Jan. 5, 2013
So your pro team is not looking too good, and you’re wondering who’s in the colleges who could help your team. A number of people have said they don’t think there’s much talent for the 2013 draft compared to 2012 with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Damian Lillard, etal. There’s always excellent talent in the college ranks, although some of these players are one, two, three years away.
I try to see as many top prospects as possible, but there’s a lot more div. I colleges than there are NBA teams. Plus, the pros are always checking foreign leagues now. While recordings of foreign players on the internet has made it easier to see these players, it’s a lot easier to see players from U.S. colleges whose teams are featured on ESPN on a regular basis. Even so, there are a number of foreign players who look like interesting players.
As far as center prospects, I’d have to say there’s a few who have looked very good. And a number of them are foreign players. 7-1 sophomore Alex Len of Maryland is from Ukraine. He is the best-looking center I’ve seen in this year’s class. He has the size, athletic ability, skills, and desire to be an excellent pro. He proved his worth with a game against Kentucky outplaying their vaunted freshmen including 7-0 Nerlins Noel who is another great prospect.
Many NBA scouts feel Noel will be the no. 1 pick in the draft. Noel is a tremendous athlete and a great shot-blocker who needs work on his offense and building strength.While I feel Noel has an edge in athletic ability compared to Len, Len is stronger and has a better developed offensive game. But Noel is still only 18 years old, and he will get much better.
The best player going into this year was supposedly 6-11soph. Cody Zeller of Indiana. Zeller had a great freshman year but has not progressed as much as many people would like his sophomore year. He’s still a real good pro prospect who while not an exceptional athlete, is a very good athlete. He is also very skilled, smart, and has a great motor as they say nowadays. Which means he plays hard all the time. I think Zeller should stay at least one more year at Indiana and mature. He’s not quite strong enough to play center in the pros. I think he’ll be more comfortable at the pf spot in the pros where his skills and frame are more suited.
6-11 Mason Plumlee of Duke might be the best player in college at the moment. He has the size, strength, and athletic ability for the pros, but he’s not real skilled offensively. I’ve yet to see him take a shot outside five feet from the basket so far this year, and he doesn’t appear to have dominant post-up moves. He gets a lot of points off dunks and follow-ups. He still looks to be a solid pro prospect but not a game-changer. But his strength and athletic ability have made him an all-around excellent college player. He’s an excellent rebounder and a good on-ball def. player.. He is currently leading Duke to an undefeated season so far, and is the leading nominee for player of the year.
Another tremendous college center is 7-0 def. whiz Jeff Withey of Kansas who until recently was leading the nation in blocked shots. Withey had one game earlier this year where he blocked 12 in one game. Like Zeller, he’s a good athlete but not a great one. He does have excellent timing when he jumps and great lateral movement which should serve him well in the pros. But he’s not real strong and is only a decent rebounder. The weakest part of his game is his offense. His off. moves are too slow even for the college ranks and he struggles to get his shot off at times. He does have excellent hands and appears to have a decent shot out to fifteen feet. But he’s probably the most dominant defensive player in the country, and pros always like good defensive centers. Withey makes teams change their offensive strategy by his mere presence. He could be something like Omer Asik in the pros. But Withey will have to improve his strength and quicken his off. moves.
7-0 Rudy Gobert of France is another interesting prospect. Unfortunately, French games are not broadcast on American tv., so I’ve only see glimpses of Gobert in a few short clips on the internet. He looked decent in the clips, but there’ve been many players who’ve looked like superstars in select clips who were less than that when they played in the NBA. But Gobert appears to have the length and athletic ability to have tremendous promise. Especially his wing-span which is reported to be exceptional.
One player I’ve never heard of before this year but has risen fast in the ranks of promising big men is 7-0 Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga. Olynyk is from Canada making him one of a number of Canadians who are in the pros or playing well for American colleges. Like a number of other center prospects, Olynyk is a good athlete but not a great one. However, he is a much stronger player than he was his freshman year and red-shirted last season. He is very mobile and possesses excellent offensive skills. He can hit the outside shot and post-up. He’s worked hard on his post-up game improving it considerably in his three years of college. While not a real good defensive player, he does have the quick feet to be able to play center or maybe a stretch four in the pros.
7-1 Isaiah Austin of Baylor is another impressive-looking freshman center. On first sight I thought I was watching an Anthony Davis clone. Austin is pretty spindly at this point, but he’s very athletic and is an excellent shooter out to the 3-point line. He’s not the defensive monster that Davis was for Kentucky last year, but his potential is excellent. He should stay one or two more years in college before turning pro.
There are several other college freshman who have the interest of pro scouts like 7-0 Kaleb Tarczewski of Arizona and 7-1 Prezemek Karnowski of Gonzaga, and 7-0 Steven Adams of Pitt, but they appear to be two or three years away. Another prospect is 6-11 junior Gorgui Dieng of Louisville. One freshman player somewhat overshadowed by a teammate is 7-0 Willie Cauley-Stein of Kentucky. The problem with a number of Kentucky players is that the Kentucky roster usually has so much talent, players like Cauley-Stein get overlooked and don’t get the minutes like they would at another school.. But he appears to have a lot of promise. If Noel turns pro next year, it would be good if Cauley-Stein stayed in school to show the pros what he can do.
So if I’m a pro team, I need a center, and I’ve got the no. 1 pick, who do I choose? I choose Alex Len. My second choice would be Nerlins Noel. I’d choose Len over Noel because even though I believe Noel has more potential on the def. end, Len looks like he can be a very good pro def. player, and his off. game is more developed than Noel’s. Plus he looks strong enough to step in and start next year while Noel lacks strength at this point to combat pro centers. The most dominant centers in college this year are Withey and Plumlee both seniors. While both can be solid pros, they do not have the potential to be all-stars like Len and Noel. Zeller’s best pro position, like Olynyk, might be at the pf position. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good players in the college ranks who have the potential to be solid to excellent pros.