The center position is the 2nd easiest position to scout. It seems that what you see is what you get, to a certain degree. Meaning, if a guy was a banger in college, he will be a banger in the NBA. If he was a finesse player in college, he will be a finesse player in the NBA. This is what makes the position so hard, you want to draft on upside, and potential, but it just never seems to work out that way. I’ve seen shooting guards add dimensions to their game, same with wing players. Point guards usually undergo the biggest changes to their game, because the load becomes so much greater. So let’s look at this year’s center crop, a bunch that is much deeper, and more talented than most people think.
1.) Andre Drummond 6-11 279 PF/C UConn Fr. –
Without question, the most physically talented big man in the draft. There have been some references to his motor, but his size and athletically ability make him a safe bet in the draft. I don’t think he will ever be a 20/10 guy, but he has the potential to be a very good 15/10/3 guy, without a coach having to call any plays for him. But should he ever develop his offensive game, the sky’s the limit.
2.) Meyers Leonard 7-1 250 C Illinois So. –
Leonard is the biggest question mark in the draft. He’s got tremendous size, strength, and he plays hard. But his body of work isn’t there. His so-so numbers at Illinois make people scratch their heads, but his workouts have been great. I like him; he’s got a lot of traits that simply can’t be taught. He has the potential to a more than solid contributor at the NBA level.
3.) Tyler Zeller 7-0 247 PF/C North Carolina Sr. –
The safest big man pick in the draft. He runs the floor like a deer, great character & is a tireless worker. He is the exact opposite of Meyers Leonard: he has a tremendous body of work, after 4 years at UNC. With him you know exactly what you’re getting. Although his potential isn’t a big as the first two guys, it doesn’t have to be - he has already accomplished a lot.
4.) Festus Ezeli 6-11 264 C Vanderbilt Sr. –
Not on the level of a Tyler Zeller, but a sure pick, wherever he goes. He doesn’t have as much upside, but for a team that already has some talent. Ezeli would be a great pick up. You know what you have: a long rangy guy, with descent hops and excellent strength and timing on the defensive end of the court. He gets off the plane ready to work, and should find himself in someone’s rotation sooner than later.
5.) Yancy Gates 6-9 289 PF/C Cincinnati Sr. –
Gates is a sleeper in this year’s draft. He’s not currently projected as a first round pick, but if his workouts keep going the way they have, he could sneak into the late first round. He’s a strong, physical, but skilled big, that’s athletic enough clog up the paint. Gates is one of a dying breed - a true back to the basket centers.
6.) Fabricio De Melo 7-0 C Syracuse So. –
Lots of questions surround this young man, but the Big East defensive player of the year carries a lot of weight in NBA circles. And for a lot of teams, if he interviews well, he could do himself a lot of good on draft night. He can clog the paint, grab boards, and score around the basket. He’s still very young with a lot of upside, but he has to show the dedication on a more consistent basis to reach his potential.
Wondering about he strength of other positions in the 2012 Draft class? Check out Mike Rice's thoughts on power forwards, Casey Holdahl's take on point guards and Brian Wheeler's spin on small forwards.