Ranking the Bigs at Vegas Summer League

Vegas Summer League wrapped up today with the Warriors taking the title after they cut down the Morris twin led Suns juggernaut in the championship game. Despite the increased number of teams and depth of talent, Vegas offered less intrigue than Orlando from a big man perspective. Between Drummond, Adams, Gobert and the Plumlee brothers, there was a lot of athletic talent nearing 7 foot in the baby Summer League. Vegas was more typical guard driven fare, with one notable exception from Lithuania….

Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas replicated the sort of dominance Andre Drummond displayed in Orlando, laying waste to any and all opposition in an entirely dominant display. In a setting usually known for allowing flashy, ball-dominant guards to flourish, Valanciunas made his mark with his trademark efficient offense and stellar boardwork.

In less than 30 minutes a game he averaged almost 19 points and 10 boards while shooting 56% from the floor and almost 88% from the line. He threw in a couple of assists and a block a game too, just for good measure. His dominance wasn’t confined to the offensive end either, as he anchored the Raptors Summer League defense well, looking stronger in the post than he did as a rookie and using his mobility well in pick and roll situations.

A sloppy 5 turnovers a game and almost 6 personal fouls were the only mark on his resume in Vegas, and these can be somewhat excused given the offensive load he shouldered and the prevalence of penetrating guards seen at this event, which leads to high foul rates for most centers. Overall, Valanciunas showed why he was worth the wait for the Raptors, looking every bit the star he was projected to be coming out of Europe.

Aron Baynes

Second year Spurs big man Aron Baynes is much older than most of the competition he saw in Vegas and it showed. Baynes was able to use his mature frame and experience to repeatedly take advantage of the young bigs matched up against him. His production was solid across the board but his work on the glass stood out, as he raked in 10.5 boards in only 26 minutes a game. The highlight of his week was a 19 point, 15 rebound outing against the Atlanta Hawks and their first year center Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira. As the video above shows, Baynes frequently rebounded over and scored through the talented Brazilian rook, taking advantage of a clear strength disparity.

Throughout the week, Baynes showed the type of versatility, mobility and smarts that could help him contribute solid minutes for the Spurs this season, should Duncan or Splitter miss time. He even might force his way into some minutes playing alongside those two, if his form in Vegas is anything to go by.

Lucas Nogueira

Despite the beating he took at the hands of Aron Baynes, it was a solid introduction to the NBA for the guy they call Bebe. Following in the footsteps of team mate Larry Sanders, Nogueira had himself a block party in Vegas, showing off his absurd defensive potential. While the results were mixed, with a tendency to gamble both inside and on the perimeter leading to some highlight plays against him, the 2.4 blocks in 22 minutes of game time and surprising agility for a 7 footer gave us a glimpse of the type of player he could be for the Bucks in the future.

His offensive play was less exciting, with offensive putbacks and finishing chances created by fellow foreigner and stand out rookie Dennis Schroeder constituting the bulk of his scoring. Nevertheless, he was one of the must see players in Vegas and out-performed many more experienced bigs while swatting his way through the week.

Jeremy Tyler

The talented but enigmatic Mr. Tyler showed NBA front offices he might be worth investing in at Summer League. After stringing together strong performances all week, Tyler finished it off by tuning up honour code violator Brandon Davies and the LA Clippers with an efficient 20 point, 2 block line.

His game seems to be maturing as he understands the importance of harnessing his athletic talents to help him produce in areas that will be attractive to NBA teams. His work in the paint for the Knicks Summer League team should have teams sitting up and taking notice. It should also put a return to Japan on hold for at least another year.

Meyers Leonard

Meyers Leonard might be in the running for most perplexing Summer League performance, if that were a thing. For a 7 footer blessed with myriad athletic talents, that Leonard choose this week as the time to work on his three point shot confused fans and analysts alike. His FG% from 2 point range was solid at 56%, which is a good sign for the regular season when hucking up three pointers hopefully won’t be a priority. His touch inside and outside the paint as well as at the line is a strength and is the basis for his considerable upside at this end of the floor.

On the other end and on the boards, Leonard still looked raw and lacking in the type of instincts that make guys like Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas such tantalising prospects. There were incremental improvements in his positioning in the post on D and finding someone to box out when a shot went up, but there is still a worrying avoidance of contact that makes his future effectiveness as an interior defender murky at best.

