The NBA Draft is so fun, isn't it? I would imagine that scouting the draft as a general manager or scout is in one of the most stressful and exhausting aspects of their job. But I am willing to bet that despite all the long, sleepless hours they spend examining these players, they would agree with folks like you and I that the draft is flat out fun; that's what truly motivates them to work so hard. It's also what makes fans spend so much time learning about these players with the hopes that our favorite team selects them on draft night each and every year.
When I rank and assess players, I try to focus on five broad categories. Click on the 'buttons' to reveal my reasoning for each one.
With all of that in mind, here is my top ten center prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft.
1. Nerlens Noel | Kentucky
HT: 6'11" | WT: 206 | AGE: 19
Analysis: Noel is incredibly raw offensively, undersized defensively, and is coming off an ACL injury...so how is he number one? Well, it's all based on his enormous upside. Noel flat out has the potential to be the best defensive player in basketball. His shot blocking ability is unparalleled in this year's draft and it's hard to ignore. He's also a hard worker and athletic enough to develop a solid offensive game. Even if Noel never pans out offensively, it's a sure thing that he'll become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. In my eyes, that warrants the number one spot, despite any other concerns about him.
2. Alex Len | Maryland
HT: 7'1"| WT: 255 | AGE: 19
Analysis: I believe Len is one of the more underrated players in the draft. He's not elite in any single category but he is good everywhere. He's solid on the post, passes well, has a good mid-range jump shot, and is pretty good on the defensive end. He's long and has a lot of rebounding potential too. If he continues to add strength he will become even more of a force in the paint. He doesn't have the same upside that Noel has but he should be a good player in the NBA. If he had been more of a focal point in Maryland's offense and had the same level of success, I believe I would have ranked him ahead of Noel by a hair.
3. Gorgui Dieng | Louisville
HT: 6'11" | WT: 230 | AGE: 23
Analysis: Dieng is one of my personal favorites in this year's draft, since he has the potential to be a great shot blocking enforcer in the paint for many years to come. He is also a high character individual that is willing to work hard and get better at his game. I also feel that his offense is very underrated by many draft pundits. For one, he's terrific at setting screens and has proven he can finish at the rim at a high rate. But he surprisingly has developed a consistent mid-range jump shot that should make him a threat in both the pick-and-roll and the pick-and-pop. I believe Dieng is one of the safer players to draft but he still has the potential to become an All Star in the future, as well as an All-Defensive Team player.
4. Jeff Withey | Kansas
HT: 7'0" | WT: 222 | AGE: 23
Analysis: At 23 years old, some feel Withey has reached his peak as a basketball player. Really? It seems to me that most players reach their prime at 27 or 28 years old. Withey is already a great player on the defensive end with room to get much better. He's not that quick footed but has room to improve defending the pick-and-roll. He's already a great shot blocker with supreme instincts in helping from the weak side. Withey needs to make the biggest improvement on the offensive side of the ball since he hasn't proven he has a reliable jumper. Jeff has had success at the free throw line so there is a good chance that translates to a success mid-range game. Regardless, Withey is still a threat in the pick-and-roll because of his elite finishing ability at the rim.
5. Lucas Nogueria | Brazil
HT: 6'11" | WT: 215 | AGE: 20
Analysis: Who? Yeah, the 7-footer from Brazil is a pretty unknown player in this year's draft. This might sound outrageous but I believe if he were on Kentucky, like Nerlens Noel, he might be considered a top ten pick in the draft. Like Noel, he's extremely explosive on the defensive end and has the potential to be a stud shot blocker, but he also is far too lanky to defend and rebound at a high level. His offensive game, like Noel, is raw and he rarely scores outside of put back dunks and alley oops. At this point, his game is nothing but potential since he plays far too softly to be an immediate threat in the NBA.
6. Kelly Olynyk | Gonzaga
HT: 7'0" | WT: 234 | AGE: 22
Analysis: When it comes to basketball skills, Olynyk is basically the total opposite of Jeff Withey. Olynyk has a great jump shot and has some advanced post moves. He's fantastic at finishing at the rim and will likely be a good spark plug on offense in the NBA. On the other hand, his defensive game is nonexistent and he lacks the athletic tools to improve there. He's also not very good on the boards and gets pushed around despite his size. The only reason he gets a nod over some other players is because he has proven himself against a high level of competition. Plus, athletic bigs that can score in multiple ways are always needed in the NBA.
7. Mike Muscala | Bucknell
HT: 6'11" | WT: 230 | AGE: 21
Analysis: Mike Muscala has yet to prove himself against high-level competition and struggled in his single NCAA tournament game but he certainly has skill, averaging a double-double last season. I feel he gets a bad reputation since he's a Division II prospect and not an International prospect. If he were from say, Greece, he would be considered a top 15 pick due to the "mystery" of his potential. Muscala is a fluid big man with a plethora of moves on the post. He also is very good at draining shots between 12-to-18 feet, making him a pick-and-pop or spot up threat. He is solid on the defensive end but needs to continue to fill out his frame so he doesn't get out bodied. Muscala might take time to adjust to the level of competition but I think he has the tools to become a quality rotational big in the NBA.
8. Steven Adams | Pittsburgh
HT: 7'0" | WT: 255 | AGE: 19
Analysis: I'm really not as high on Steven Adams as most people are. Sure, he has the body...but what else? He has absolutely no fundamentals on offense or defense and has a long way to go to be a part of an NBA rotation. Right now he is nothing but potential...yet has he even proven that he has high upside? Offensively, he has stone hands and has hard time catching some passes, making him a liability on that end. That won't change. He has all the physical tools to be a great defensive player yet he lacks any understanding of team defense, is indecisive in the pick-and-roll, and doesn't box out when rebounding. He's just far too undeveloped right now for me to rank him any higher. The only reason he gets this ranking is because he has a true NBA body at only 19 years old.
9. Rudy Gobert | France
HT: 7'2" | WT: 238 | AGE: 20
Analysis: Gobert's stock has dropped like a rock and rightfully so. Everything that was said about Steven Adams applies here...except Gobert looks like a twig when he's out there on the court. In order to be a great paint enforcer in the NBA, like he was in France, he will need to fill out his frame. He has an alien-like 9'7" wingspan, but lacks the strength to play against the big boys of the NBA. I'm not so sure that he even has the frame to put on that much more muscle, making him a potential Ryan Hollins or Patrick O'Bryant.
10. Mouhammadou Jaiteh | France
HT: 6'11" | WT: 249 | AGE: 18
Analysis: Jaiteh is a longterm project that should be left to develop overseas or in the developmental league. At only 18 years old, he is very close to already having an NBA ready body. Watching Jaiteh, I see a player that has very soft hands is and able to quickly "find the blue sky" when going up for a basket. He seems to have good basket awareness for his age and he'll only get better. Though he isn't very athletic, he knows how to use his body and create a shot down low. He's raw and not very aggressive, but he looks like he has the tools to someday be a solid rotational big man in the future. With the patience and proper training, he should be able to apply his tools on the defensive end as well.