The center position in the NBA has changed over the last decade as the depth of talented centers has declined. Because of the decline in the number of quality centers, the importance of having one has seemingly declined along with it. But, if you do have a good one, a two-way big man who can establish his presence on both sides of the floor, you have an advantage over most teams.
The 2014 NBA Draft will not add to many quality centers, but it could give at least one All-Star level player. Joel Embiid headlines the class, but after him there are only a few quality centers available. Other then Embiid, the center prospects do not have much starting quality players. Some of the players in this group might stay overseas to develop and wait to come to the NBA. But, the class does have players who have high upsides and great potential.
The 2014 NBA Draft has finally arrived! Let’s take a look at my top five centers in the 2014 NBA Draft.
1. Joel Embiid, Kansas
Kansas’s Joel Embiid was reportedly in the running to be the No. 1 pick before he broke his foot. He has one of the highest upsides in the 2014 NBA Draft. He has very good athleticism to go along with his excellent height and length. He is 7-feet tall with a wingspan of 7-feet-5-inches. He has the makings of an excellent inside and outside game. Last season at Kansas, he shot 62.6% from the field and 20% from three. He is still developing his outside shot, but has solid mechanics on his mid-range and perimeter shots. Embiid has a good post game with multiple moves like a jump hook and drop steps. He has a solid face-up game because of his quickness. He can run the floor very well, getting a rebound and going all the way to the end for a fastbreak basket (Look at the GIF for an example of this). He can be a great defender because of his length and athleticism to shot block and guard the quicker NBA players. He is also is a good rebounder because of his size and athleticism. Embiid has all the makings to be an All-Star center in the NBA and one who could be a force in the league.
Embiid’s biggest questions are his injury history and his lack of experience. Last week, the news cam out about his foot injury and that he will miss around 9-12 months. He also had a back injury, which caused him to miss games at the end of the season. These two injuries are very scary for NBA teams because of the long history of big men and these same injuries. He must show that he can stay healthy in order to get to his full potential. He also is very inexperienced, only starting playing basketball in 2011. He is very raw in his fundamentals and understanding of basketball. He gets out of position and overaggressive on defense causing him to commit fouls more often and losing his assignment on defense. He must also gain more strength in order to compete with bigger NBA players down in the post. But his potential is so enticing because of his size, athleticism, and skills. ESPN’s Chad Ford says, “He has elite NBA size, is a fluid athlete and has shown major improvements on the offensive end. He projects to be a big man who can score both with his back to the basket and on the perimeter. He’s also an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker.”
2. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia
Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic is a prototypical center, who does most of his work in the paint. He has big build for a center at 6-feet-11-inches and 280 pounds. He is a strong player, along with a big body, who does very well in the paint. He is a good post player with multiple moves to operate in the paint like a jump hook. He has a soft touch around the basket. He draws a lot of contact resulting in more trips to the free throw line. He is a good free throw shooter (70.1% in the Adriatic league last season) with solid mechanics. He is a good rebounder on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. His length and size help in carving out space in the paint to get the rebound. He has potential to be a solid defender because of his lateral quickness, size, and strength. SI.com’s Jeremy Woo says, “Adept around the rim with good post footwork, he’s been compared with the Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic, with enough strength to bang inside and the catch-and-finish potential to be a pick-and-roll weapon.”
Nurkic is still very raw and has a lot of development to do. He is prone to fouling because of his lack of discipline on defense. He also is a little immature on the court like arguing with the referees. He turns the ball too much and so he must be better with the ball. He is only 19 years old, so he is still evolving as a player and a person. He is not a great athlete, so he relies on his strength to score and rebound. His lack of athleticism hurts him on defense guarding more athletic big men. His ability to compete with bigger and better athletes will be a major question he must answer. He is a player, who needs more experience and playing against better opponents. But, Nurkic has a lot of potential to be a force in the paint in the NBA. He will most likely be someone who will stay overseas for a couple years, so he can refine his game. In a couple years, he could be a good player in the NBA.
