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2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Centers

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Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals, Herb Pope,...

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals, Herb Pope, Seton Hall Pirates (Photo credit: MattBritt00)

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2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Small Forwards

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2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Point Guards

Here are my grades for the centers in the 2013 NBA Draft. The players I felt comfortable with ranking or worth it, are Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Jeff Withey, Gorgui Dieng, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Ryan Kelly, Mike Muscala, Bojan Dubljevic, Lucas Nogueira, Mason Plumlee, Colton Iverson, Jack Cooley.

My grades are from 1 to 11 in 3 categories: Physical impact talent, skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and feel for the game talent. The grades go by this rubric:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Here are my grades in the 3 categories first, before getting to individual breakdowns:

Physical impact talent grades:

Nerlens Noel: 9 / Elite

Rudy Gobert: 8 / Great

Lucas Nogueira: 8 / Great

Mason Plumlee: 8 / Great

Steven Adams: 7 / Very good

Jeff Withey: 7 / Very good

Alex Len: 6 / Decent

Gorgui Dieng: 5 / Average

Colton Iverson: 4 / Lacking

Ryan Kelly: 1 / Awful

Bojan Dubljevic: 1 / Awful

Mike Muscala: 1 / Awful

Jack Cooley: 1 / Awful

Noel is the top talent of this group, showing ultra-elite athleticism and shotblocking potential, albeit with a skinny frame. Gobert’s length also makes him a dynamic shotblocking threat. Nogueira and Withey are inferior versions of Noel physically, with athleticism and blocking potential, but skinny. Mason Plumlee has an impressive combination of explosiveness and strength for a 7 footer. Steven Adams has elite strength and length and decent athleticism. Len is very long, with decent athleticism but skinny weight. Dieng is an average athlete, but long. Colton Iverson has solid strength and length for a C. The rest of the Cs are very weak physical impact talents, with Kelly, Dubjlevic as stretch bigs and Muscala, Cooley as under the rim bigs.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

Ryan Kelly: 9 / Elite

Bojan Dubljevic: 8 / Great

Mike Muscala: 8 / Great

Gorgui Dieng: 7 / Very good

Alex Len: 6 / Decent

Jack Cooley: 5 / Average

Jeff Withey: 5 / Average

Rudy Gobert: 5 / Average

Colton Iverson: 5 / Average

Lucas Nogueira: 5 / Average

Mason Plumlee: 4 / Lacking

Nerlens Noel: 3 / Weak

Steven Adams: 3 / Weak

Kelly is an elite outside shooter and a likely stretch big in the NBA. Dubljevic and Muscala are also good and potentially great shooters for a C. Dieng has a perimeter jumpshot, some post moves and is an excellent passer. Len has decent touch and potential for a post and shooting game. Cooley, Withey, Gobert, Iverson, Nogueira have touch at the rim and the potential to add range. Plumlee, Noel and Adams have average to weak touch and lack post and shooting skill.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Mike Muscala: 9 / Elite

Alex Len: 8 / Great

Jeff Withey: 8 / Great

Bojan Dubjlevic: 8 / Great

Ryan Kelly: 8 / Great

Gorgui Dieng: 8 / Great

Jack Cooley: 7 / Very good

Colton Iverson: 6 / Decent

Steven Adams: 5 / Average

Lucas Nogueira: 5 / Average

Nerlens Noel: 3 / Weak

Mason Plumlee: 3 / Weak

Rudy Gobert: 2 / Very poor

Muscala has the closest to a special feel for the game for this group, as a permanently smooth, crafty player. Len, Withey, Dubljevic, Ryan Kelly, Gorgui Dieng also have excellently fluid positioning and instincts. Cooley and Iverson also seem to have an above average feel and fluidity. The rest are a mixed bag. Adams, Nogueira look to be average instead f poor. Noel, Plumlee, Gobert look like clear cut cases of below average feel and are robotic.

The individual breakdowns:

Blue Chip starter talent grades (Grades between 19-22)

Gorgui Dieng

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Gorgui Dieng has a great if not elite feel for the game, showing a smooth, watery offensive game and strong defensive anticipation and instincts. He also has a skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent game with a midrange jumpshot, strong passing for a center and some moves on the block, to go along with great touch around the basket.

