NBA Draft Position Rankings - The Centers

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ending up the Celtics Town first annual Draft Position Rankings is our centers (see our point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards here). With only two potential first round choices, the center position is by far the weakest position in this year’s draft. This could be a result of the center position evolving so much over the years. It also could the fact that some of the players who played center in college will be power forwards in the NBA.

As a result of this weak center class, we at Celtics Town have decided to only mention the top five centers on our draft board. I’d honestly be shocked if even five centers were drafted on Thursday. The guys that have made our top five have potential to be good players in this league. I do not particularly see much star power in this crop of center, but one of these guys might just be a diamond in the rough.

Santa Clara vs. St. Marys5. John Bryant, Santa Clara (Last year’s stats: 18.1 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks)

Bryant does not remind me of any prototypical NBA draft prospect when I see him, but he certainly knows how to play the game, posting huge numbers this past season at Santa Clara. His play, which included leading the nation in double doubles with 26, earned him the WCC player of the year this past season, while also helping him to an honorable mention all-american selection.

Bryant is a massive force on the low block and is surprisingly very effective because of his physique. Simply a load down low with a great understanding of how to use his wide body, Bryant is one of the more skilled big men in this draft; however, his lack of athleticism will hurt his stock. His mobility is not bad for a man his size but in the NBA it will be a huge liability - some teams will just murder him up and down the court. I do not ever see him becoming a good defender in the NBA because he is way to slow to keep up with some of the more athletic centers in the league, and even some of the lesser athletes.

He has a shot of getting selected somewhere in the 2nd round but don’t expect much from Bryant in terms of being a contributor in the NBA. He will be a guy that can practice with a team and maybe play spot minutes using fouls against someone like Dwight Howard.

Michigan St. v. North Carolina4. Goran Sutton, Michigan State (Last year’s stats: 10.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 43.5% 3PT)

Sutton played well last year for Michigan State, producing solid numbers in a tough conference. He has the European style of play, with a soft touch around the basket and the ability to knock the three-point shot. Despite great play in the NCAA tournament, Sutton’s chances of getting drafted might have gone when he declined to play in the Portsmouth invitational.

He struggles getting to the free throw line because he tends to settle for jump shots. Still, Sutton managed to show a tough streak, helping to lead Michigan State to the finals with his inspired NCAA tournament play. With a 6’10", 245 pound frame Sutton has enough size to be a contributor for someone in the NBA. He has above average ability to put the ball on the floor for a center. I would like to see the Boston Celtics select him with the 58th pick.

North Carolina Tar Heels v Gonzaga Bulldogs3. Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga (Last year’s stats: 14.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks)

If he can play the center in this league, Josh Heytvelt would be a really valuable piece to a team that likes to play fast. He is an above average athlete for a big man and possesses some of the tools that NBA GM’s love in post players. Heytvelt might be classified as a power forward after the draft, but for now we will keep him in an already weak center class.

Immediately, Heytvelt could be a good pick-and-pop player, with the ability to consistently knock down the 15-18 ft jump shot. With NBA training, he could easily extend his range to three-point territory, utilizing his terrific release and smooth shooting mechanics. Defensively, Heytvelt will have to bulk up and get stronger if he wants to play center in this league. He has had his share of problems off the court, which I believe will hurt his stock.

Ultimately, there will be a GM that will be willing to take the chance on Heytvelt, with hopes that he will stay out of trouble and help their team compete for a championship. Potentially, I can see him being a more agile version of Brad Miller. He would be a good pick for teams like Charlotte or Indiana late in the 2nd round.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 14 Big Ten Championship Tournament - Ohio State v Michigan State2. B.J Mullens, Ohio State (Last year’s stats: 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks)

At this time last year, Mr. Mullens was a definite lottery selection and potentially a top five pick in this year’s draft.

Then, his freshman season happened, and Mullens produced lackluster numbers, especially for a player who came to school surrounded by so much hype.

Even though Mullens didn’t produce much at all during his freshman season, he will still likely be drafted in the first round, based solely on his potential. He has good hands, good touch, the ability to establish early post position, athleticism, and can run the floor really well for a post player, all great qualities for a potential first round center to have.

Still, I doubt that Mullen will put it together in the NBA. For someone to produce so little in the NCAA, there must be something wrong. To add to his offensive struggles at Ohio State, B.J. is not good on the defensive end of the court at all. He will need to make improvements there before he sees any playing time for any team that actually wants to win ball games. Mullens is a project and, for a team looking to stockpile talent for the future, he is the perfect selection.

1. Hasheem Thabeet, UConn (Last year’s stats: 13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.2 blocks)

Thabeet is a super-long, athletic big that will be able to impact the game on the defensive end immediately. Thabeet is a better fit for the NBA game than the college game for a variety of reasons. For one, he will not see as many teams playing zone defenses, which will enable him to play more one-on-one down on the blocks. Secondly, the NBA game is not as guard-oriented as its college counterpart, with more isolations in the low post. At Connecticut he dominated games from the defensive end which is extremely impressive seeing they played in the best conference in the country last season.

Offensively is where Thabeet will have to improve if he wants to truly separate himself from the rest of the centers in the league. Showing some ability to finish around the basket, Thabeet was actually fairly efficient when he caught the ball in the post last year. If he can continue to develop a reliable jump hook and mid-range jumpshot, Thabeet could become a very good offensive player, in addition to his already game-changing defensive skills.


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