NBA Draft 2011: Grading out the Top 10 Centers in the Draft

Max Minsker@@MaxMinskerCorrespondent IJune 19, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Grading out the Top 10 Centers in the Draft

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 16: Nikola Vucevic #5 of the USC Trojans shoots over Juvonte Reddic #5 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 16, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Grego
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The draft is now just a few days away and at this point, we have a pretty good idea of who's going where. There are still workouts that will take place this coming week, but most of the scouting has already been done.

    This draft has quite a few NBA caliber center prospects, and it will be interesting to see where these players land as many teams are in need of a big man. 

    Centers in nature tend to be controversial prospects, and opinions can greatly differ as to where a certain player might be taken. With that said, here are the top 10 centers in this years draft. 

10. Greg Smith, Fresno St.

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    Offense: C

    Greg Smith has a decent offensive game with some solid low post moves. The issue is, Smith has no perimeter skills.

    If he wants to be successful in the NBA, Smith must develop a wider range of moves under the basket and start practicing his mid-range game. He is also terrible from the free throw line, which adds to his offensive struggles.

    Smith scored 12 points a game at Fresno St. last season, and probably won't have an impact in the NBA for his first few seasons at least. 


    Defense: C+

    At 6'10'', 250 pounds with a 7'3'' wingspan, Smith has the size to defend NBA centers, and he is a pretty strong kid.

    Obviously, he doesn't have a lot of experience guarding top level college centers, but he figures to be a decent defender at the next level.

    Nothing too special, but he can get the job done. 


    Overall: C

    Between the lack of versatility in his offensive game and his mediocre defense, Smith earns a passable C for his overall game.

    Not flashy, but because of his solid rebounding skills and average play on both sides of the floor, this grade seems appropriate.


    Potential: B-

    It's not out of reach for Greg Smith to become a possible rotation guy in the future. He wouldn't be getting draft buzz if he didn't have a little upside.

    He has been said to have struggled with his work ethic in the past, and that will likely be his biggest obstacle. I would be shocked if Smith ever averages 25 minutes a game, but if he reaches his potential there will be a spot on an NBA roster for him.

    I see him as a late second rounder. He could also potentially go undrafted.

9. Rick Jackson, Syracuse

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    CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Rick Jackson #00 of the Syracuse Orange handles the ball against Chris Otule #42 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 20, 2011 in Cleveland,
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Offense: C

    Rick Jackson is a guy that improved in each of his four years at Syracuse.

    He improved his scoring averages every year, and this past season he averaged 13 points per game while shooting 59 percent from the field.

    He is by no means a great offensive player, but he is smart, and he is capable of scoring when necessary. 


    Defense: B-

    Jackson has definitely developed into a nice defensive player.

    Last year he averaged 1.3 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. Not bad, especially when considering he plays in the Big East. It's also important to mention that Jackson averaged over 10 boards per game.

    Although he is undersized, between his defensive and rebounding skills, he will have a chance at playing in the NBA.


    Overall: C++

    While Jackson struggles with many things on the court, his rebounding and defense keep him just below a B-. 


    Potential: B-

    Being a four-year player, Jackson's potential is questionable because he is already older than so many of the other prospects. However, since Jackson did significantly improve in every season, I don't think it's crazy to say he still has room to grow.

    Jackson has struggled with his conditioning in the past, but it seems he has overcome those issues, and he will be a hard worker at the next level.

    I think Jackson goes undrafted, but he will definitely draw interest after the draft.

8. Jordan Williams, Maryland

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10:  Jordan Williams #20 of the Maryland Terrapins looks on while playing against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the first round of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 10, 2011 in G
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Offense: B-

    Last season at Maryland, Williams was able to score 17 points per game. He has some decent moves under the basket, and he is a strong, physical presence underneath.

    His offensive game has room to grow, but averaging 17 points per game in the ACC is not an easy thing to do. Williams lacks a jumpshot, but he does have a soft touch.


    Defense: C+

    Williams is by no means a great defender, but he can really rebound. He is pretty undersized for his position, and it is unclear exactly how well he will be able to defend at the next level.

    He seemed OK at Maryland last season, and he could end up as a solid post defender. 


    Overall: B-

    Like the players before him, Williams is not a complete player yet, but of the three he is probably the most polished offensively and the most NBA ready.

