Kansas’ Joel Embiid is poised to be an immediate defensive force in the NBA, and he’s a strong contender to land with the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 overall pick. But Embiid is the only likely lottery pick among centers, leaving teams in need of talented big men sifting through a crop of talented but largely unknown players from overseas.
The top center prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft.
1. (No. 3 overall) Joel Embiid, C, Fr. Kansas
Overview: Last season’s back injury is a big concern, but many believe if Embiid can prove he’s healthy, his 11.2 ppg, 8.1 rebs and 2.6 blocks per game at KU make him the likely No. 1 pick to Cleveland. At 7-feet with a 7’5″ wingspan, Embiid has scouts salivating over his already proven shot-blocking ability and potential on offense.
Analysis: Many had teammate Andrew Wiggins pegged as the No. 1 pick, but by midseason the talk had shifted to Embiid before he suffered a back injury. Embiid likely will take a few years to start making the offensive impact he’s capable of, but his athleticism and ability to block shots should translate immediately into the NBA.
2. (20) Jusuf Nurkic, C, Int. (Bosnia)
Overview: Standing 6-11, 280 pounds with a 7’2″ wingspan, Nurkic was not well known but turned into a surprise player in Europe earlier this year. His balance and footwork are very good for his size and he excels in fundamental situations like the pick and roll.
Analysis: Nurkic’s touch and feel for the game set him apart from other big men. He’s very good below the rim, can shoot with both hands in the paint and isn’t scared of contact. His biggest flaws are a lack of great athleticism and defensive skills. However, he’s a very skilled offensive big man and those are hard to find.
3. (33) Isaiah Austin, C, Soph., Baylor
Overview: Austin was originally thought to be a one-and-done player for the Bears, but decided to stick around at Baylor for his sophomore year. The gangly 7-footer has the size and mobility NBA teams are looking for, but needs to add some weight has hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Analysis: Austin has shown flashes of immense talent offensively but hasn’t been consistent. He struggles around the basket due to his lack of weight and strength; he has put on about 25 pounds over the past year, which should help him become more physical. Talent-wise, he’s a first rounder, he just needs add consistency.
4. (39) Walter Tavares, C, Int. (Cape Verde)
Overview: Raw 7-3 prospect with a long wingspan and big hands. His defensive prowess and shot blocking has people interested. Tavares has only been playing organized basketball a few years and has been making his way up the ranks in Europe. He’s a project, but there is definite potential.
Analysis: In the short amount of time Tavares has been playing, he has shown he can clearly be a defensive presence. His athleticism, along with his height and long arms allows him to not just block shots but cover anywhere around the basket. He’s steadily improving, which has earned the attention of NBA scouts.
5. (51) Artem Klimenko, C, Int. (Russia)
Overview: Athletic, rangy 7-footer has emerged from obscurity since announcing his intention to enter the draft. Since declaring, he has generated enough interest to probably get drafted.
Analysis: The first thing you notice about Klimenko is how fluid he is for someone almost 7-feet. He’s extremely mobile and runs exceptionally well for a guy his size. The rest of his game, along with the competition he has been playing against, are pretty much a mystery at this point, but the NBA loves athletic big men, and Klimenko is just that.
6. (52) Nikola Jokic, C, Int. (Serbia)
Overview: The 6-11, 19-year-old Serbian stands out on the offensive end of the floor, where he possesses a natural feel for the game. He’s not overly athletic but excels below the rim, where his balance and footwork set him apart from other big men his size.
Analysis: The term “old school” comes to mind when watching Jokic play. He’s extremely creative for a guy his size when he has the ball in his hands. Jokic is also a nightmare to guard 1-on-1 in the low block because of his offensive skillset and ability to score. At just 19, Jokic’s potential has people taking notice.
7. (59) Jordan Bachynski, C, Sr. Arizona State.
Overview: The solid but not spectacular Bachynski stands 7-2 with a long wing span, and over his four years at Arizona State he steadily improved and finished his senior year with a NCAA tournament berth. Bachysnki’s size coupled with his fundamentally sound game will get him looks from some NBA teams.
Analysis: Bachynski’s size alone will get him looks, but the best part of his game is in the areas you normally wouldn’t look at. He moves well without the ball, sets great screens and plays with a high IQ. The Canadian big man is a coach’s dream and could find himself in a backup role somewhere.
8. (65) Moussa Diagne, C, Int. Senegal.
Overview: Extremely raw 7-foot prospect with a 7’5″ wingspan who has only played organized basketball for roughly three years. His ability to block shots is what has grabbed attention. He’s athletic and improving, which has NBA people intrigued at how good he could become.
Analysis: Diagne is a natural athlete, runs and jumps well, and is explosive around the basket. He still has a ways to go on his learning curve, but what he has accomplished in the three years he has been playing is impressive.
9. (78) Sim Bhullar, c, Soph. New Mexico State.
Overview: The massive 7-5, 360-pound Bhullar decided against returning to New Mexico State for his junior year, but he will need lose weight and focus on conditioning to have any shot in the NBA. He is skilled, led New Mexico State to a WAC title and if he can drop some weight he’ll definitely have interested people in the NBA watching.
Analysis: Bhullar has talent but staying in school would have been far better for his NBA prospects. He’ll get looks because of his size, but his weight and conditioning are big red flags. He’s a talented big man who can score and used his size to his advantage in college, but he’s not ready for the NBA just yet.
10. (80) Alec Brown, C, Sr. Wisconsin Green Bay.
Overview: A Horizon League First Team selection and Defensive Player of the Year winner, Brown has shown a smooth shooting stroke that extends out to the NBA 3-point line. Outside Wisconsin fans likely wouldn’t know who Brown is, but the big man is making a name for himself in pre-draft workouts.
Analysis: Brown has made the most of his pre-draft workouts; he’s 7-1, can shoot from the perimeter and people are starting to notice. The NBA loves big men who can shoot and space the floor, and Brown does just that. The big
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