3. Mitch McGary, Michigan
Michigan’s Mitch McGary is a physical player with high energy. He is a 6-foot-10-inch center with a 7-foot wingspan. He plays with a lot of effort and energy during the game. He is an undersized center, but he is a strong player who uses his effort and quickness to compete in the paint. His leaping ability and strength allow him to be a strong finisher at the basket. He is a good face-up player using his quickness and strength to get to the basket. He plays well in the pick and roll because of his quickness to slip to the basket, his ability to handle the ball, and his ability to make solid picks. One of his best skills is his rebounding both on the offensive and defensive boards. He uses hustle, strength, and intelligence to gain the advantage on getting the rebound. He should be very good at defending the pick and roll. He could have the ability to hold up down low in the post because of his strength. He is a good passer who knows how to get the ball to the right place. McGary is smart, hard working, and strong player who can compete in the NBA.
McGary is an undersized center with not much offensive skills, yet. He does not have a refined offensive post game. He lacks developed moves in the post and he could struggle getting his shot off in the paint because of his shorter height. He also does not have a consistent jump shot. He must develop either or both of these offensive skills in order to be considered some sort of threat on that side of the ball. He had back problems in college, so he must prove he can stay healthy in the NBA. Also, he was suspended in college resulting in him declaring for the draft. His character is a question mark and he must show teams he can be a professional. But, he has a role in the NBA because of his hustle and rebounding ability. SI.com’s Jeremy Woo says, “He’s a well-built, physical big man with a high motor who will be able to bang with NBA opponents.”
4. Clint Capela, Switzerland
Switzerland’s Clint Capela is one of the best athletes in the center class. The 6-foot-11-inch center has a wingspan of 7-feet-5-inches. He can run the floor like a guard and has the jumping ability to play above the rim (Look at the GIF for an example of this). He can beat defenders down the floor and get quick baskets. He is a good finisher because of his athleticism to fight through contact. His quickness to get to the basket and finish makes him valuable in the pick and roll. He is a very good rebounder due to his athleticism and length. He has the potential to be a dominant shot blocker and defender. He can stay in front of defenders with his quickness. He can use his length to contest most shots and be a hassle to shoot over. He can be a great weak side shot blocker because of his quickness to come over and leaping ability to get to the ball. Capela is a player with huge potential because of his freakish athleticism.
Capela is far from a finished product and must develop more skills in order to play in the NBA. He does not have much offensive post game because of his lack of any moves. He must get stronger and add toughness in order to compete down low in the NBA. He has bad mechanics on his shot, so he struggles shooting in the mid-range, perimeter, and free throw line. He can get beat by stronger and more experienced big men because of lack of strength and fundamentals. He is out of position a lot on defense, too. He does not have great fundamentals and not much feel for the game on both sides of the ball, yet. Capela is a very raw player with intriguing physical tools that translate to the NBA. CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper says, “He’s explosive around the rim on both ends of the floor but he’ll need some time to develop.”
5. Patric Young, Florida
Florida’s Patric Young is a long player with excellent defensive ability. The 6-foot-10-inch center has a wingspan of 7-feet-2-inches. He has great athleticism, posting a 37.5-inch maximum vertical and 32-inch no step vertical at the NBA Draft Combine. He is a strong player so he can play as an undersized center. He is a low post defender, who can keep his ground against the bigger players in the paint. He is an excellent on and off the ball shot blocker because of his quickness and leaping ability. He is a great team defender because of his intelligence to know where to be and how to help out his teammates. He is also a good rebounder, with the ability to create extra possessions because of his offensive rebounding ability. He can finish very well around the basket due to his athleticism and strength. He will work hard and play a lot of minutes for his team. Young is a player who will do the dirty work and make big plays on defense.
Young is very average on offense and must improve on this side of the ball. He does not have any sort of post move resulting in limited post offense. He also does not have any sort of mid-range or perimeter game. His shooting stroke is broken, making him a bad jump shooter and free throw shooter. He was only a 59.6% free throw shooter last season at Florida. He may also struggle competing for rebounds in the NBA because of his height. His height also may constrain him on defense, when he will face bigger players, who can shoot over him. Young, though, has a role in the NBA because of his athleticism and defense. ESPN’s Chad Ford says, “He does all the little things, rebounds, defends and uses his toughness to get buckets. He won’t do anything spectacular, but is NBA ready right now.”
(Photo by: Greg Nelson/SI)