    Williams is a strong player that won't fold easily in the NBA.


    Potential: B

    While Wiliiams' lack of athleticism will limit his NBA potential, he showed at Maryland that he can be a go-to guy. It will be a long road for Williams, but he has the potential to make an impact in the league.

    Williams should go in the early-mid second round.

7. Keith Benson, Oakland

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    MILWAUKEE - MARCH 19:  Keith Benson #34 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies shoots the ball over Gary McGhee #52 of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Bradley Center on March 1
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Offense: B

    Keith Benson is a solid all-around offensive player. He is good in transition, can play with his back to the basket and can also step out and hit the mid-range jumper.

    The question is whether or not his skills translate to the NBA.

    Playing in the Summit league for four years isn't exactly the highest level of competition, and while he was easily the best player in the conference, we still can't be sure how good of an NBA player he could be. 


    Defense: C

    This is definitely going to be Benson's biggest struggle as he begins his career.

    There is no way Benson is going to be able to guard NBA centers at his current weight. He's tall with a very big wingspan, but he needs to add at least 20 pounds of muscle before we can consider him a legitimate defensive NBA center.

    At Oakland last season, Benson averaged 3.6 blocks a game, so he has skills, but he needs to get bigger to really be effective in the NBA.


    Overall: B-

    Benson is still raw, but the tools are all there. Playing in transition, rebounding, shooting, and playing defense are all things that he possesses talent for, but none of those skills are ready to be utilized in the NBA. He will need at least a year to adjust.

    Either way, he gets a B- because he is capable of so many different things. 


    Potential: B

    Like I said before, Benson has all the tools, he just needs to develop them. I don't think he is a future All-Star, but if he ended up as a decent sixth man I can't say I'd be shocked.

    Benson can play, and given the right situation, I think he could be a solid player one day.

6. Jeremy Tyler, USA

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    Offense: B

    Jeremy Tyler is an intriguing prospect that has a lot of scouts puzzled. He left high school after his junior year to play professionally, which turned out to be a disaster. Now, Tyler is back in the fold as a first-round pick.

    Regardless of his sketchy past, Tyler is a solid prospect. He has elite athleticism that allows him to run the floor effectively; he also has a solid set of post moves. His jumper is still a work in progress.


    Defense: B-

    Tyler measures out extremely well and seems to have adequate size and strength for an NBA center.

    He hasn't made a name for himself as a defensive player, but he definitely has all the physical tools necessary to play good defense in the NBA. 


    Overall: B-

    Tyler gets a B- because of the fact that he is still so raw. He is a great athlete and has some good moves, but he is still a little bit of a wild card.

    We didn't get a chance to watch him play here in the U.S., and he didn't get as much court time as he probably could have had he gone to college. 


    Potential: B+

    At one time, Jeremy Tyler was considered one of the best recruits in the nation. He is a unique player with a combination of skills that could one day help him excel in the NBA.

    I don't think he will ever make an All-Star team, but I can see him being a starter at some point during his career.

    He is a likely first rounder. 

5. Markieff Morris, Kansas

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 27:  Markieff Morris #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts during the southwest regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams at the Alamodome on March 27, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Offense: B-

    While not as skilled as is brother Marcus, Markieff is a solid offensive player.

    He averaged nearly 14 points a game at Kansas last season in just 24 minutes. He doesn't have great moves but is still improving, and he has a great NBA ready jump shot.

    He is definitely a little raw offensively, but he has been improving every year, and he seems to be ready for the NBA.


    Defense: B+

    Markieff may not be as skilled as his brother, but he is a better defender and rebounder. He is also a little bit bigger.

    Markieff's combination of strength and athleticism enabled him to dominate on the defensive end at Kansas, and he should carry those skills over to the NBA. He may be a little under-sized for a center, but he will be able to hold his own. 


    Overall: B

    Markieff is good in all facets of the game. He can score inside, shoot from the outside, play good defense and rebound.

    He is solid and NBA ready. 


    Potential: B+

    In my mind, Markieff isn't a huge potential guy. He will obviously get better, and I could easily see him as a starter, but I'm not sure he will ever be more than a fourth or fifth option on offense.

    Markieff will likely be taken in the top-20, and could possibly go in the late lottery.

