. Greg Smith, C
Stats: 11.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 57 percent FG
If Terrence Jennings is the President of the Go Back to School crop, Fresno State sophomore center Greg Smith is Vice President.
Though rated much higher for this year's draft, Smith could find himself so much higher if he stayed at Fresno for another season.
He's blessed with great size for a center and plays physically, knowing how to use his strength to score in the post. He has the skill and intelligence to survive in the NBA post, but he lacks some of the finer points that could make him stand out from the crowd.
Smith is not known as a particularly hard worker, and those who've watched him closely say that he didn't improve between freshman and sophomore year, a clear indicator of questionable work ethic.
This might scare teams away, even those which need a center, because they can't afford to spend a draft pick on a guy who left school just looking for a payday.
19. Joffrey Lauvergne, PF
Stats: 5.8 points, 3.5 rebounds in 15 minutes playing for Chalon in French League
The 19 year-old Frenchman Joffrey Lauvergne is rising up draft boards as more information about his game comes out.
Lauvergne is long and athletic with strong perimeter skills. His offensive game is advanced, with scouts drooling over his ability to face up and play with his back to the basket equally well. His willingness to run the floor and scoring ability have NBA teams looking ahead to his bright future.
Lauvergne needs to add strength to a wiry 6'10" frame in order to survive in the NBA post, but he could rise high in the draft on potential anyway.
18. Malcolm Thomas, PF
Stats: 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, two blocks, 54 percent FG
Malcolm Thomas, the San Diego State senior, might be undersized as a PF, but he possesses everything that NBA teams are looking for. He's a fantastic explosive athlete, which allows him to get to rebounds first and block a lot of shots. He is long and quick, helping him be lockdown defender.
He won't be an immediate contributor on offense because he lacks a scorer's mentality and lacks the jumpshooting skills to be a threat from anywhere on the court.
His skills will round out, but for now, his athleticism is enough to land him solidly in the second round.
17. Nikola Vucevic, PF
Stats: 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 50 percent FG, 35 percent 3PT
The USC junior power forward improved every year as a Trojan, and was the team's best player last season. For the most part, he was ready to assume the primary scoring role and be the go-to offensive player, but he lacked focus and toughness at times.
Vucevic has great size for a player with the perimeter skills he possesses: passing, perimeter shooting and footwork. He also does well inside by using his extra long arms to rebound and alter shots on defense.
He's not a great athlete as some in this class are, but his skills and size are what make Vucevic stand out.
He'd be a lottery pick in 2012, but he's good enough right now to be on the first round bubble.
16. Keith Benson, C
Stats: 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 54 percent shooting, 39 percent 3PT
Keith Benson, the heralded Oakland senior, owns one of the most impressive college lines of any draft entrant. The double-double with points and rebounds are strong, but his 3.6 blocks per game as a senior suggests that Benson's athleticism and shotblocking instincts are elite. He is an excellent defender and rebounder, which is enough to get him drafted.
That's not all, though. If the inside athleticism wasn't enough, Benson shows a really good perimeter game as well. He shoots a ridiculous 39 percent from the three-point line meaning that he is a satisfactory threat from all over the floor.
The problem with Benson is that he doesn't play much defense on his man. He's great in help, as evidenced by his blocks, but he lacks the effort and motor to play strong defense every play.
He's likely a first rounder, but he needs to add some pounds and get a little tougher for his transition to the pros.
15. Jon Leuer, PF
Stats: 18.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 47 percent FG, 37 percent 3PT
Jon Leuer's numbers improved each year he played at Wisconsin, mostly resulting from his development as a long-range shooter and crafty penetrator. At 6'10", the ability to score after putting the ball to the floor is unique.
Leuer's cerebral game means that, though he is thin and not great athletically, he will put himself in situations and spots to succeed. Ask any NBA coach, and you'll hear that they'd rather have a smart and intelligent player over an unaware super-athlete.
Leuer's intelligence and perimeter skills put him right at the edge of the first round.
14. JaJuan Johnson, PF
Stats: 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 49 percent FG, 81 percent FT
Purdue senior JaJuan Johnson four college years were highly productive, and now he's ready to take his game to the NBA.
The long and skinny PF is an excellent athlete that uses his jumping ability to block a lot of shots and fleet foot to run the floor. In this way, he beckons Amar'e Stoudemire comparisons. He has a nice, though not terrific, midrange game, which is enough to open up lanes to the basket.
Just by watching Johnson, you can see that he needs to add muscle to a lanky frame and continue to work on his low-post scoring.
If he does those things and matures his decision making, he'll be well worth the first round pick that he'll draw.
