NBA Draft 2011: Re-Evaluating the Top Center Prospects
This year’s draft is top-heavy with big man, but very few have the size, length, and toughness to hold down the center position. The elite centers are going to be gone by the first round, and the front half of those probably just after the lottery. However, there is good size, length and athleticism to choose from in the group, leaving some good value and contributions late in the second. Here is a revised look and some thoughts on the “SwishScout.com Center Position Rankings”.
Note: On every player, you can click their name or country to take you to a more detailed profile for an extensive scouting report and highlights on the respective prospect.
9. Greg Smith (Fresno State)
The player from Fresno State has a long way to go if he’s ever going to be a starter in his NBA career, but he’s a big body that gives a team toughness in the middle. He does a great job of using his body and strength to establish post position and will be able to rebound with ease thanks to those enormous hands, that’s about it early on. He’s not a great defender or shot changer in the paint, and strikes me as a guy who will need work in the NBDL to really ever reach his potential.
8. Michael Dunigan (Oregon)
Got to watch Dunigan play first hand during his couple seasons of NCAA of Oregon, and always thought he had a chance if he could just get in better shape and refine his post play. It looks like that has happened in Estonia and he looks like a whole different player. I love his length and physicality for a post player, but he still needs work on that face-up jumper and back to basket post game. I think he can make in the league as a backup energy guy in the paint, but probably needs another season or two overseas to polish his game.
7. Keith Benson (Oakland)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
If this guy had about 20-30 more pounds on his frame, he could very easily be a first rounder, if not a late lottery pick. Very mature post game that is well ahead of most the big men in this draft. Has a superb face up jumper that extends out to three-point range and has proven he can hit the big time shot during a few games this past season.
He's a great athlete with size and length, but he’s so frail in terms of build and not really a ‘banger’ that will be able to battle for position, strongly box out, or be able to body up against the routinely stronger players he will face. He will find a spot in the league at center, but while he looks like a part-time player at best, he can step in and contribute right away. He’s older than most in the draft and doesn’t have nearly the upside of his peers, but he is a bargain in the second round with that size and skill set.
6. Lucas Nogueira (Brazil)
I saw him dominate the 2010 Nike Global Challenge this past summer against some of the best high school talent in the nation, and then struggle nearly half a year later against those same guys in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit. Bebé is a project player who is a few years away from being an impact center, but he has great tools to help ease the transition to the league. As a seven-footer, he has outstanding an motor, length, and defensive instincts that could help him be a great shot blocker and rebounder. His post game and jumper are a work in progress, as is filling out his body with muscle, but he’s a nice long-term chip to have on your roster that could be promising if a team is willing to develop him.
5. Jordan Williams (Maryland)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
If producing 17 points and 11 rebounds on a nightly basis in the ACC during your sophomore season isn’t enough to make a name for yourself as an NBA prospect, then I don’t know what is. Despite being undersized at 6’9” for a center, Jordan makes up for it in pure strength, length, persistence and rebounding IQ. He looks like a poor man’s Kevin Love at first glance, but he’s a player that has routinely proven he can play against the best. Very raw offensively and not much of a perimeter threat, but he’s a guy who gives you toughness and rebounding in the paint. For a player who probably goes in the late first round, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by how productive Williams can be for a team in the NBA on the boards.
4. Nikola Vucevic (USC)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Personally, I am very high on Vucevic as an NBA prospect because of his great size, strength, length, and well-rounded skill set for a post player. Was an unheralded big man I got to see play a couple times during his career at USC and was a big reason why they pulled off some big upsets last season. He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as one of the better unheralded players in the nation, and the NBA Draft combine measurements saw his stock soar as a seven footer (with shoes) with a 7’5” wingspan.
While not a tremendous athlete, he’s a smart, fundamental player who can produce in the NBA and even start for a team. His post game, perimeter jumper, rebounding ability, and shot changing instincts are already at a high level and are only going to get better. This is an NBA ready contributor who is a steal if he falls outside the top 20 picks.
3. Bismack Biyombo (Congo)
Its one thing to hear about and watch highlights of a guy putting up an epic performance, but it’s a whole other deal to be there to witness and experience it live. I was lucky enough to see Biyombo put on a show in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit in April where he had an epic triple-double against the U.S. top talent. Out the recorded 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 Bismacks (blocks) he had that night, it was clear he struggled most to get the points.
He has zero post game or shooting touch at this point in his career, but he is an NBA ready rebounder and defender that can have Serge Ibaka (who I also saw play years earlier in the same event) like impact in the league, if not greater down the line. Bismack is a natural banger with a freak 7’7” wingspan, outstanding leaping ability, strength, and template to develop into a post terror. Incredible get for a team if he does indeed fall to the bottom half of the lottery, or even outside of it, as he has even proven himself invaluable to his Spanish league team in limited minutes.
2. Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania)
The quintessential boom or bust pick of this Draft, Valanciunas is somewhat of a wild card who has talent and potential, but yet a long way to go in his development. He’s an aggressive finisher at the rim with his length, but really no face up jumper that can help his team spread the floor. His post game and moves need a good deal of work as well, in addition to him filling out that body to ‘bang’ against stronger players and handle contact.
Nonetheless, he gives you size and length in the paint coupled with the natural ability to board up and block shots. I could see him being just below a Pau Gasol-caliber player, but could also see him struggling in the league and becoming a ‘Jason Smith’ type. This one is one of the greater mysteries to me in the draft, but he’s worth taking on talent and upside alone because his potential to be a building block for a team if he pans out.
1. Enes Kanter (Kentucky)
The only Nike Hoop Summit performance I witnessed more epic than Biyombo’s was Enes Kanter’s in 2010, and it was one heck of a coming out party. He absolutely dominated perennial NBA Draft caliber players Jared Sullinger and Patric Young in the paint on his way to 34 points and 13 rebounds. Had Enes played as an NCAA eligible player in the 2010-11 season, we may very well be talking about Kentucky as national champions and Kanter as the number one overall pick.
On pure size, length, size, post game, skill set, and intangibles alone, this guys would be my top overall pick without a doubt if I was selecting first overall. I was sold on him in 2010 when I saw him blow away the field, and am very confident this kid has what it takes to become a very sold low post player in the NBA. Not the best athlete or pure defender, but he is extremely refined and mature in terms of basketball IQ and post play for a 19-year-old. Reminds me of lighter Al Jefferson with ability to out muscle, back down, and outmaneuver his man in the paint.
He has deep range on his jumper to extend the D, great strength rebounding the ball, and a big body to bang. The only thing not to love is that you haven’t seen much of him in action, but I will tell you right now from what I saw in 2010, this is a special player who will be a great pro.