Saturday, 23 May 2009

NBA Draft 2009: Center Prospects

This article can also be seen here.

Although the NBA appears to be changing to more of a transition game dominated by guards and wing players, big men can still rule the game. With a dearth of high-quality big men, teams are always searching for centers that can play enar the basket, affecting the game on both ends of the floor. For that reason, they are sometimes willing to reach on big men, or take projects who have the potential to be game-changing centers down the road.
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The 2009 NBA Draft appears to be a fairly weak draft class, but there is still some talent at the center position.

Assuming we count Blake Griffin from Oklahoma as a Power Forward, Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet looks like he will be the first center taken in the 2009 NBA Draft. At 7'3'', he is still a very raw player, but has matured significantly on the court during his 3 years as a member of the Connecticut Huskies. He is a huge presence on the defensive end, and has the ability to alter games by blocking shots or forcing opponents to alter a ton of shots. Offensively, he is getting better but is still very raw, and scores most of his points on either putbacks or dunks.He is a project on the offensive end, but should make an immediate impact on the defensive end with his size and shot blocking instincts. He looks to be a top 3 pick in the draft.

BJ Mullens from Ohio St. appears to be the only other center who looks to be a viable first-round candidate if he chooses to stay in the draft. He only played 1 year for the Buckeyes, and is very much a long-term prospect who will be drafted based on his potential. He was a talented recruit coming out of high school, but had an up-and-down season for Thad Matta and the Buckeyes. He only averaged 8.8 PPG and 4.7 RPG in his freshman campaign, which are not exactly inspiring numbers, especially since he was a year older than many other freshmen in his class. He is very talented athletically, but there are concerns about how good of a basketball player he actually is. His basketball IQ is not that great, and his rebounding numbers are very mediocre for someone his size. Plus, there are concerns about his consistency, because that was lacking. His physical tools will probably get him drafted sometime in the first round by a team enamored with his talented, but it could be a while before he produces in the NBA.

These are really the 2 legit center prospects in this draft. Big men like Blake Griffin, Jordan Hill, or James Johnson probably will be able to play center at times, but they are more natural power forwards. So with the 2009 NBA Draft class shaping up to be a very weak one, this is most obvious when looking at the centers, which will probably have minimal impact in the NBA outside of a couple players.