His final game – a 15 point, 13 rebound, 2 assist performance in which he looked more assertive and less hesitant – saved this from being a totally disappointing week for Leonard. Nevertheless, his improvement in terms of offensive decision making and versatility is matched by continued lack in those same areas at the other end of the court and it will be interesting to see if this continues to be the case when the season proper begins.

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller had a disappointing rookie season, coming in as a polished four year big man yet looking unprepared for the physicality of the NBA in an inefficient first year for the Cavs. He didn’t look markedly improved in Vegas, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers while still lacking the type of bankable skills necessary for him to be a solid rotation player in the future.

As a 23 year old sophmore slotting into the rotation behind two injury prone centers in Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao, Zeller will likely get some decent run this year but whether he’s ready to grasp that oppurtunity is still up in the air and his performance at Summer League did nothing to change that.

Bismack Biyombo

Entering his third year, Bismack Biyombo needs to take a leap forward on both ends to avoid being labelled a bust. His play in Vegas followed a similar formula for the Congolese big man, as he averaged more rebounds than points and displayed a worrying tendency to cough the ball up. He did add a new wrinkle though, as he finished his offensive opportunities well, shooting 70% for the week.

Whether Biyombo can stick in an NBA rotation or even in the league will depend on him becoming less of a negative presence on the offensive end. With that said, it’s on the defensive end that Bismack can really make his mark. Turning potential into production will be key in this regard, as his Bobcats have been abysmal defensively two straight season with him playing most of their center minutes. For Bismack Biyombo, the long climb to relevance continues.

Jeff Withey

The 2012 College DPOY got surprisingly little run for the Pelicans Summer League outfit, recording just 18 minutes a game. Nevertheless, he managed to produce some nice highlights while he was out there, chief among them the double rejection seen above. Other than putting his shot-blocking prowess on display, Withey had a run of the mill Summer League, producing solid but not particularly prolific numbers in the scoring and rebounding columns while missing over half his shots. On the plus side, Withey kept his turnover and fouling rates low, two qualities he displayed at Kansas that Pelicans fans will be hoping translate when the real games start.

Perhaps it was Withey’s late introduction to the Pelicans, being part of a post-draft trade from Portland, that limited his minutes in Vegas but in any case it is strange to see a player who will likely be part of an NBA rotation this coming season averaging under 20 minutes in Summer League. It’s hard to grade Withey’s performance given his limited playing time but in the end both the promising signs you’d expect from a four year collegian and the question marks that allowed him to drop to the 2nd round showed through.

Dewayne Dedmon

After going undrafted out of USC, Dewayne Dedmon came to Vegas looking for a training camp invite and left after making somewhat of an impression, to both the good and the bad. Dedmon was strong on the glass all week and finished his Summer League with a nice efficient 13 point, 8 board line against the Bulls. Unfortunately he fouled like it was going out of fashion, racking up 4.5 a game in only 16 minutes of floor time. Even Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden’s rookie foul rates look good by comparison. Ultimately Dedmon probably flashed enough grit on the boards to justify a training camp invite but it will be an uphill battle to make it onto an NBA roster for a guy as raw as he is at his age.

Robert Sacre

After being bumped down to the 2nd best Canadian big man out of Gonzaga in the NBA after Kelly Olynyk’s Orlando Summer League takeover, Sacre had a lot to prove in Vegas. What he showed was that maybe he should stick to the sideline celebration antics that made him a legend (seriously). That might be a little harsh but he’s almost 24 and just averaged more fouls than points in Summer League, while shooting a scorching 46%. He had one nice game against the Bulls but the rest tended towards the forgettable, as his career likely will. 

Overall, Vegas Summer League was a case of Jonas and the rest, with no overwhelmingly impressive performances coming from anyone but the Raptors franchise center. If Summer League is any indication, Valanciunas and Drummond will continue their rise into the upper echelon of NBA centers and may vie for All-Star berths before their rookie contracts are up. The rest fall into a far less certain realm where optimism over endearing strengths is tempered by worrisome lacks in vital areas.

