No Doubting Center Of Attention
Spencer Hawes
Spencer Hawes
Scout National Basketball Columnist
Posted Jun 24, 2007


It brings "stating the obvious" to an absurd level, but the best center prospect and the guy who will be selected No. 1 Thursday night in the 2007 NBA Draft are one and the same.

And, last but not least . . .

 

The centers!

 

The last of the positions to get our once-over is headed up by the most dominating/intriguing true center (if you’d prefer to refer to Tim Duncan as a power forward) to come out of the college ranks since what’s-his-name – oh, yeah . . . Shaquille O’Neal . . . was at LSU.

 

And, by the way: Is there anyone else who is getting a chuckle out of the way Portland continues to try to convince people that there truly is a mystery as to whether it will opt for that center, Greg Oden, or that slender scoring prodigy, Kevin Durant?

 

Anyway, a quick look at the biggest and best of the bigs . . .

 

Greg Oden (*6-11, 257, Fr., Ohio State)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: LOL. Yes, this is where I write “What’s not to like?” He’ll influence the outcome of nearly every game he plays immediately via his rebounding and shot-blocking abilities. Within a couple of months, he’ll be doing the same thing offensively as well.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: Is there some truth to the speculation that he may be just too nice of a fellow for his own on-court good at times?

FRANK SAYS: Does anyone have any suggestions for new and spiffy ways to write “He may very well be the most dominant low-post presence in the NBA for 12 years or so”?

WHERE HE GOES: He’ll get the first on-stage handshake of the evening from David Stern Thursday.

 

Spencer Hawes (*6-10 ½, 244, Fr., Washington)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: The 19-year-old has a litany of offensive skills, with either-hand jump hooks, turnaround bankers from as much as 17 feet away, and pick-and-pop efficiency. Contrary to the thinking of some, he’s considerably more than just an “average” athlete as well.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: How quickly will it take for him to pick up the upper- and lower-body strength he’ll need to keep from being shoved around the block by the veteran post players in the NBA?

FRANK SAYS: His face-up offensive skills exceed those of all power forward prospects in this pool not named Kevin Durant or Yi Jianlian

WHERE HE GOES: As soon as No. 7 (Minnesota) and no later than No. 12 (Philadelphia).

 

Tiago Splitter (6-11, 245, 22, Brazil)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: He’s received an immense amount of top-flight competition during his professional experience in Spain and years of service with the Brazilian national program. He is strong, aggressive and has enough offensive skill to play either post spot on the NBA level.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: Will he stay overseas for at least a year until his buyout with his team in Spain drops to a more manageable figure?

FRANK SAYS: There is no consensus as to whether he projects as a more productive pro than another Brazilian post, Anderson Varejao (Cleveland Cavaliers).

WHERE HE GOES: Anywhere in the 15 to 25 range in the first round.

 

Kyrylo Fesenko (7-0, 240, 20, Ukraine)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: Athletically (running, jumping and vertical and lateral explosiveness), he’s second only to Greg Oden among players in this draft pool that are projected as “fives” once they get to the NBA.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: Since he doesn’t turn 21 until Dec. 24 and is, by all accounts, lacking in polish, does he spend another season playing overseas or in the development league?

FRANK SAYS: His inclusion in the first round would leave a lot of the fringe followers of the Draft saying in unison “Now, who is he again?”

WHERE HE GOES: Somewhere in the first round to someone who doesn’t feel pressured to get immediate in-game productivity from him, perhaps Phoenix (24 or 29), San Antonio (28) or Detroit (15 or 27).

 

Aaron Gray (7-0, 271, Sr., Pittsburgh)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: Played against elite-level (in the Big East Conference) competition as a three-year starter for Pittsburgh and was a far better player as a college senior than most who saw him as a high school senior figured he would be. He showed considerable progress from the end of the regular season until the Pre-Draft Camp in terms of conditioning and strength.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: Will he ever be more than a “serviceable, journeyman/spot player”?

FRANK SAYS: The withdraw from the Draft pool of Ante Tomic (Croatia) and DeVon Hardin (California) moved him a couple of notches upward in the center food chain.

WHERE HE GOES: He’ll likely hear his name called somewhere in the 25 to 35 range.

 

Nick Fazekas (6-11, 235, Sr., Nevada)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: He’s an exceptional shooter, from the mid range extending to about 19 feet and has more low-post scoring moves than anyone at this position other than Spencer Hawes. He’s got exceptional hands and is a much more forceful rebounder than many realize.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: Is he strong enough to match up against bulky post players down low or nimble enough, defensively, to go out on the floor and guard the bigger/skilled four men in the NBA?

FRANK SAYS: Other than, perhaps, Alando Tucker (Wisconsin), no senior received as much scrutiny from NBA talent evaluators over four years of college action than Fazekas did.

WHERE HE GOES: Depending on who else is still on the board, one of those (San Antonio, Phoenix and Philadelphia) in the final three slots of the first round could select him.

 

Marc Gasol (7-0, 260, 22, Spain)

WHAT’S TO LIKE: His bloodlines don’t hurt, of course. And he’s proven his mettle as a pro and as a member of the Spanish team that won the World Championships last summer. He’s a solid “position” rebounder and defender, with a pair of reliable hands and a relatively solid offensive repertoire, minus the ability to play consistently at or above the rim.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER: As is the concern with Aaron Gray, is he really headed for “career backup” status in the NBA?

FRANK SAYS: He’s a proven commodity if someone whose “upside” isn’t nearly as expansive as the some of the players (including Fenesko) without his savvy and experience who probably will be chosen before him Thursday night.

WHERE HE GOES: Like Gray, probably in the 25 to 35 stratosphere.

 

OTHERS WHO COULD BE DRAFTED INCLUDE (mid to late second round): Darryl Watkins (*6-8 ¾, 241, Sr., Syracuse); Kyle Visser (*6-10, 242, Sr., Wake Forest).

 

*Height and weight at the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando; others are estimated or what was listed on their college rosters.



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at www.frankhoops.com



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