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NBA draft breakdown: The top 10 centers

Fab Melo

Syracuse’s Fab Melo, right, blocks the shot by Connecticut’s Andre Drummond during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. Syracuse won 85-67. (AP Photo/KevinRivoli)


All this week at CBT, we’ll be spotlighting the top players at each position for the 2012 NBA draft. Monday featured the top point guards; Tuesday was the shooting guards; Wednesday the small forwards; Thursday The power forwards. Today we wrap things up with the centers.

1. Andre Drummond (UConn)

We were all prepared to wait for Andre Drummond to mature a bit. Instead, his awkward stage lasted exactly two games. By game three of his freshman season, Drummond had posted his first double-double. He played 37 minutes against Florida State a few days later and was generally up to speed by the time Big East season began. Drummond was inconsistent in his brief DI sojourn, but his rangy athleticism and shot blocking abilities make NBA scouts drool.

2. Tyler Zeller (North Carolina)

Zeller is the perfect advertisement for a four-year stint in college. The gawky kid who averaged less than ten minutes per game as a freshman left Chapel Hill as a solid all-around pivot man. His senior stats were impressive: 55 percent shooting, 80 percent from the line and averages of 16.3 points, 9.6 boards and 1.5 blocks per game. His sturdy seven-foot frame and ability to run the floor are qualities any team would love to have.

3. Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)

Last year, Sullinger could have been the top center on this list, and in the running for top pick overall. In a surprise second season at Ohio State, the big man was expected to dominate. He was damn good by any measurement, posting 17 double-doubles, but he didn’t seem to progress much beyond what he had done the year prior. Sullinger’s weaknesses -- he’s a tad overweight and undertall -- were thoroughly exposed by Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey during the Final Four. Still, he’s a heady post player with some moves.

4. Meyers Leonard (Illinois)

Leonard made a massive leap from his freshman year to his sophomore season, becoming a force on the blocks. He may find it difficult to muscle up as many close-range shots as he did in college, where he shot 58 percent last season, but he’s 7'1" and reasonably sculpted. Leonard was inconsistent as a scorer, but his abilities as a shot blocker will likely earn him the right to wear a quadruple-breasted suit while shaking hands with David Stern.

5. Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State)

Moultrie started his career at UTEP before making the move to Starkville. His wandering ways paid off big-time, as the 6'11" Memphis native blossomed into a double-double machine, a vocal leader and a first-team all-SEC selection. There’s some concern that Moultrie may settle for jump shots a little too often, but if he can add a reliable post move or two, he’ll stick at the next level.

6. Fab Melo (Syracuse)

Melo led the Orange with 5.8 rebounds per game. Yep, led them. He’s an up-and-down scorer with a history of violent behavior off the court, so what’s he doing this high on the list? It’s all about defense. The big Brazilian sent back 10 errant shots in a December victory over Seton Hall, and ended up averaging nearly three blocks per game over the season. That’ll turn a few heads.

7. Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt)

Aside from the fact that we haven’t had a good Festus in the Association in, like, ever, Ezeli has the size and strength to play a role in the League. He won’t blow anyone away in any one category, but he’s got the physical tools to be a big body off the bench. There are worse ways to make a living.

8. Bernard James (Florida State)

The buzzword with James is experience. While he only spent two years at FSU, his six years tour in the Air Force turned him into a gritty, focused college basketball star. Sure, he’s already pushing thirty, but James left Tallahassee as the program’s third leading shot blocker of all time. After a two-year career. That toughness and an opportunistic nose for the ball make James a special player any team would love to have in the locker room.

9. Kyle O’Quinn (Norfolk State)

Throughout most of his career with the Spartans of the tiny MEAC, O’Quinn toiled in obscurity. He demonstrated his ability to alter shots early on, but went largely unnoticed until a fateful day in March, when he led his team to a stunning upset of the #2 seed Missouri Tigers. That one game against top competition made O’Quinn’s name, but he’s shown a lot of charm and a willingness to work his butt off to maintain his position. His easy on-camera patter doesn’t hurt, either.

10. Henry Sims (Georgetown)

Sims is a bit of a cypher. He’s big and long, with a 7'4" wingspan, but he’s a bit slender for interior play. He wasn’t much of a rebounder as a senior, nor was he a great scorer or shot blocker. Still, those long arms are intriguing, and could earn him an extended look as an expendable second-round selection.