Bulls

2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 centers

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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."

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.