4. Bismack Biyombo, Congo

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    Offense: C-

    Bismack Biyombo is a very interesting prospect.

    He is said to be just 18 years old and is super athletic.

    Although intriguing, Biyombo doesn't bring much to the table offensively at this point. He could possibly be useful in transition, but he doesn't really have any other offensive skills right now. 


    Defense: A-

    Defense is where Biyombo really shines.

    With his enormous 7'7'' wingspan, he can block and disrupt shots all over the floor. He has drawn many Ben Wallace comparisons, and many people think he can be that type of guy.

    He definitely needs more experience, but he should be able to contribute on the defensive end from day one. 


    Overall: B

    While he likely won't get much playing time this season, Biyombo could be useful in stints because of his outstanding defensive play.

    His offensive game clearly isn't up to par, but he could be an impact player on the floor next season guarding the paint.  


    Potential: B+

    Biyombo's potential is limited because of his offensive ceiling, but many scouts believe he could be one of the best defensive players in the NBA.

    You need a guy like that on a championship team, and if he can turn into just an average offensive player, Biyombo could really be a valuable guy.

    He should go in the late lottery, but he could slip into the mid-first round.

3. Nikola Vucevic, USC

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 16: Nikola Vucevic #5 of the USC Trojans walks off the court after being defeated by the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 16, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Pho
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Offense: B+

    Vucevic is a guy that has been shooting up draft boards lately because of his unique skill set. Vucevic has a great set of moves, and he can also shoot from the outside.

    He can score in the NBA right away and could make a nice career around his offensive game. 


    Defense: B-

    Vucevic is a below average athlete that may struggle at times against more athletic forwards and centers. On the other hand, Vucevic is a legit seven-footer with a 7'5'' wingspan who will be one of the biggest centers in the league. 


    Overall: B+

    Vucevic is the first guy on this list that may be capable of playing important minutes from day one. Obviously he won't be starting, but I could see him playing 15 minutes a game as a rookie.

    With his size and shooting advantage, he should be a contributor immediately.


    Potential: A-

    I can imagine Vucevic one day being the third best player on a playoff team. He might make an All-Star team or two, but all things considered he could be a very good player and have a long career.

    At first it seemed like he would be a late first rounder, but now it seems like he is a mid-first rounder and he could possibly sneak into the lottery.

    Keep tabs on Vucevic as we get closer to the draft. 

2. Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania

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    Offense: B

    The 19-year-old Valanciunas is a decent offensive player at this point in his career. He needs more seasoning, but he has a nice touch around the basket and performs well in transition.

    Valanciunas is another legitimate seven-footer who keeps improving his offensive game. 


    Defense: B-

    Valanciunas probably isn't ready to guard NBA centers yet, but he is only 19 and will probably develop into a solid defender by the time he comes to the NBA. 


    Overall: B

    Right now, Valanciunas is not a big rotation guy, but teams are drafting him based on potential.

    He can rebound and can score around the basket. 


    Potential: A

    Some people believe that Valanciunas could end up as the best player from this class.

    Whichever team drafts him is drafting him based on potential. His buyout is extremely questionable, but teams seem to be getting more comfortable with it as we see him rising up draft boards.

    At this point, Valanciunas looks to be a top-five pick. He won't slip past the Pistons at No. 8. 

1. Enes Kanter, Turkey

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    Offense: A

    Enes Kanter is far and away the most talented offensive center in this draft. He has a great array of moves inside, as well as a smooth jumper with range out to the three-point line.

    He is big, physical and can do it all. Not only does he have a great inside/outside game, he is a very smart player who passes the ball well.

    He is the complete package and he is ready to score on NBA centers from day one.


    Defense: B

    While Kanter isn't a great defender, he gets the job done. He is a little bit under sized for a center, but once he adjusts to the NBA he should be at least an above average defender.

    He isn't the most athletic center in this draft, but he should be alright in that department. 


    Overall: A-

    Kanter would be an A if not for the uncertainty surrounding his defensive skills.

    He should be an immediate starter next season and should be a big contributor on whichever team drafts him. 


    Potential: A

    Kanter is only 19 years old. He is NBA ready and will be a solid scorer in the NBA before he is 20 years old.

    It's hard to tell exactly how good Kanter could be, but he isn't done developing yet, and he has plenty of room to grow. 


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