Orlando Summer League Recap

The smaller, more intimate Orlando Summer League is in the books, with the OKC Thunder crowned the inaugural champions of the event. There was a lot of big man talent on display, with newbies and returning players alike doing their best to thrive in this notoriously guard friendly setting. So how did they do? Read on to find out

Steven Adams

Adams had a surprisingly solid first Summer League, on both ends. After a nervy first game in which he looked to fit in rather than stand out, Adams strung together three consecutive strong games, flashing some offensive potential to go with his stout defense and solid screens.

In two of these games Adams’ pick setting was key to his teammates exploding offensively. Against Detroit, Reggie Jackson went for 35 points overall and 23 in the 4th quarter and it was screens from Adams that freed him up to reap a lot of that carnage. The next game it was Jeremy Lamb coming off Adams’ brick wall picks and pulling up or carving into the paint. This is one of Adams’ bankable skills that he can bring to the table from day one, and with how often and well both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant use picks it could be his ticket to some minutes in the big leagues.

Adams also showed some nice touch this week, knocking down two of his four jump shot attempts and hitting at 67% from the charity stripe. His post offense was limited to backing guys down and throwing up a hook (some of which looked nice, some which…..didn’t) but he showed growth in terms of keeping the ball up high and protecting his dribble as the week wore on.

This offensive production was a nice bonus but it was Adams’ defense that showed why the Thunder picked him 12th overall. He was solid in the post all week and did a good job altering shots when opposing guards penetrated. He held his own against more experienced players and although he did average four fouls a game, overall his defense was extremely effective.

Adams ended up averaging 9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 27 minutes a game while shooting 60% from the field.

Mason Plumlee

Plumlee had an up and down week in Orlando, at times showing the polished offense and athleticism that made him a first round pick but also displaying some of the difficulties finishing around the rim and defending his position that made him fall out of the lottery.

In his first two games, Plumlee was strong in the paint and on the boards. In his debut, he snagged 14 boards in 30 minutes but it was his second game that was the most impressive – 23 points, 9 rebounds and 8-8 shooting. After this strong start however, Plumlee struggled. He didn’t break 50% from the field in another game and his rebounding numbers tailed off severely.

Mason ended up averaging 13.2 points, 7 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 46% shooting for the week.

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert’s introduction to American basketball went well, on the whole. Apart from the unfortunate news that he’d have to undergo foot surgery following Summer League, Gobert had nothing but good surprises for Jazz fans and the media alike.

The first thing you notice when watching Gobert is the utterly immense amount of space he takes up on the court. His height and length really do separate him even from other 7 footers and he put that to good use this week, blocking shots and rebounding at a high level.

In addition to being a space eater on defense Gobert was relatively efficient, if not particularly prolific, on the other end too. He shot 53% from the field and 70% from the line while putting up 5.4 points in his 21 minutes a game. Put backs off offensive boards was his bread and butter this week and it’s a good bet that will be the case for his rookie NBA campaign also.

Overall, Gobert showed the combination of mobility and size that had him projected as high as #4 in the months before the 2013 draft. While his slender frame and unimpressive French League numbers still scream bust, he showed here why Thabeet comparisons might be premature.

Andre Drummond

Drummond was the dominant player at Orlando Summer League. He wasn’t particularly efficient – shooting 52% from the field, 33% from the line and turning it over 5 times a game – but nevertheless he looked a man amongst boys. Drummond averaged 15.5 points and 14.8 rebounds in under 30 minutes a game and threw in 2 blocks and 2.5 steals as well, just for good measure. There is no need for Drummond to return to Summer League in the future – he’s clocked it.

Fab Melo

Melo had a solid week in Orlando, hopefully a sign that he might be more ready to contribute in the NBA this year than he was as a rookie. In 18 minutes a game, Melo managed an efficient 6.2 points while rebounding and blocking shots at a decent rate. Expectations for the raw Brazilian big man are pretty low at this point and he was totally overshadowed here by Kelly Olynyk’s spellbinding offensive heroics, but he may be able to get some backup minutes for the rebuilding Celtics this season without embarassing himself.

Miles Plumlee

Miles was the more impressive of the Plumlee brothers on display in Orlando this week. That might be expected given he has a year of NBA experience under his belt, but it was probably nice for Pacers fans to see nevertheless.