Dieng however is just an average athlete, with some mobility to get to the basket but not explosiveness. His length does give him shotblocking potential to physically impact the game.

Dieng’s feel, length, touch, range and passing, make him a near surefire starter to me. He has star potential if his post and shooting skill game blows up. Deing reminds me a lot of the Gasol brothers.

Jeff Withey

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Withey’s biggest strength is his feel for the game, showing strong fluidity offensively and superb defensive timing and positioning. In physical impact talent he is an explosive athlete allowing him to attack the rim and play above the rim. Despite his amazing shotblocking career in college, because of average length I’m not convinced he’ll translate in this area – But any consistent blocking is another powerful way to physically impact the game. A skinny frame may hurt finishing at the rim and post defense.

Withey has great touch finishing at the basket, however is unproven as a skill player otherwise. His post game is raw and unlikely to develop with his frame, while he didn’t consistently lean on his midrange as a weapon, albeit he did take some this year. A 70%+ FT is encouraging for midrange shooting development potential.

I see Withey as a very likely starting C due to his feel, athleticism, shotblocking potential and touch at the basket. If he can develop a perimeter shooting range, all-star games are a possibility.

Alex Len

Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Alex Len has a smooth feel for the game, playing at an easy and controlled, fluid pace.

He has great length for a C which gives him upside making a physical impact blocking shots. In addition he is mobile enough to roll to the basket. Len right now is skinny, but has the frame to add weight, which may help his finishing and post defense. His physical impact potential is above average.

Finally, Len has decent touch at the basket, but is relatively raw as a post player. Adding strength to fill out his frame, gives him a big upside in the post. His midrange shot wasn’t a consistent weapon, albeit a solid FT% gives him a chance to develop shooting.

Len’s length and feel should give him enormous defensive potential. Offensively it’s unclear whether he’ll be a limited finisher or can develop into a go-to post player and midrange shooter. At best Len could be both a go-to inside/outside scorer and a defensive anchor, an enormous upside considering the rarity of those types of players. In the meantime he is likely to start due to his length and touch, health permitting.

Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grades (Grades between 17-18)

Lucas Nogueira

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Lucas Nogueira has similarities to Noel and Gobert. He has great explosiveness and mobility for a big man, which should give him upside attacking the rim and blocking shots. However he’s even skinnier than either which may hurt him defending the post and finishing.

Nogueira or “Bebe” is raw outside of his physical tools. He scores on garbage points around the rim without post ability or range. A FT% of 67% is solid and gives him some potential for range.

Nogueira has an average feel for the game, not looking stiff, but showing little above average craftiness either.

I see Nogueira is a high upside prospect, if he can develop a perimeter shooting game, he has the athletic tools and good enough feel to be a blue chipper. Nogueira may be the closest we’ve seen since to the version of Serge Ibaka Oklahoma City took when they found him, for whom developing a perimeter shooting game helped establish him as a starter.

Mike Muscala

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Muscala’s feel for the game is the best of this group, with a supreme craftiness, fluidity and timing making his offensive moves so effective.

Muscala relied on his post game in college, however because of a lack of strength, I don’t expect it to translate to well. More likely is he leans on a midrage jumpshot, which he hit well in college and an 80%+ career FT rate in college is a great sign for his mechanics. In addition, if he builds strength he has potential in the post due to his touch.

Naturally, the problem is physical tools. He is the below the rim athlete lacking strength and length for a C. Virtually his entire game will need to come from skill and feel, not physically impacting the game with his tools. He may be a defensive liability in the pros because of his physical tools.

Despite his physical limitations, Muscala chance at starting at C or PF looks very solid to me, due to his feel and likely inside/outside skill game.

Ryan Kelly

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent)

Ryan Kelly was one of the NCAA’s true stretch bigs, with two straight years over 40% from 3 and 80% from FT his chance of hitting NBA 3s is excellent, a rare skill worthy of a high skill impact (shoot, post pass) talent grade at C, or PF if he plays there.

