NBA Draft 2012: 10 Biggest Shot-Blockers Available in the Draft

Ron Pasceri@@RonPasceriCorrespondent IIMay 31, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 10 Biggest Shot-Blockers Available in the Draft

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    The NBA is down to its own Final Four, leaving most of the league to gear up for next year.  That makes it a good time to start looking at the incoming talent.

    Unfortunately for NBA fans, almost every team will enter next season with no real shot at winning a championship.  The quickest way to become a contender is to acquire a dominating big man.

    It's arguably the hardest thing in professional sports to find.  While there aren't many cornerstone big men in this draft, there are at least some players capable of relentlessly defending the rim.

    Shot blocking is always a great asset for a winning, contending or championship team.  It allows perimeter defenders to be more aggressive, it cleans up mistakes and it leads to easy offense.

    Here are the 10 biggest shot blockers entering the NBA Draft in 2012.  To be clear, this list isn't a ranking of players as overall prospects, just as shot blockers.  

    Obviously, no two people will ever agree 100 percent with any list; if you have any objections or suggestions, please leave them in the comments. 

10. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure

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    At 6'9" and 225 pounds, Andrew Nicholson isn't the prototype of a rim protector.  That isn't the type of shot blocker he is.

    Nicholson is as hardworking a player as there is, and he never lets up.  He combines long arms with athleticism, toughness and effort to block more than his share of shots.

    He averaged 2.66 blocks per 40 minutes over his four-year career and blocked a total of 244 shots in 123 games.

    He isn't as judicious as he should be, having averaged 4.04 fouls per 40 minutes and fouling out of 13 percent of his games.

    As a power forward, he could impact the game with his shot blocking on the ball and from the weakside.  He could develop into a good help defender.

9. Eric Griffin, Campbell

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    Eric Griffin is a name few people have heard because he played for the Campbell Fighting Camels. Don't be fooled by his small school.

    At 6'8" and 190 pounds, Griffin is grossly undersized at this point for a power forward, but he is a freak athlete.

    He has incredibly long arms and can jump out of the gym.  He has limited basketball experience, which could work in his favor as he has a lot of improving left to do.

    In 60 games at Campbell he blocked 134 shots averaging 3.06 per 40 minutes.  He seems even more out of control than Nicholson, having fouled out of 18.3 percent of his games and registering 4.54 fouls per 40 minutes.

    Griffin will never be a physical interior defender, but he should get his share of swats around the rim.  He just needs to learn the game and play under control.

8. Kyle O'Quinn, Norfolk St.

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    Kyle O'Quinn had a coming-out party in March, leading Norfolk State to an upset of No. 2 seed Missouri.

    That game may have put him on the map, but he produced at a high level for four years at his small school.

    He blocked 283 shots in 129 career games.  He averaged 3.21 blocks and 4.33 fouls per 40 minutes, and he fouled out out of 7.8 percent of his games.

    O'Quinn is big and strong at 6'10" and 240 pounds.  He also possesses solid athleticism and quickness.  He can be inconsistent with his intensity and commit careless fouls.   

    He doesn't appear destined for stardom, but he could be a solid rotational big man capable of locking down the inside.

7. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt

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    Festus Ezeli is a presence in the middle at 6'11" and 255 pounds.  He has prototypical size and strength to play center in the NBA.

    He also has long arms and moves well for a man his size.  Despite his physical prowess, he can play soft at times.

    He's had injury issues but should be healthy now, and he's struggled with foul trouble throughout his career.

    Ezeli has fouled out of 11.6 percent of his games, including 10 of his last 61.  He averages a frightening 5.79 fouls per 40 minutes for his career.

    He never averaged more than 24 minutes per game in college, which may keep him from being a legitimate starter.  He did average 3.76 blocks per 40 minutes in his time at Vanderbilt.

    At his best he can man the inside, defend the block and protect the rim.  At his worst, he's watching from the bench down the stretch.

6. Bernard James, Florida St.

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    Bernard James isn't exactly what you would call a "prospect" at 27 years of age.  With his advanced age, he should be physically ready to bang inside with professional big men.

    James is 6'10" and 240 pounds with good lateral quickness and tremendous leaping ability.  He anchored the inside of a notoriously stingy Florida State defense.

