Over the past decade, the NBA game has evolved. The most notable aspect of this change is the higher frequency of small-ball lineups, which are more about running the floor and shooting three-pointers (think the Golden State Warriors) than having dominant big men down low.
Although post players may have different roles in order to adapt to this style, they are still integral parts of the game. And that's not to say there aren't any traditional big men enjoying success in the Association in 2020.
This year's NBA draft class features some exciting frontcourt prospects, including some who should be taken early. Here's a mock for the first round, followed by pro comparisons for several of the top frontcourt prospects in this year's class.
NBA Mock Draft, 1st Round
1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
5. Detroit Pistons: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
6. New York Knicks: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
7. Chicago Bulls: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
8. Charlotte Hornets: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
10. Phoenix Suns: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
11. San Antonio Spurs: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
12. Sacramento Kings: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
15. Orlando Magic: Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
18. Dallas Mavericks: Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Josh Green, SG, Arizona
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
23. Miami Heat: Vernon Carey Jr., PF/C, Duke
24. Utah Jazz: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos
26. Boston Celtics: Leandro Bolmaro, SF, FC Barcelona
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
28. Toronto Raptors: Xavier Tillman, PF, Michigan State
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Jahmi'us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
Pro Comparisons for Elite Frontcourt Prospects
James Wiseman: Hassan Whiteside
When Hassan Whiteside is at the top of his game, he's a dominant big man with impressive skills who can put up big numbers. That hasn't happened every season during his eight-year NBA career, though.
James Wiseman is a high-ceiling, low-floor prospect, so it's possible he could be similar to either side of Whiteside in the NBA. However, the 19-year-old has the potential to surpass Whiteside and become one of the best post players in the league should he continue to develop his game at the next level.
Wiseman (7'1", 240 pounds) and Whiteside (7'0", 235 pounds) have similar body types, and both are tremendous athletes who utilize their strengths to make impacts on the glass. They are also strong rim protectors. It means Wiseman has the potential to average great rebounding and block numbers like Whiteside has at times during his career.
"Impact player as a rim protector when locked in and operating at maximum intensity thanks to his reach, timing and quickness," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote in his scouting report of Wiseman. "Also capable of switching on the perimeter with excellent mobility."
Wiseman played only three college games, so it's a bit of an unknown just how talented he may become. That should only add to the excitement of watching him play as a rookie.
Onyeka Okongwu: Bam Adebayo
Unlike Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu doesn't have the traditional big-man size. However, in recent seasons, several players have proved that's not always necessary to have success in the post in the NBA, such as Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo.
Okongwu has the potential to emulate Adebayo on the court, and it starts with their similar frames. Both players are 6'9", while Okongwu (245 pounds) is 10 pounds lighter than Adebayo. Although he doesn't have as much weight to throw around in the post, Okongwu should have no trouble following Adebayo's footsteps as an impact player down low.
Now in his third year in the NBA, Adebayo has had a breakout season, averaging 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, all career highs. Okongwu posted similar numbers during his lone season at USC, averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 28 games. He'll face tougher competition in the NBA, but his skills should translate well to the next level.
"Good post scorer," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote of Okongwu. "He does a nice job of getting into position by sealing off defenders. Once he gets the ball, he displays flashes of advanced ability with spins, drop steps and fakes."
Like Wiseman, Okongwu could be a top-five pick in the draft. And it wouldn't be surprising if they are the first two frontcourt players selected.
Obi Toppin: Amar'e Stoudemire
Not only was Obi Toppin the best college basketball player in the country this season, but he also played a style that reminded people of Amar'e Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection. That comparison isn't thrown about lightly.
In January, Toppin told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt that he had heard people compare his build to Stoudemire's. Toppin is 6'9" and 220 pounds, slightly smaller than the 6'10" Stoudemire, and his athleticism and playmaking skills resemble the former NBA center/power forward's.
If Toppin can reach the level that Stoudemire did during his NBA career, then the former Dayton forward would be a top-tier player for several years. Especially if the skills that allowed him to have an impressive season for the Flyers (20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, 63.3-percent field-goal percentage) translate to the pro game, which wouldn't be a surprise.
"Explosive leaper with solid size. Big hands. Runs the floor hard," ESPN's Mike Schmitz wrote of Toppin. "One of the most efficient transition finishers in college basketball. Lob threat out of pick-and-roll and from the dunker spot."
Schmitz sounds like he could be describing Stoudemire's game, suggesting things could go well for Toppin after he gets selected in the draft, likely within the first 10 picks.