He also has a high end feel for the game and a smooth, easy control to his game.

Kelly’s limitations are physically. It’s unlikely has the athleticism or strength to mix it up inside and score inside as a paint and his mobility may make him a defensive liability at the position.

One concern is his conditioning appears poor. Kelly has the talent to challenge a starting spot, but he needs to keep himself in shape.

Bojan Dubljevic

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Dubljevic is Europe’s answer to Muscala and Kelly in this draft. He shows an impressive skill game with range out to the 3pt line, which along with FT% over 80% shows his chance at hitting 3s in the NBA is solid. He played in the post in Europe, but may not have the size to translate that skill to the next level.

Dubljevic’s feel for the game is also excellent, showing natural adjusting, craftiness and fluidity in the post.

Dubljevic however is one of the least physically gifted players in the draft, as a short C with sluggish athleticism. He will likely be a perimeter orientated player, struggling to finish in the paint.

Dubjlevic’s physical tools may hurt his upside, but there is room in the NBA for 3 point or midrange shooters with a high feel for the game at PF/C in the NBA.

Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 14-16)

Steven Adams

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Adams is an impressive physical talent for a C. He has elite strength and frame for his position, great length and is relatively mobile, albeit not freakishly explosiveness. Adams has the tools to block shots, hold the post and do a decent job rolling to the basket physically.

The rest of his talent is a concern. Adams does not have an above average feel for the game, at times showing stiffness and awkwardness. I wouldn’t call Adams’ feel bad based on what I’ve seen, at times he shows some patience in the post – but average feels fair.

Adams is also a near blank slate as a skill player, lacking touch around the rim, post development or shooting range. Shooting a brutal 44.3% from the FT line as a freshman at Pittsburgh is also a poor sign that he has skill potential. I won’t go too low in the skill impact category based on both giving him the benefit of the doubt and because his strength presumably gives him some post potential, but it doesn’t look good.

Adams’ size and length for a C make him a clear NBA rotation player, however it’s unclear whether he’ll have the touch around the basket or feel to be anything more. Still, there is value in shotblockers in the NBA that may find him in a starting lineup on a good team at some point, even if raw.

Nerlens Noel

Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

As elite an athlete as it gets for a big man. Ultra explosive attacking the rim, finishing and blocking shots, with great mobility and agility. This led him to dominating the NCAA physically at a rare level. With the tools to lead the league in blocks which is a powerful physical impact tool for a center, he has huge physical impact potential at the next level. Strength issues present some issues finishing and guarding the post at C.

The rest of Nerlens’ talent is questionable. He has a subpar feel for the game by playing relatively stiff, robotic and needing to rush plays, instead of a natural and easy pace to his game. Furthermore Nerlens’ skill game is a problem with weak hands and touch, lacking any post game with his present skinny frame and lacking any shooting range. A 52.9% FT clip is a poor sign for his touch and shooting potential.

With the present skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade I gave him, Nerlens would project as a 3rd big providing energy and shotblocking as a change of pace. However his skill could be better or worse than the grade I gave him. It’d be a big help if he could develop Serge Ibaka-like range, which may also allow him to play PF. The downside is he ends up having no hands, touch or offensive skill game at all in the pros, which with his weak feel may push him down to near unplayable status. I consider Noel a major risk even before getting to his health concerns, albeit with the upside of a starter and blue chip player.

Rudy Gobert

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Rudy Gobert has an amazing 7’2 height with 7’9 wingspan, which with mobility gives him real shotblocking potential in the NBA. Gobert is a decent athlete who can roll to the rim and has agility for his size. A rail thin frame may hurt his finishing and post defense, but overall Gobert seems to deserve a great physical impact talent grade.

Gobert also has excellent hands and touch around the rim. This is enough for a respectable grade in skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent for me, though it’s unclear whether he’ll have any semblance of a post game or shooting range. Hitting 70%+ of his FTs is a sign he can develop a perimeter shot.

