2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 centers


2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 centers

In the days leading up to the NBA Draft, College Basketball Talk's Scott Phillips and Bulls Talk contributor Mark Strotman are analyzing the top 5 players at each position.

Today the pair look at centers.

Be sure to take a look back at their top 5 point guards analysistop 5 shooting guards analysistop 5 small forwards analysis and top 5 power forwards analysis too.

Scott Phillips

1. Karl Towns, Kentucky: On a loaded Kentucky team last season, Towns was the go-to scorer in late-game situations and he can also defend at the rim and rebound. With his ability to hit jumpers, Towns can also space the floor as a big man, which NBA teams covet.

2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: One of the most polished post scorers in years, Okafor has great size for a post scorer and shot 66 percent from field. Also a good passer, Okafor will need to improve as a pick-and-roll defender and his shot-blocking ability if he wants to make a lasting impact.

3. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Standing over 7-feet, Cauley-Stein is a tremendous athlete who uses his quickness to defend multiple positions and get back to the rim to protect it. He's improved playing against future pros at Kentucky the last three seasons and he can catch lobs with the best of them.

4. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Some might put Kaminsky as a power forward, but he could also be used as a stretch five who is quicker than opposing centers. Kaminsky improved all four seasons at Wisconsin and shot 41 percent from 3 as a senior.

5. Myles Turner, Texas: The Longhorns center spent one year on campus and was productive while also measuring well at the NBA Draft combine. Does he move well laterally to be a good NBA defender?

Mark Strotman

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: I love Towns' upside, but when you have a player as offensively skilled as Okafor you simply can't pass on him. Both players will have phenomenal careers, but Okafor is out to prove the back-to-the-basket big isn't dead in the NBA.

2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky: In addition to his solid post game and defensive prowess, Towns is an active passer, quick in the passing lanes and a beast on the glass. He's going to be the foundation of the Timberwolves for the next decade.

3. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: The best defensive player in the draft, Cauley-Stein is stellar in pick-and-roll situations, great at protecting the basket and finds missed shots for rebounds. He's the total defensive package. Tyson Chandler comparisons are valid.

4. Myles Turner, Texas: Range, athleticism and a great locker room presence. At just 19, Turner has all the makings of a starting NBA center. But he'll need to put it all together and do so in a more NBA-ready body.

5. Robert Upshaw, Washington: If, and it's a gigantic if, Upshaw can handle his off-the-court business he will be a defensive stopper for years to come. He's that talented a shot blocker. But again, it's a major, major "if."

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing


There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges


NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.