Joel Embiid

PBT NBA Draft preview: Top 5 centers


The center position has undergone a revolution in the NBA in the past 10 years — old school, back-to-the-basket power guys are fading as teams go smaller and look for longer, more active guys. Ones with a midrange shot. Ones who can protect the rim but play a little small.

That’s why there are only five “centers” listed in our draft rankings — a number of guys technically listed as power forwards could end up playing some five. Still, these five guys will get picked and down the line will get a lot, or at least some, time on the court.

PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of and Rotoworld compiled our list.

1. Joel Embiid, Freshman, Kansas, 7’0, 241
There is now a foot injury to go along with concerns about Embiid’s back, but he is still the best big man prospect in this draft, and it’s not even close. He is still extremely raw as a player on both ends, having played basketball for just four years, but Embiid has the length and athleticism, which will get teams excited for his potential. He made big strides during his one college season, though he is most effective when play against players who were 3-4 inches shorter than him. NBA-type size was a problem, and he will need to continue to work on competing in the post against big players. Whether he fulfills his potential or not, he is still a player who can make an impact for most teams.

2. Jusuf Nurkic, 19 years old, Bosnia, 6’11, 280
Nurkic is big-bodied with emerging skill, but he is probably at least two-to-three years away from being ready to play in the NBA. He uses his body well to get position in the post, and he has already developed a few moves to help him get easy baskets. Nurkic is also a good rebounder and a decent defender. His biggest challenges will be conditioning to play the NBA-style game and still developing his understanding of how to play.

3. Jordan Bachysnki, Senior, Arizona State, 7’2, 254
Bachynski may be 24 years old already, but there are not many shot blockers like him in this class. He has the body to defend the low post well, and though his footwork isn’t great, it has improved. He has excellent timing when blocking shots, and he has shown he can challenge shooters from almost any angle well. Bachynski’s offensive game has improved over the past few years as well, and while he will never be a huge post scorer, he has a few moves to help him get some good shots.

4. Mitch McGary, Sophomore, Michigan, 6’10, 263
McGary missed most of his sophomore season with back problems and finished the year finding out he would have missed the next season because of a positive marijuana test. McGary is not a major offensive threat, but he makes his own opportunities by hitting the offensive glass, being good in the pick-and-roll game and hitting open shots quickly. McGary uses his strength well to defend the post, and while he doesn’t challenge many shots, he makes it difficult for offensive players to get to the basket. McGary is an aggressive rebounder on both ends of the floor, and he should be able to do this well for any team he plays for in the NBA.

5. Artem Klimenko, 20 years old, Russia, 7’1, 228
Klimenko is long and agile but still very raw as a player. His biggest assets right now are his physical abilities, though his game will hopefully catch up in a few years. Klimenko is at his best in transition or knocking down mid-range jumpers, though some added strength should help him score effectively in the post. Defensively, he uses his speed and length well, but he still needs to develop an understanding of how to really play. It may be years before Klimenko is close to being ready for the NBA.

Popovich to Aldridge: “Welcome to the Spurs. Go sit” out practice.

LaMarcus Aldridge
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Gregg Popovich’s habit of resting key players at times has become the norm around the league as more and more studies have shown it helps players perform at higher levels plus helps reduce injury risk. Still, Popovich is the poster child.

New Spur LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t used to this but got introduced to it in a very Popovich way, reports Jeff McDonald at the Express-News.

LaMarcus Aldridge missed his first workout of training camp today with leg tightness. Or rather, the Spurs — being the Spurs — held him out for precautionary reasons.

“We sat him out,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He didn’t want to do it. I said, ‘Welcome to the Spurs. Go sit.’”

He might as well have added “get used to this.” Aldridge is going to get some rest this season. Not as many as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, but he’s going to get some nights off.

Remember, Aldridge is a guy who played through a torn ligament in his thumb last season because he thought the Blazers could make noise in the playoffs (and they might have had Wesley Matthews not gotten hurt). He’s not a guy used to being told to sit and rest.

It’s his “Welcome to the Spurs” moment.

Ben Gordon goes vegan for a stint, notices improved energy

Orlando Magic v Golden State Warriors
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Ben Gordon ate avocados any time of day for their healthy fat, and also fueled his workouts with oatmeal and different juices or nutrient-rich smoothies.

Gordon went the vegan route – no dairy or meat – for a stretch a few months back.

“With that diet you have to kind of be creative,” the new Golden State guard said. “At that time I had a chef so it was a little bit easier.”

Gordon is back to a more “normal” diet as the season gets underway and he looks to play a part on the defending NBA champions.

He is eating meat again to gain back some of the weight he lost as a vegan for about the final six weeks of the season last spring and several weeks of the offseason. He needed a bit more strength to handle the rigors of an NBA schedule, yet his energy increased on the diet and he felt “a lot lighter and faster.”

The 6-foot-2 Gordon got down to his high school weight of 185, but noticed he wasn’t quite as strong and built himself back up to his typical playing weight at around 200 pounds.

“I experimented with that this summer and throughout the end of last season,” he said. “As you get older you try to see different things that work for you. I’m not doing it right now but I kind of use it functionally depending how my body feels. But with all the running, protein is hard to come by sometimes when you’re doing the vegan thing. I just like to mix it up.”

The 32-year-old Gordon, a London native and the third overall pick by Chicago out of Connecticut in 2004, averaged 6.2 points last season with Orlando. He enters his 12th NBA season looking to give Golden State another reliable shooter coming off the bench – something the Warriors have wanted.

Gordon wanted to be part of a winning situation, and he got that all right.

“You always have to prove yourself,” he said. “With this team, they won a championship so for me it’s just trying to mesh with the guys and not try to do too much. The league is so much about being in the right situation, being with the right group of guys that mesh with your talents and skills. This team here, the style of play is just a lot of ball movement and unselfish play, and they’re not shy about shooting so I think that’s right up my alley. They don’t have a guy on the bench who shoots a high arc from the 3-point line.”

Sure, committing to be a role player might be considered a risk for a guy who has long been a starter, yet Gordon is confident he will find his place on the defending champions and, he hopes, help the Warriors make another special postseason run.

“He’s been around a long time but he’s still got gas in the tank,” coach Steve Kerr said prior to taking a leave of absence last week to fully recover from back surgery. “He’s a good shooter, good scorer. You don’t have to have a traditional point guard in that role because Shaun (Livingston) and Andre (Iguodala) off the bench handle the ball. So he would be a good fit.”

Gordon played all 82 games in four different seasons, including three times in his initial five years with Chicago and again for Detroit in 2010-11. Yet Gordon has played as many as 75 games just once since with Charlotte in 2012-13 and averaged only 14.1 minutes last season with the Magic.

Not that anybody’s counting.

“I think he’s going to use this year to get another long deal,” said swingman and Finals MVP Iguodala, who made his pitch to Gordon to join Golden State while in Las Vegas this summer.

With the Warriors’ up-tempo style, Gordon plans to be patient and knows shots will find him given the way Golden State moves the ball.

“The last few years for me have been tough, but I think I fit in well here,” he said. “I’m taking my chances here. I’m not shy about this opportunity. It’s a great one.”

Oh, and he can’t wait to engage in some regular shooting competitions with NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

“It’s great to be out there with another great shooter,” Gordon said. “Just to see the way he works, how hungry he is. Even though I’m a vet, a few years older, I’m still picking up things and learning as I’m going along.”