Plumlee managed to average 10 points, 9.5 rebounds and a super impressive 3 blocks in just 27 minutes a game. He finished athletically on one end and swatted in similarly impressive fashion on the other. If he can translate any of that production to the NBA, he might be able to nab some spot minutes behind Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi.

Daniel Orton

Orton made a strong case for the Thunder to keep him around for another year in Orlando. He shot nearly 70% while putting up 12 points in only 17 minutes a game. His speed and athleticism stood out from the crowd and he showed good hands and an ability to finish in traffic as well. His defensive awareness and effectiveness are still questionable but I think there is a good chance that Orton is a better backup C option for OKC than Thabeet. Certainly Adams and Orton between them look like they could cover backup duties behind Kendrick Perkins this season.

Kyle O’Quinn

Kyle O’Quinn solidified his reputation as a productive, polished backup big man during Summer League. He produced solid numbers across the board while also playing strong defense and putting James Harden on notice that there is a challenger for his best beard in the NBA title.

Greg Smith

Much like O’Quinn, Smith was productive across the board while showing why he’s already an NBA level role player. Opposing bigs were unable to move Smith and despite only shooting 48% from the field he showed how valuable those ginormous, soft hands can be on offense, finishing nicely in the PnR and inhaling 4.3 offensive boards in his 25 minutes a game.

Big Man Battle: Andre Drummond vs. Steven Adams

NBA Summer League isn’t renowned as a  proving ground for big men but rather as a place where guards go to get theirs. Nevertheless, today served up a treat of a matchup with last year’s #9 pick and rookie phenom Andre Drummond locking horns with OKC’s first pick from this year’s draft, Steven Adams.

The two matched up for the majority of the game, both playing in excess of 30 minutes. In fact, Adams didn’t see a minute of court time without Drummond lining up across from him. This was a great chance to gauge how ready Adam’s is to go up against the size and athleticism of NBA bigs, going up against one of the premier specimens in the entire league. In Drummond’s case it was an opportunity to see how his offensive game had progressed and whether he could take advantage of a freshly minted draft pick playing in only his 2nd game with his new team.

What transpired was a great ballad of speed, strength and bruising physicality. Neither player really came out ahead and both showed flashes of offensive potential that will excite their respective teams. Both had their elite shot-blocking ability neutered due to the sheer amount of attention they had to pay to each other, but watching that battle in the post more than made up for lack of spectacular swats.

The 1st quarter was largely a feeling out process for both Drummond and Adams. Drummond looked to challenge the newcomer in the post but Adams refused to budge. A couple of kickouts off these post-up opportunities led to Detroit threes, showing again the spark of passing talent Drummond displayed as a rookie. Drummond also had a beautiful reverse lay-up in transition where he reined in a low pass while running full tilt and still managed to get it to go. Mid-way through the quarter Adams looked to challenge a shot from Peyton Siva inside, which resulted in a Drummond dunk off a nice wrap-around pass.  It was the right play by Adams, sliding over to help after Siva’s man was beaten, but he’ll have to learn not to commit so early against NBA guards who have no trouble finding the open man even with a 7 footer flying at them. The quarter ended with Adams getting a good look against Drummond in the post but sending it long off the back iron.

The 2nd was where things started to get good, with both players looking to be more aggressive offensively. Adams drew a foul in a the precious few seconds of court time he had without Drummond in the game, hitting 1 of 2. He then played strong defense against Drummond in the post, not letting the 280 pounder back him down and then forcing him into an ugly fade-away on his 2nd effort. Adams seemed to be gaining confidence as the game wore on and showed this by draining one of those pesky mid-range jumpshots that he’d missed so badly in his opening game. He also had a transition lay-up of his own, going a step further by drawing the and-1 foul against Drummond. While Adams was starting to break out of his shell offensively in this quarter, Drummond showed why he was one of the top rebounders in the NBA last season – getting his team extra possessions by out-jumping Adams on the offensive end and carving out space on the defensive end to secure boards.

The 2nd half began with an Adams putback but the sweetest possession of the game occured about halfway through the third, with Adams nailing a textbook hook shot after backing Drummond down in the mid-post. Drummond had a couple of layups off nice feeds from Siva but the first part of this quarter belonged to Adams as he began to even up the rebounding tally and show some flashes of offensive versatility. Drummond snared a couple of boards with Adams on the bench as the quarter drew to a close and Detroit drew ahead by 11.

