PBT NBA Draft preview: Top 5 centers

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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 NBADraftBlog.com 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.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.