Ed Isaacson

Draft Preview

print article archives RSS

Draft Comparison: 2016 Centers

Friday, April 22, 2016


Finding impact players has always been one of the major keys to the NBA Draft, and finding a quality big man will always be near the top of most teams’ lists. After a fantastic group last season, what does the center position have in store for us in 2016?

I’ll be looking at players who are potential first/early second round players at each position, with their numbers in areas that are relevant to their position, as well as first round picks from 2014 and 2015 at the same positions. The idea isn’t to draw clear-cut conclusions, but it is an interesting exercise to get familiar with this year’s class, and to help gather useful information to examine further.

Check out the previous position comparisons: PGs | SGs | SFs | PFs

NameHt.Wt.AgePts/40FG%TS%OReb%DReb%TReb%Blk%
A.J. Hammons 7'0 250 23 24.3 59.2 62.3 11.5 24.9 18.7 10.4
Damian Jones 7'0 245 20 21.2 59 58.4 9.9 17.3 13.9 5.9
Jakob Poeltl 7'0 248 20 22.7 64.6 66.6 11.9 22.1 17.4 5
Diamond Stone 6'11 255 19 21.6 56.8 61 12.4 14.5 13.6 7.1
Stephen Zimmerman 7'0 240 19 16 47.7 51.9 8.8 26.5 17.7 7.5
Karl-Anthony Towns (2015) 6'11 250 19 19.5 56.6 62.7 14.2 22.3 18.5 11.5
Jahlil Okafor (2015) 6'11 270 19 23 66.4 64.1 14.8 18.2 16.6 4.5
Willie Cauley-Stein (2015) 7'0 242 21 13.8 57.2 58.8 11.1 17.3 14.5 7.1
Frank Kaminsky (2015) 7'0 231 22 22.3 54.7 62.8 6 25.7 16.1 4.5
Myles Turner (2015) 6'11 240 19 18.3 45.5 55.6 7.2 24.9 16.7 12.3
Joel Embiid (2014) 7'0 250 20 19.4 62.6 65.5 12.7 27.3 20.5 11.7



Last year was a big one at the center position, with five college big men being taken in the first eleven picks of the draft, after just one, Joel Embiid, was taken in 2014. Number one pick, Karl-Anthony Towns, also went on to have one of the best rookie seasons in years. This year is a fairly deep group, though not as top-heavy, but featuring good size and skill. Just one player, Diamond Stone, is listed below seven-feet tall, and all are at least 240 pounds. It is also a fairly young group, with four of the five at 20 years old or younger, including two freshmen and one sophomore.    

Unlike last season, where there was some real variation in scoring abilities, this year’s group all averaged over 20 points per 40 minutes, with the exception of Stephen Zimmerman, who also had the misfortune in playing in a mess of a UNLV offense. While not evident solely from the chart, this was also a very post-dominant group, with no one showing the consistent perimeter shooting ability that Towns, to a degree, or Frank Kaminsky showed last season. Even Myles Turner, though raw as a college freshman, showed a good ability to step out and knock down mid-range jumpers.

The players’ field goal percentages don’t really provide any clues other than that four of the five were efficient scorers, with Zimmerman being the lone exception, and even his field goal percentage wasn’t bad. Other than Okafor last season, Poeltl put up the best field goal percentage in the last three seasons of draft picks, at just over 64 percent, but A.J. Hammons and Damian Jones were also very good at close to 60 percent. With a group that was predominantly low-post oriented, the numbers make sense, with Zimmerman being the only one who would step away from the basket on a somewhat consistent basis. What we don’t see this year is the very raw offensive player who relies on athleticism, like Willie Cauley-Stein last year, or even Nerlens Noel back in 2013. This is a skilled group with a variety of scoring abilities.

