Brian Patrick

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Center Comparisons

Friday, May 12, 2017


The center position is evolving at the NBA level, though it really hasn’t become widespread yet at the college level. The good news is that many of the NBA bigs who have developed into inside-outside threats also weren’t prepared to play that way in college, so teams are used to having to work with the big men to help them develop a new portion to their game. Also, with the NBA spacing and emphasis on offensive play, a defensive rim protector is almost essential for teams to compete. This year’s center class has a lot of potential, but is largely unproven. Let’s see how they stack up against the first-round picks from the prior two seasons.

 

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

 

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Age

Pts/40

FG%

TS%

OReb%

DReb%

TReb%

Blk%

Bam Adebayo

6’10

243

19

17.3

59.9

62.4

11.2

17.2

14.2

4.9

Jarrett Allen

6’11

235

19

16.7

56.6

57.1

10.9

18.9

15.0

5.0

Ike Anigbogu

6’10

250

18

14.5

56.4

56.4

13.2

19.9

16.7

8.8

Thomas Bryant

6’10

245

19

17.9

51.9

60.1

9.7

17.2

13.7

5.7

Justin Patton

7’0

230

19

20.5

67.6

67.1

8.0

19.0

13.8

5.9

Jakob Poeltl (2016)

7’0

248

20

22.7

64.6

66.6

11.9

22.1

17.4

5.0

Damian Jones (2016)

7’0

245

20

21.2

59.0

58.4

9.9

17.3

13.9

5.9

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

23.0

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

6.0

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

 

 

After a big 2015 for first-round centers in the draft, the position took a step back last season with only two players taken in the first round, and both players were basically non-factors as rookies. This year, there are at least five potential first round picks, though it is a young, inexperienced group. They are a bit smaller than we’ve seen recently, with only one seven-footer, but they are certainly a more athletic and agile group.

   

With four freshmen and one sophomore, this group is also missing a player who was one of his team’s top offensive options. On top of that, Ike Anigbogu was usually UCLA’s second player off the bench, and averaged less than 15 minutes per game. On top of that, Justin Patton was the only player of the five to average at least 20 points per 40 minutes, with none of the other four even topping 18. In the prior two seasons, four of the seven first-round picks topped 20 points per 40 minutes, and two of the remaining three, still topping 18 points per 40 minutes.

 

While the NBA has started to see the rise of big men who are more comfortable playing away from the basket, it still hasn’t become as prominent at the college level. This year’s group consists of five guys who played almost primarily around the basket, with Thomas Bryant, and on occasion, Patton, showing some ability to score away from the rim. The field goal percentages, on their own, don’t really provide any clues other than that the players were efficient scorers, with Bryant’s a bit lower than the rest since he did take more shots than the others away from the basket. Patton topped the list, hitting two-thirds of all his field goal attempts, and though not extremely skilled, he was able to score a lot in transition and dunks off penetration.

 

True shooting percentages can give us a little more insight, especially in trying to find where some of these big men contribute scoring in other ways. True shooting percentage accounts for two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws. With the exception of Bryant, none of the other four players had a true shooting percentage much higher than their field goal percentages, meaning they aren’t getting much of a contribution from the free throw line or three-point range. And while free throw percentage isn’t listed on the chart, a look at the numbers bears this out. Jarrett Allen, Anigbogu, and Patton, all have free throw percentages between 51 and 57-percent, while Adebayo is a bit better at 65-percent. Bryant, however, is a pretty good free throw shooter for a young big man, hitting 73-percent from the free throw line.

 

The next area to look at is rebounding, ideally looking for numbers that seem to fall on the very high or very low sides.  While no one really approached the 14+ offensive rebounding percentage of Karl towns or Jahlil Okafor, this group put up decent numbers on the offensive boards. Anigbogu topped the group at 13.2-percent, often displaying a good amount of energy in his limited minutes. Surprisingly, Patton, another player who was very active, had an offensive rebounding percentage of only 8-percent, one of the lowest numbers over the past three seasons looked at.

 

The defensive rebounding percentages were a bit closer among the five players, ranging from 17.2 to 19.9-percent. Anigbogu again topped the group, using his size well to carve out space around the basket. Patton did a better job on the defensive boards than he did on offense. In a bit of a surprise, Bam Adebayo, who often was much bigger and stronger than any of his opponents, finished middle of the road in both areas among these players. While these five were more closely grouped, they again lagged behind prior first-round picks the past few years, where four of the seven posted offensive rebounding percentages over 20. On the low end, the two lowest numbers from the past three years are from this year’s class – Adebayo and Bryant.

 

The last area I’ll look at on the defensive end is the block percentage of these big men. Last year’s group didn’t have very good rim protectors, and most of this year’s group is in line with their numbers. Even Anigbogu, who topped the group at 8.8, falls short of numbers of players like Towns and Myles Turner, who have showed that the ability translates to the next level. Now, this is a young group, and as mentioned earlier, they are an athletic group, so these numbers may not be indicative of ability, at this point. If there is one player who could break through, look for Jarrett Allen, who has the physical traits needed, but just needs to learn the nuances to getting into position and timing.

 

As we’ve seen through all five posts on the various positions, there is a ton of talent in this year’s draft, but there is a lot of inexperience, and the center position is no different. Five possible first-round picks, all under 20 years old, and not a whole lot to show statistically from their brief college careers, but that’s also why the numbers at the college level are more interesting to look at than very telling of any future potential. If you keep them in the right context, just small pieces of a big puzzle, you can see how they start to relate to the other pieces around them, and you get a better idea of all the information NBA teams need to deal with in making draft picks.

 




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