    While you may not expect much further development out of him, it may not even be necessary.  Not every draft pick needs to be a superstar or even a starter.  

    James blocked 164 shots in 69 games at Florida State—he is one of the few shot blockers to have more blocks than personal fouls.  He averaged 3.86 blocks to just 2.92 fouls per 40 minutes, and he fouled out of just one game in his career.

    Making his numbers even more impressive is the fact that the Seminoles really slowed games down, allowing for fewer possessions and opportunities.

    James will never be one of the top big men in the league, but on the right team he could be a valuable interior defender.

5. Ty Walker, Wake Forest

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    Ty Walker isn't a very highly regarded prospect.  In fact, he isn't even likely to get drafted.

    So why is he on this list and ranked this high?

    For one, he is a legitimate 7'0" with a 7'6" wingspan.  Aside from the measurables, he is also a tremendous athlete.  He can move well and is an explosive leaper.  He has all the tools to be an intimidating shot blocker.

    The problem is, he is scrawny and lacks strength and experience.  He is definitely developmental but you'd think there is a roster he could stick to. 

    In 70 games at Wake Forest he blocked 144 shots.  That's impressive but how about the fact that he did it without ever averaging 20 minutes per game.

    He averaged 5.40 blocks per 40 minutes against just 2.33 fouls.  He only fouled out of one game in his career.

    Walker isn't a candidate to be a starter, but he could be an incredible defensive force off the bench.

4. Fab Melo, Syracuse

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    Fab Melo is the big, physical and imposing presence general managers dream of in a center.  He stands 7'0" and 270 pounds with adequate mobility.

    He is big and can defend both on the ball and off.  No team will find baskets easy to come by at the rim with Melo in the game.

    He averaged 4.15 blocks per 40 minutes in his Syracuse career, and he blocked 113 shots in 63 games.  He posted 2.9 blocks per game last season.  His presence on defense is felt even when he doesn't block the shot.

    The reason why he isn't higher on the list is the fact that he averaged 5.32 fouls per 40 minutes and fouled out of 7.9 percent of his games.  He is careless at times, indifferent others and he isn't the smartest player.

    Despite his negatives, he has all the ability in the world to become a legitimate defensive stopper in the NBA. 

3. John Henson, North Carolina

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    John Henson is spindly and is far from having NBA girth or strength.  Those things can be developed over time, but Henson was born with some enviable qualities.

    Those would be his height, his incredibly long arms, his superior athleticism and tenacity.  Henson will have trouble guarding NBA power forwards on the block physically, but he will be able to block shots right away.

    Henson averaged an impressive 4.29 blocks per 40 minutes and only fouled 2.45 times.  In 109 games at North Carolina, he blocked 278 shots and never fouled out of a game.

    Henson will need time to develop into a good overall NBA player, but he will be an above-average shot blocker from day one. 

2. Andre Drummond, Connecticut

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    Andre Drummond didn't live up to his freshman expectations.  He is also not a complete player.  He is a shot blocker, though, and has as much upside as just about everyone in this draft class, with one exception.

    Drummond is a beast at 6'11" and 275 pounds with incredible athleticism.  His blend of physical tools are very rare.

    In 34 college games, he blocked 92 shots with an average of 3.81 blocks per 40 minutes.  As a freshman he was savvy enough defensively to average just 2.92 fouls per 40 minutes.  He did foul out of two games, however.

    He was wildly inconsistent last season, but most of that came in the scoring and rebounding department.  Drummond was consistently impactful as a defender.

    He surpassed other players on this list with better numbers because he did this as a true freshman on a mightily struggling team.  He has all the physical tools to dominate, especially as a shot blocker.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky

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    I'm honestly not sure what can be said about Anthony Davis at this point.  Sometimes it's a cop out to use the top overall player as the top player in a specific category.  Not in this case.

    Davis is truly a game-changing presence with his ability to block and alter shots from anywhere on the court.

    He blocked 5.81 shots per 40 minutes against just 2.44 fouls.  His 186 blocks set an NCAA freshman record and was tops in SEC history.  He fouled out of just one game.

    Sometimes he can get overly aggressive and get into early foul trouble but every big man is prone to that.

    Kentucky won a national championship last year largely on the back of Davis' defense.  Anthony Davis is the premier player in this draft, and it could be argued that he would have been the best shot blocker in NCAA history.