The true shooting percentages tell us a little more about the players. For example, Jones, like Okafor last season, has a true shooting percentage lower than his field goal percentage. True shooting percentage accounts for two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws. While none of the five were consistent perimeter shooters, they were at least able to raise their percentage from the free throw line. Not Jones though, as he only hit 54 percent from the line, and though not a tell-all based on a number, it is something that may concern NBA teams, especially with the “Hack-a" strategy becoming more prominent against poor free throw shooters.

On the flip side, we also don’t have a player like Towns or Kaminsky, who were very good free throw shooters for their size.  Other than Jones, the other four big men fell somewhere in the 65 to 75 percent range from the free throw line.

The next area I want to look at is rebounding, namely looking for any numbers that seem extreme in either direction.  On the offensive boards, all fell in a decent range, with Zimmerman, who already noted as spending more time on the perimeter than the others, bringing up the bottom with 8.8, which is still better than Kaminsky’s 6.0 last season, though for similar reasons.  Stone, who has a big, strong body for his size, topped the group, with Poeltl and Hammons close behind.

The defensive rebounding percentages showed a bit more than the offensive end, with Zimmerman showing some of his actual rebounding ability, putting up the best number since Embiid a few years ago. Like Okafor last season, it’s the lower numbers which are cause for more concern as players enter the NBA, and Stone’s 14.5 defensive rebounding percentage could be a cause of some concern, though with his ability shown on the offensive glass, he should be much better, and teams will need to figure out what is causing such a low number. More of a problem could be Jones, an athletic seven-footer, who was lagging behind on both offensive and defensive rebounding. Though not always the answer, effort and strength on the boards are important to teams, and if Jones’ issues fall in either, or both, of these areas, teams will notice quickly.

I’ll finish up on the defensive end by looking at the block numbers of these big men. The big thing that is noticed is this group seems to be missing an elite rim-protector type, other than Hammons, who has been one of college basketball’s best shot-blockers the last few years. Last year, Okafor’s and Kaminsky’s dismal numbers were cause for concern, and that showed itself even more once they got to the NBA. This year, four of the five players are only between 5 and 7.5 percent, and while shot-blocking isn’t the only important thing to playing good defense, NBA teams look for it, and I’m not sure if they will find it here, other than from Hammons, though Zimmerman could be the one who also breaks through in this regard.  

The biggest concern is Poeltl’s 5 percent, especially since he is being touted as a lottery pick by many, though most of his love comes from his offensive ability. Jones’ 5.9 also should be much better; one, as mentioned, he is a very good athlete for his size, though foul trouble has always been a concern, and two, it’s just another knock on him after looking at his poor rebounding numbers. Still, he is young, and put into the right situation, with the right coaching, his natural abilities could shine.

As a whole, this class is certainly not as strong as last year’s group, especially after seeing the seasons that Towns, Okafor, and to some degree, Cauley-Stein and Turner, had as rookies. Size and length are as important as ever in today’s NBA, and while these players have that, they all seem to have some major deficiencies as well, as least based on their numbers, but the numbers don’t always tell the story. This highlights the flaw in just using statistical factors to compare players. When the context is missing, it can lead to a lot of flawed comparisons, while doing the work and studying the players can give you all the answers you need.  



Ed Isaacson is in his second year of covering the NBA Draft for Rotoworld.com, while his work can also be found at NBADraftblog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @nbadraftblog.
Email :Ed Isaacson



Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    Matchups: Bortles vs. Texans

    Matchups: Bortles vs. Texans
  •  
    Dose: Osweiler leads DEN

    Dose: Osweiler leads DEN
  •  
    RotoPat: Start Rodgers

    RotoPat: Start Rodgers
  •  
    Rankings: Steelers on top

    Rankings: Steelers on top
  •  
    Dose: Rodgers returns for GB

    Dose: Rodgers returns for GB
  •  
    Waivers: Wentz replacements

    Waivers: Wentz replacements
  •  
    Dose: Miami upsets NE

    Dose: Miami upsets NE
  •  
    Dose: PIT

    Dose: PIT's O crushes BAL