The 4th quarter was characterised by jump shooters jump shooting and the bigs being left to the dirty work of setting screens and rebounding. Drummond and Adams each thrived in one of these areas. Drummond continued to inhale rebounds on both ends, looking to prevent a relentless OKC comeback from occuring. Meanwhile, Adams was having an indirect hand in that comeback, setting solid picks to get OKC’s 3rd year PG Reggie Jackson open. Jackson’s utilised this space to the tune of 23 4th quarter points, hitting all manner of shots outside and in. Adams also had a crucial trip to the line with just over a minute to go in the game and OKC up by 1. Adams nailed both, showing the nice release on his shot that had shocked scouts at the Combine back in May. OKC went on to win the game while the Drummond vs. Adams battle could only be scored a draw, with Adams a little ahead offensively by virtue of his efficiency and Drummond making up for that with his boardwork.

Drummond finished with 12 points and 11 boards, going 6-10 from the field and 0-2 from the line. His 3 assists were balanced by 3 turnovers and managed not a single block after putting 6 on the board in far fewer minutes during his first outing.

Adams managed 11 points and 6 boards, shooting 4-5 from the field and 3-5 from the line. He also had no blocked shots and managed to limit himself to a single turnover, a nice improvement from his first game.

Both guys finished with 4 fouls, spent both on each other and guards driving to the hoop, and I have no doubt they’ll be feeling the effects of this battle tomorrow morning. It’s rare to see a single physical specimen as developed as both Drummond and Adams are at the age of 19, so watching the two of them go at it was a pleasure. Hopefully only the first of many matchups to come.

Projecting the Picks: How Location will Affect Production for the Rookie Big Men of the 2013 Draft

A total of ten true centers were drafted on Thursday. Of those we broke down into tiers before the draft, only two tier 4 players- DeWayne Dedmon and Zeke Marshall – went undrafted, along with all of the tier 5 guys.

Now the focus turns to how these ten will fare in the NBA. Knowing the situations they find themselves in can help give a clearer picture of how their talents will be utilised. Projection is always easier with context.

Alex Len

Len heading to Phoenix was one of the less surprising happenings on draft night. As a team in need of size, talent and potential, Len was a nice fit. He’ll be given every opportunity to take over from Marcin Gortat, who is coming off a down year, and is a good bet to become the starter at some point in his rookie season. Len has a similar style of play to Gortat and should benefit from the Suns’ strength running the pick and roll while potentially improving their below average post offense (17th in the NBA by PPP last season) if he transitions well.

What impact he’ll have on defense is less clear – he did anchor a relatively strong Maryland defense (38th in the nation according to KenPom) and sported an 8 BLK% but his tools and production on this end remind me a lot of Meyers Leonard (7 BLK% as anchor of the nation’s 39th best D in 2012), whose struggles defensively as a rookie were well documented.

Overall Len should have an opportunity to thrive in Phoenix, especially in light of the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, who could pair with Goran Dragic to create a strong facilitating backcourt. Whether he grasps that opportunity will depend on how he adjusts to the speed of the NBA game and whether the improved guard play he’ll be working with in the NBA allows his offensive potential to reach full bloom.

Nerlens Noel

Noe’s slide on draft night was one of the more shocking in recent memory. In a draft with such little bankable talent, Noel seemed to have the best shot at stardom, if only on the defensive end. Nevertheless, the unhappy time he had on draft night could end up being a blessing in disguise for Nerlens. He ended up being moved to a Philly team committed to a full rebuild. Expectations will be low after the debacle that has been the Sixers’ center position the past few years. In addition, he’s going to a team that was around average defensively last season (15th by DRtg) and is in need of a rim protecting shot-blocker (19th in blocks per game last season). He may not have the bulk or experience to single-handedly improve Philly’s defensive efficiency yet but he should be able to be relied on for some highlight blocks as a rookie, which I’m sure Sixers fans will appreciate .

The Sixers made an interesting move on draft night by trading their top scorer and bringing in two low scoring prospects in Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. This is the only area in which I have concern for Nerlens’ fit in Philly. He should thrive in an offensive role where he’s asked to finish on the break and in the pick and roll, with some high post facilitating and dribble drives mixed in. If asked to take more of a primary scoring role, he could really struggle. Building his offensive foundation correctly should be a point of emphasis for new head coach Mo Cheeks and placing the extra scoring load elsewhere in the wake of Holiday’s departure will be an important part of this.

