NBA Draft: Top 10 Centers
Oden leads list of available big men
June 26, 2007
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By Steve Aschburner
Special to CSTV.com
People have considered Greg Oden to be a man-child for a couple of years already, given his rapid physical development and imposing 7-foot, 250-pound size.
Only more recently have folks come to see
Oden's ability to impress basketball scouts during his one season with the Buckeyes was no surprise, given the clamor about him halfway through his high school days. Then Oden dazzled with his athletic ability in pre-draft skills testing, posting times and results in keeping with the excitement over his advancement to a pro career.
But Oden's personality has been the facet winning over observers and potential employers -- really, there's only one, the Portland Trail Blazers, who hold the draft's first pick -- during his recent sessions with reporters and team executives. They have come away talking about a young man who is not just a center but is centered, with a friendliness, a humility and a marketing image that has the NBA drooling nearly as much as Oden's on-court talents do.
"I just want to present to teams, to show them that I am a guy who is going to work hard," Oden told media reps at the
Oden will be the big man of this year's draft in every way, one spot ahead of
Here is a glimpse of the top 10 center prospects:
The excitement around Oden is understandable, since he's the best center prospect in the draft since Michael Olowokandi in 1998. Just kidding. This guy is tops since Shaquille O'Neal in 1992. Some critics want to see more of a killer instinct in him, but that should come with maturity and a growing sense of his ability to dominate. His offensive repertoire needs work, but Oden already is a difference-maker on defense. There's really nothing to not like, on or off the court.
Big, white and ... stiff? Those three syllables don't always go together. Hawes, just one year into college, has a pretty mature package of offensive moves and a great feel for the game. He moves well enough -- he's no lummox -- and can rely on his fundamentals while he adds some strength and savvy.
The stress fracture that Hardin endured in December has gotten plenty of attention, with teams determined to gauge the long-term health of the
4. Sean Williams, Boston College, Junior, 6-10, 235
Here's another big guy who didn't finish the season, although it had nothing to do with a stress fracture. Williams was cut from the team in January after a series of violations. He is exceptionally skilled, with a great vertical leap that allows him to get or alter many shots. And he is as aggressive as he is athletic, if he can properly channel his emotions, clean up his behavior and become a solid employee and team guy.
Gasol has the nice touch and nose for the hoop that his brother
6. Kyle Visser, Wake Forest, Senior, 6-11, 250
Good hands help to make up for slow feet with Visser, who developed nicely in his time at
7. Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh, Senior, 7-0, 272
Gray has a lot of admirers for something that he doesn't do: He rarely brings the ball down low, putting it in danger of being stolen by smaller men's hands. That's a desirable big man fundamental in a guy with a number of them. He is built for this position, with a good touch and a zeal for the boards. But he's a player more than he's an athlete, and he needs to work in a half-court offense.
You might not want to see your rookie 7-footer launching shots from the three-point arc, but Barac has that ability. He has drawn comparisons to
9. Mohamed Abukar, San Diego State, Senior, 6-10, 210
A senior who stands 6-foot-10 and harbors NBA desires ought to be able to pull down more than 5.8 rebounds per game in the Mountain West Conference. Abukar had his moments this season and is a reliable shooter. But he is turnover-prone and is not a natural shot-blocker.
10. Darryl Watkins,
Watkins is physically gifted and has increased the range on his jumper. But he doesn't play strong, doesn't work as hard as he could and seems less driven than a guy should be when he's likely to get a brief second-round look or be faced with drawing interest from the pool of undrafted free agents. He truly is a project player who might need time in the D League or overseas before he's ready for the NBA.
Steve Aschburner is a senior NBA reporter and columnist, covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 13 seasons and serving as president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association from 2005-07.