Rudy’s weakness is his feel for the game looks very poor compared to this class. He plays with unnatural stiffness and is robotic, to put it lightly. Gobert’s touch gives him an offensive role in the NBA even if at a low volume and if he can develop a midrange jumpshot, he may be very valuable offensively. Defense is likely to be a mixed bag between his shotblocking which is valuable, but then his lack of strength and likely lack of defensive awareness and feel, which could hurt his team. Either way, Gobert looks to be a likely long term NBA player and like Adams may find himself in a starting lineup due to the rarity of length and shotblocking, especially if his skill game comes through.

Mason Plumlee

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Mason Plumlee is a strong athlete for a C, showing explosiveness attacking the basket and a solid strength level for a 7 footer.

He has a relatively limited skill game, scoring garbage points around the basket with just average hands and touch. He lacks post ability or shooting range, albeit a solid FT% his last year is somewhat encouraging he can develop range.

Mason also has a weak feel for the game, showing a stiff and robotic game, instead of natural fluidity and craftiness.

If Plumlee can rebound well at the next level he can carve out an NBA career, but it’s hard to imagine more than a 3rd big even if he develops perimeter range, while he’s at risk of washing out of the NBA if he can’t finish plays at the basket offensively or struggles to physically impose himself.

Colton Iverson

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Colton Iverson is a legitimate 7 footer with a wide frame, which should give him a role as a poster defender at the next level. His athleticism and mobility is solid, but unspectacular.

Iverson’s offensive game is largely limited to finishing around the rim, with his touch and strength to hold position. Having touch around the rim is a useable offensive role for a center. A 58.5% FT is not a great sign for developing shooting range.

He also has a solid feel for the game, showing some craftiness at the rim at times, though not at a standout level.

Iverson is a perfectly average center prospect, proving some size, mobility, touch and feel, none in great amounts, but without large weaknesses either. At the center position if Colton can be a post defender who reliably makes help rotations, can finish at the rim and plays hard, he can challenge a starting spot as a role player. If he wants to approach blue chip status, the best chance is to develop a perimeter shooting game, which may make him very useful offensively.

Deep bench to Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 12-13)

Jack Cooley

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 13 (Rotation player talent grade)

Jack Cooley has a good feel to his game, showing the ability to adjust, control and craftiness around the basket, which made his game very effective this year. His instincts also led to his excellent rebounding in college.

Cooley has strong touch around the basket but his offensive game is limited otherwise, without a perimeter shooting game, while as an undersized C it will be difficult for his post game to translate despite impressive strength. A solid 70.3% FT is somewhat encouraging he can develop a jumpshot.

Cooley is unimpressive physically, as a C with below average length who’s a below the rim athlete who may struggle defensively at the next level.

Cooley is the type of player who’d benefit if he had the mobility to play PF instead of C, where his strength may give him most post potential. If he sticks at C, his touch and rebounding numbers likely gives him a spot in the NBA long term, but more than a backup seems a stretch.

Factors outside of talent grades: Noel tore his ACL in college and had another season ending surgery on the same knee in high school. Kelly had surgery on his foot and reportedly has conditioning issues. Len had surgery after a stress fracture in his ankle. Dubljevic is signed for some time on his ACB team and could be years away from coming to the NBA. Nogueira’s buyout is also significant and could be difficult to bring over immediately. Nogueira reportedly has character concerns. Gobert’s buyout doesn’t appear to be scary, but still could be a problem.

If ranking the Cs by upside, I would rank it: 1. Alex Len 2. Gorgui Dieng 3. Jeff Withey 4. Lucas Nogueira 5. Mike Muscala 6. Ryan Kelly 7. Nerlens Noel 8. Steven Adams 9. Rudy Gobert 10. Bojan Dubljevic 11. Colton Iverson 12. Mason Plumlee 13. Jack Cooley. The rawer prospects like Nogueira, Noel, Adams, Gobert are favored in this, if they make a huge leap forward in skill. If ranking by downside (a high ranking is better), I’d rank it: 1. Gorgui Dieng 2. Jeff Withey 3. Alex Len 4. Mike Muscala 5. Ryan Kelly 6. Bojan Dubljevic 7. Colton Iverson 8. Mason Plumlee 9. Lucas Nogueira 10. Jack Cooley 11. Rudy Gobert 12. Steven Adams 13. Nerlens Noel Likewise, prospects like Gobert, Adams, Noel are in bigger danger of not providing any value if they lack any skill game.

