Finding the right big man prospect in the NBA is a tall task in front offices. Especially as the role of a power forward and center has changed over the years, sometimes teams are left finding a needle in a haystack.
The development of big men from college to the NBA is crucial. Through the years, there are the stars that stand out as no-brainers, such as Karl Anthony-Towns, Zion Williamson and DeAndre Ayton. Yet there are still question marks from some hyped big man prospects. James Wiseman, Mo Bamba, Jaxson Hayes - while still young in their careers - have yet to pan out.
This year, Evan Mobley is the clear frontrunner of the power forward/center grouping. Behind him, there are slim pickings of options throughout the first round.
1. Evan Mobley, PF/C (USC)
2020/21 stats: 33 G, 16.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.9 bpg, 57.8 FG% (6.0/10.3), 30.0 3PT% (0.4/1.2), 69.4 FT%
Mobley is the highest-ranked big man prospect in this draft. He spent one season at USC and swept just about every award he could win: conference player of the year, conference defensive player of the year, consensus All-American, etc. He was the best player on a Trojans team that made it to the Elite Eight before losing to Gonzaga.
He is very agile for his size at 7-feet with good length. Mobley can run the floor, play above the rim and dart in and out of traffic in the midrange. He has the mobility of a slashing wing but at the size of a center. Mobley, though, will want to fill out his frame to get stronger around the rim. He's wiry and long, but could get pushed around by guys like Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. - Hughes
2. Kai Jones, PF/C (Texas)
2020/21 stats: 26 G, 8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 58.0 FG% (3.2/5.5), 38.2 3PT% (0.5/1.3), 68.9 FT%
In today's NBA, every team is looking for a big that can space the floor. There needs to be an ability to score from the perimeter in some fashion, even if posting up is the predominant element of their game. Well for Jones, shooting and scoring in the open floor is his strength.
There aren't many traditional post-ups in his game. Some work will need to be done on his shooting mechanics, but he's in the top tier of athletes in this class and a lethal lob threat in transition.
There are few players, especially bigs, that can legitimately guard all five positions on the floor. Enter Kai Jones here. One of his best skills is the denial of penetration into the lane. Whether it's holding his ground with a forward or using lateral movement to deny a guard, he's more than capable of keeping players away from the basket. He's no lock-down defender, but opponents that run a pick-heavy offense will despise seeing him. - Byrum
3. Alperen Sengun, PF/C (International)
Age: 18 (19 on draft night)
2020/21 stats: 29 G, 19.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.7 bpg, 64.6 FG% (7.0/10.8), 19.0 3PT% (0.1/0.7), 81.2 FT%
Sengun is the size of a power forward with a developed postgame and a strong track record as a rebounder. He's very crafty in the paint with spin moves and drop steps. He has good timing with his pump fakes and just generally seems to have a natural feel for the game. He will have to continue to develop counter moves to stay ahead of defenses at the NBA level.
One weakness for Sengun at this point would be his 3-point shooting. That will give teams some pause about his long-term ceiling, though the fact he shot over 80% from the free throw line is encouraging. In addition to shooting a high clip from the line, he also got there often, averaging 6.2 attempts per game. Sengun also happens to score efficiently because he's so good at finishing around the basket. So, it may just be a matter of range and continuing to gain confidence further away from the rim. - Hughes
4. Usman Garuba (International)
2020/21 stats: 38 G, 4.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 50.4 FG% (1.6/3.1), 27.5 3PT% (0.3/1.1), 62.3 FT%
Usman Garuba will get drafted in the first round for his on-ball defensive abilities and the all-around energy he brings to the floor. Throughout his professional career, Garuba has never had a huge offensive role, with his biggest offensive output coming at 5.6 points per game in Liga ACB this past season.
Most recently he was with Real Madrid in the EuroLeague and put up strong defensive-per 40 stats. He's a switchable defender that has impressive lateral quickness for a player his size. Additionally, he's a strong rebounder and a threat to push the pace in transition. - Byrum
5. Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky)
2020/21 stats: 25 G, 8.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.6 bpg, 54.0 FG% (3.0/5.5), 0.0 3PT% (0.0/0.1), 70.0 FT%
Isaiah Jackson will bring a huge added interior presence to whichever team drafts him this year. The upside he brings with his back facing the basket is tremendous and is a great rebounder that can get out and run. Any set play that involves a drive to the basket, Jackson is quick to nab a weakside block.
However, teams will have to figure out how to keep him involved on offense. Kentucky hid him as best they could and he was almost exclusively a dunker and putback option to get his points.
But if you need an offensive rebound on a key play, you can count on Jackson. - Byrum
Just missed the cut:
JT Thor (Auburn)