13. Lucas Nogueira, C
Stats: not available
Lucas Nogueira, the 18 year old Brazilian monument, is a major project. He's got a long way to go offensively and, as seen above, is still working with his teenage body.
What has scouts so high on him is a great package of potential: athleticism, elite shotblocking ability, aggressiveness and a great motor. He is an effort big man in the style of Anderson Varejao and the body of Chris Bosh. That's a striking combination for such a young player.
Nogueira's potential has him firmly in the late first round.
12. Justin Harper, PF
Stats: 17.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 53 percent FG, 45 percent 3PT
Justin Harper, the senior from Richmond, is a late riser into the first round after a terrific showing in the NCAA Tournament.
One reason he's moved up in the eyes of scouts is the improvement he made late in his college career; he jumped from 10.6 points to 17.9 between his junior and senior seasons, with marked increases in both field goal and three-point percentages. This shows that he's worked hard on his game, which is a great complement to the excellent athleticism, shooting and open court prowess he displays.
The better shooting came at a price, though. He has a tendency to fall in love with that jumpshot when he is more than capable of blowing by and getting to the basket for easier buckets. When you add in his other weaknesses, rebounding and interior toughness, it's no surprise that he's more comfortable on the perimeter than he is down low.
As Harper adds strength and toughness as an inside-outside PF, his versatility will be a dangerous asset in the late first round.
11. Jordan Williams, C
Stats: 16.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 54 percent FG
Jordan Williams, the Maryland sophomore, is the antonym to Justin Harper. Williams employs great strength and physicality to guide his deft low-post scoring. He will barrel his way to the basket, then use a very soft touch to finish plays.
With this style comes a relative lack of athleticism and quickness. Williams is considered a bit undersized for an NBA center, though his strength will certainly allow him to continue being the excellent rebounder he was in college.
The next stages in his development are perimeter moves and passing vision. He's a bit limited in the regard that he only scores in certain ways and doesn't present as a threat in other ways. As he gets more NBA coaching, though, his versatility should increase.
Williams is projected in the first round's late picks.
10. Trey Thompkins, PF
Stats: 16.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 48 percent FG, 31 percent 3PT
Trey Thompkins is a player that lacks the fanfare of notable names from bigger basketball schools. His skills and maturity are such that if he emerged from a reputable program, he'd be much closer to the lottery.
As it stands, Thompkins, as one of the first draft entrants, is sliding. He's sliding not because of poor workouts or concerns about his game, but because the higher potential underclass contingent is now known and locked into the draft.
Thompkins will be a pleasant surprise to whoever ends up with him. He is a primary interior scorer, but is comfortable moving out to the three-point line to score. When he goes inside, he handles the ball well and is a productive rebounder and shotblocker. He's physical enough to hang down low, but has the requisite perimeter skill to move away from the paint with an impact.
The concerns about Thompkins are few. He's had a conditioning issue in the past, which is likely to be beat out of him at the NBA level. Also, he doesn't possess the athleticism that many require.
Still, these drawbacks won't stop a late first round team to decisively draft him.
9. Markieff Morris, PF
Stats: 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 59 percent FG, 42 percent 3PT
Markieff Morris is the interior twin. He is an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than his brother.
He is an excellent athlete that uses long arms to block shots, suck in rebounds and finish with confidence around the basket.
Morris, though, has an offensive game that drags a bit behind his defense. He is emerging and improving, but still lacks the polish that many NBA big men have. What this lack of polish doesn't apply to is his three-point shooting. Remarkably, Morris shot 42 percent from beyond the arc in the seldom instances he stepped outside the paint. The ability to shoot that well for an interior-focused big man is exceedingly valuable to an NBA general manager.
Morris' emerging offensive game is promising, and will combine with his strong defensive skills to land him near the lottery.
8. Kenneth Faried, PF
Stats: 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 62 percent FG
I don't care that Kenneth Faried played four years at Morehead State against Little Bo Peep and her sheep or that he's undersized to play in the post at 6'8".
The guy's motor and heart are unmatched, and his athleticism is certainly NBA-quality.
How many high-energy power forwards in the NBA can completely take over a game on the boards? You can count them on one hand, and Faried is that type of player, though his offensive game is not fully furnished.
Teams will have to decide whether they want the taller players or the one that is irrepressible and persistent on the glass and with the ball. Faried needs to add strength and stay energetic to make an impact in the NBA, but his rebounding instincts will keep him in the top 20 of this draft.
7. Donatas Motiejunas, PF
Stats: 12 points, four rebounds for Benetton Treviso in Italian League
The 7'0", 220-pounder might be one of the best-scouted international players in the draft, so teams know what he can do.