Steven Adams

The consensus among draft experts seems to be that Steven Adams went to the best situation possible for his development. OKC fans seem uninspired by the prospect of waiting for that development to occur. The way Serge Ibaka was developed is given by some draftniks as a reason to be optimistic about the Adams-OKC pairing. Fans fear a repeat of the Cole Aldrich disappointment. In the end, neither are particularly likely outcomes.

As has been the case with both Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, Adams will likely see more time with the Tulsa 66ers than with the Thunder. There is more immediate need at Adams’ position than there was with those two however, with Perkins being the starting unit’s weakest link and Thabeet and Orton hardly constituting bankable backup production, so if he progresses faster than anticipated he could carve himself out a role in the big leagues towards the end of the season. The real evaluation of Adams will occur in a season or two, when he should be expected to take over from Perkins and add more mobility and athleticism to the Thunder’s frontcourt. For now, honing his shot-blocking talents and learning the ins and outs of NBA defense would constitute a successful rookie campaign, something that should be well within his reach.

Lucas Nogueira

Bebe was drafted by a team that has been looking for a pure center to put next to its talented PFs for years. Whether he comes over next season or further into the future, his efficiency as a finisher and strong offensive rebounding skills should help him be an effective NBA big. With the Hawks teetering between maintaining course with former All-Star Al Horford and looking at a full rebuild, there may be a significant role for Nogueira to step into when he comes over from Spain.

Gorgui Dieng

Dieng was drafted by the Jazz but ended up in Minny as part of the Trey Burke trade. A national champion and anchor of the best defense in college basketball, Dieng should be a welcome addition to the Timberwolves roster. With a starting lineup  largely devoid of defensive talent, Dieng can be a shot-blocking presence off the bench immediately and aid in what Minnesota fans hope will be the first playoff run in a number of years. Weighing in at 230lbs rather than the listed 245 hurt Dieng’s potential some in my eyes, as his mobility and solid athleticism look less impressive when you consider he weighs the same as guys like Sanders and Ibaka rather than being in the Okafor/Asik range. Nevertheless, his defensive prowess coupled with his passing instincts and solid mid-range shooting should make him a productive backup C in the league for years to come and the Timberwolves have that role wide open.

Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee enters the NBA as a polished, ready-to-perform big man with an impressive college resume. Unfortunately, he’s been drafted into a well established frontcourt featuring All-Star Brook Lopez and last season’s small-minute revelation Andray Blatche. To carve out any significant role as a rookie, he may have to play minutes at PF or show enough promise to bump Blatche to the 4. The likelihood of him doing either isn’t particularly high.

Rudy Gobert

Gobert is the international prospect most likely to appear in the NBA next season. Whether that’ll be as anything other than a garbage time player is less clear. The Jazz made a talent grab in acquiring Gobert from the Nuggets but they already have a project at center who they invested a #3 pick in just two seasons ago in Enes Kanter as well as Derrick Favors and possibly one or both of their big man free agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. This may not be the worse outcome, as Gobert could probably use some time on the sidelines learning the NBA game and attempting to get up to speed. If he can do so, a place behind Kanter in the rotation may yield decent minutes some time in the near future.

Jeff Withey

Withey falling well into the second round was a surprise and one the Blazers were more than happy to take advantage of at #39. Withey was in the conversation as the best defensive big in the draft, along with Gorgui Dieng and Nerlens Noel. Question marks over his mobility, athleticism and offensive game likely contributed to his fall but the Blazers would seem an ideal fit for his skillset, so it may have been for the best. Portland gave up the most points in the paint last season (47.4, to be precise), so Withey’s shot-blocking and defensive instincts could be ideally suited to helping shore up their interior defense. As the depth chart currently stands Withey would be getting backup minutes behind last year’s first round pick Meyers Leonard, but it’s likely the Blazers pick up a starting center at some point during the free agency period. It’s still possible Withey beats out Leonard for backup minutes but if not he could see significant time for the Blazers D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede.