My overall ranking of Cs and where I’d consider taking them:

1. Gorgui Dieng (top 5)
2. Jeff Withey (top 5)
3. Alex Len (top 5)
4. Lucas Nogueira (top 20)
5. Mike Muscala (top 20)
6. Ryan Kelly (top 30)
7. Colton Iverson (top 40)
8. Bojan Dubjlevic (top 40)
9. Steven Adams (top 40)
10. Rudy Gobert (top 40)
11. Nerlens Noel (top 40)
12. Mason Plumlee (top 50)
13. Jack Cooley (top 50)

My cumulative rankings now that I’ve ranked all positions: (*Note: If you’ve read my previous rankings, you’ll see my Dennis Schroeder ranking is very different than I originally pegged. This was just based on a stupid mistake I had made not seeing Schroeder’s stats in his German league before, where I learned how excellent shooting season he had with 40.2% from 3 on many attempts and 83.8% FT, I had assumed his reptuation as a jumpshot-less player was based on poor shooting numbers in Europe. This addition to new footage showing his feel for the game is more impressive than I thought, vastly changed my ranking of him. I also saw footage showing his athleticism and feel better, that slightly revised my rating of Giannis Antetokounmpo in a favorable light. Finally, one of Ricky Ledo’s coaches called him the worst human being he’s met in basketball, so that makes me wary about him!)

1. PF Anthony Bennett (top 3)
2. PG Dennis Schroeder (top 3)
3. SG Victor Oladipo (top 3)
4. PF Kelly Olynyk (top 3)
5. C Gorgui Dieng (top 3)
6. C Jeff Withey (top 3)
7. C Alex Len (top 3)
8. PF Kenny Kadji (top 7)
9. PG C.J. McCollum (top 7)
10. PF Jackie Carmichael (top 7)
11. SG Ben McLemore (top 7)
12. SF Tony Snell (top 10)
13. SF Otto Porter (top 10)
14. SF Sergey Karasev (top 10)
15. PG Trey Burke (top 10)
16. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (top 10)
17. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 14)
18. PG Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
19. PF Cody Zeller (top 14)
20. PG Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
21. SF Solomon Hill (top 14)
22. C Lucas Nogueira (top 20)
23. C Mike Muscala (top 20)
24. PG Myck Kabongo (top 20)
25. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
26. PF C.J. Leslie (top 20)
27. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
28. PG Erick Green (top 20)
29. PG Shane Larkin (top 20)
30. PG Nate Wolters (top 20)
31. PG Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
32. PG Pierre Jackson (top 20)
33. C Ryan Kelly (top 30)
34. PF James Southerland (top 30)
35. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
36. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
37. SF Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
38. PF Grant Jerrett (top 30)
39. PF Deshaun Thomas (top 30)
40. PF Erik Murphy (top 30)
41. PF Dario Saric (top 30)
42. PF Brandon Davies (top 30)
43. SF Adonis Thomas (top 30)
44. PG Michael Carter-Williams (top 40)
45. SF Reggie Bullock (top 40)
46. C Colton Iverson (top 40)
47. C Bojan Dubjlevic (top 40)
48. C Steven Adams (top 40)
49. C Rudy Gobert (top 40)
50. C Nerlens Noel (top 40)
51. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
52. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
53. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
54. PF Livio Jean-Charles (top 40)
55. PF Richard Howell (top 40)
56. C Mason Plumlee (top 40)
57. C Jack Cooley (top 50)
58. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 50)
59. PF Tony Mitchell (top 50)
60. PG Phil Pressey (top 50)
61. PG Ray McCallum (top 50)
62. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 50)
63. PF D.J. Stephens (top 60)
64. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

This list it not a final ranking, I will look it over post a final list of my talent grades and overall rankings sometime before the draft.

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