Aside from the fact that his 220 pounds aren't close to adequate for the rugged NBA front court, Motiejunas has few weaknesses.
Word is that he doesn't play enough to have great experience with his team in Italy, and his jump shot is inconsistent. These are trivial in comparison to the potential strengths he has.
Nothing sticks out as superior to anything else in his game. He runs the floor, has insane court vision, scores aggressively, is smart and shoots from mid-range.
He has the look of a dependable front-court scorer who isn't the primary option, but can carry the team for a quarter or two per game.
6. Marcus Morris, SF/PF
Stats: 17.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 57 percent FG, 34 percent 3PT
The smaller and more skilled Morris brother, Marcus Morris finds himself a few spots higher than Markieff because of his versatility and scoring.
Marcus plays more as a guard and is comfortable on the perimeter, which affords him frequent size advantages at 6'9" and 235 pounds.
Though he spends more time outside, he's still a strong rebounder who puts in a lot of effort to make plays.
His lack of explosive athleticism is masked by his ability to shoot the ball as well as he puts it on the floor to attack.
Marcus' improvement has been steady through his time at Kansas, and there's no reason to think it won't continue when he dons the NBA logo.
5. Bismack Biyombo, PF
Stats: 6.3 points, 1.8 blocks in 16 minutes for Ayuda En Accion Fuenlabrada of the Spanish ACB.
The 18-year-old Bismack Biyombo's meteoric rise to the top 10 of this draft says two things:
One, that this draft isn't that great.
Two, that again, quality players with size are at a premium.
The fact that a team will spend a top-10 pick on a teenager who they might have never seen in person until recently speaks to that fact.
The 6'9", 243-pound forward is known for being raw and green, while possessing elite rebounding and shot-blocking, plus a ridiculous 7'7" wingspan.
4. Tristan Thompson, PF
Stats: 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 54 percent FG
Tristan Thompson is a prospect who is as can't-miss as any freshman in this draft.
Scouts love the 6'8" Thompson for his relentlessness on the offensive glass and elsewhere, plus his 7'2" wingspan.
That kind of length allows him to change shots taken by bigger players and to get his own shots off.
He can hang with bigger guards and centers alike because of his unique mix of ball-handling, athleticism, rebounding and shot-blocking.
A breakout March showed that the freshman possesses the maturity to continue the improvement he made in his year at Texas, which is a quality NBA general managers need to see from a young player whose talent demands a lottery pick.
3. Jonas Valanciunas, PF
Stats: 7.6 points, 5.4 rebounds in 15 minutes in Euroleague season
Jonas Valanciunas is another highly-skilled European forward. He is the top international player on many draft boards, though I think that he'll go behind Jan Vesely and Enes Kanter.
Valanciunas breaks the mold of the lanky international forward with his toughness and experience. He's only 18, but he's played with tenacity for Lietuvos Rytas in the Lithuanian league.
At 6'10" and 230 pounds, Valanciunas boasts a polished inside game, which is where he spends most of his time. He has a soft touch offensively and rebounds/blocks well when defending.
He needs to improve his perimeter game with the mid-range jumper, but there's no doubt he'll develop that with time. What he has now is enough to warrant a top five-to-eight pick.
2. Jan Vesely, SF/PF
Stats: 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds in Euroleague season
Jan Vesely has ridiculous size for a small forward.
He has incredible shooting range and athleticism for a 6'11" player: an ideal combination of size, skill and toughness.
If you combined the desired skills of each spot on the NBA floor, you'd probably end up with something close to Vesely.
His best strengths are his jumping ability, which comes out in his ferocious dunks, and his relentless motor. He plays hard all the time and isn't afraid to play physical, as many Europeans are.
NBA scouts are convinced of his maturity, which is why he's projected in the top five. He shocked many general managers when he skipped last year's draft, as he was considered ready for the NBA.
This time around, no one is shocked to see him in the top five.
1. Enes Kanter, C
Stats: hasn't played for over a year
Enes Kanter hasn't played competitively in more than a year due to an improper benefits suspension at Kentucky.
It doesn't matter for this extremely polished center, who is slotted third overall despite the fact that no scouts have seen him play lately.
The only criticism of Kanter is his lack of athleticism. Otherwise, he's got the post game of a five-year veteran All-Star at a tender 18 years of age.
He handles and passes very well for a big man and can shockingly hit his jumper all the way out to the three-point line.
He will make his living in the paint though, where he uses a physical body to his advantage and finishes creatively.
There is concern over his ability to transition from Europe to the NBA without a college buffer, but he's expected to make the jump smoothly because of his experience and maturity from playing pro overseas.