Marko Todorovic

Todorovic’s right have ended up in the Rockets’ hands as part of the Thomas Robinson trade. It’s unlikely he comes over in the next two seasons and there is a good chance he never develops into an NBA calibre big man. Location is rather irrelevant in this case.

Colton Iverson

Iverson was drafting to a team in the Celtics that totally lacks interior size following the Kevin Garnett deal. First round draft pick Kelly Olynyk projects more as a stretch 4/5 in the NBA, so there is a chance Iverson will see backup minutes as a rookie. He will go up against last year’s first round draftee Fab Melo in training camp, which will be a battle of guys who may never be worthy of significant minutes in the league but who will probably see them anyway on what promises to be a truly dismal Boston team.

Pre-Draft Restart

What better time to end a hiatus than draft day? To re-introduce the prospects that’ll be followed on this blog as they make their way into the NBA, I’m using (read: stealing) the tier concept make popular by Chad Ford the past couple of drafts (here and here).

Cody Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and Mike Muscala have been cast from the realm of TBMB after declaring themselves PFs and even (shudder) stretch 4s. The remaining 15 have been separated into 5 tiers which are as follows:

Tier 1 – Potential franchise big men
Tier 2 – Probable starters with star potential
Tier 3 – Role-playing starters and solid backups
Tier 4 – Third stringers and bench fodder
Tier 5 – Not NBA calibre

Nerlens Noel


Steven Adams | Alex Len


 Gorgui Dieng | Jeff Withey 

Rudy Gobert 

Lucas Nogueira | Mason Plumlee


Colton Iverson | Zeke Marshall | Marko Todorovic | DeWayne Dedmon


 Philipp Neumann | Jack Cooley | Vitalis Chikoko


Jay Bilas and Chad Ford on the Top Big Men


Nerlens Noel

“Noel does not have an offensive game nor the body type that indicates he will bulk up and carry greater weight. However, he can impact the game with how active he is, how hard he consistently plays and how he blocks shots, runs and rebounds. Noel is only 18 years old, has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and continues to blossom. He is not — nor will he ever be — Anthony Davis, but he is a willing passer and an outstanding athlete who may very well be the best risk to take in this year’s draft.”

Alex Len

“Len will be a starting center in the NBA, and has the best potential as a pivot man in the league. A true 7-footer, Len has size and skill along with the best offensive game among centers available in this year’s draft. Len also has good hands, can pass out of the post and can face up and hit perimeter shots. He is a productive rebounder and shot-blocker, and is gaining strength and confidence in his first full season at Maryland. Len is a worthy selection at No. 1 this year.”

Cody Zeller

“Zeller is not an NBA All-Star, but he is going to be a good player in the NBA, and I believe he has the tools and the drive to continue to get better. Zeller is the most skilled of the big men in this year’s class, is the best runner among big men, can shoot the ball with touch and will continue to develop as an offensive player. The drawbacks for Zeller are his lack of lower-body strength and assertiveness; he does not get and hold position, can get pushed off of a spot and is not a high-volume rebounder. He also needs to show more of a killer instinct to demand the ball when he has a matchup advantage. Still, he is very good, and I believe he will continue to get better.”



Nerlens Noel

“Jay and I both agree that Noel remains the default No. 1 pick. The biggest reason is upside; he’s a super-athletic 18-year-old who already looks like he can be a defensive presence in the NBA. He needs to get stronger and improve his offensive game, but his development under Coach Cal has impressed scouts, as has his consistently high motor. He’s far from a sure thing, but he may have the most star potential of any player in the draft.”

Alex Len

“Last week, we moved Len up from No. 5 to No. 2 in our Top 100 not because of a series of stellar games, but because scouts increasingly think that in a risky draft, you swing for size. At 7-1, Len has the size to be an NBA center. He’s bigger and better offensively than Noel and is also a terrific shot-blocker and rebounder. Len will have to play consistently well in the ACC to keep this spot, but if he does, he could easily end up surpassing Noel for the No. 1 pick.”

Cody Zeller

“Scouts have cooled a bit on Zeller the past few weeks. Though he’s played well enough for Indiana, questions center on his fit at the next level. Is he big enough to play the 5? Does he have enough of a perimeter game to play the 4? What is he exactly? The basketball skills are all there, and no big man runs the floor better than Zeller. But scouts continue to struggle to find the right comparison, which hurts his chances of going in the top three.”