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YODA’s top big men in the 2021 NBA Draft

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-USC vs Gonzaga
The top center in the draft is USC’s Evan Mobley.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With guards, forwards and a podcast in the rearview mirror, it’s time to point Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA) on the big man prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft.

YODA is my stat-based draft analysis tool. It includes statistical production and other key factors that help determine future NBA success such as age, level of competition, physical attributes and athleticism. Final YODA rankings will be posted tomorrow morning.

The guards group included points guards, shooting guards and combo guards. The forwards group contained small forwards, swingmen (guys who can likely play shooting guard or small forward), and forwards (guys who can play either forward spot). Bigs are power forwards, centers and PF/C types.

In YODA, there are two big men at the top followed by a huge step down to the rest. Overall, bigs are the weakest position group in this year’s draft, after the top two. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Evan Mobley, F/C, USC — Long and athletic, Mobley has outstanding agility and plenty of reason to think he can be a high-quality NBA center. Like any teenager, he’ll need to get stronger, and it’s conceivable he can improve his shooting enough to play PF regularly. The numbers suggest his best position will be in the middle.
  2. Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas — At age 18, Sengun had a wildly productive season in a good professional league — a 64.1% effective field goal percentage, 67.4% on twos, 79.4% on free throws, plus 12.4 rebounds, 3.8 assist, 1.9 steals (excellent for a big) and 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes. But, there are questions about whether he’ll be able to play the same style successfully in the NBA given questions about his size and athleticism.
  3. Kai Jones, F/C, Texas — An impressive athlete who remains raw. His rebounding (8.5 per 40 minutes) was low for a C, but he shot decently on low volume from three-point range and exhibited no playmaking ability. To add to the conundrum, his steal numbers are nice for a big (1.5 per 40), but his blocks are unimpressive (1.6 per 40).
  4. Filip Petrusev, F/C, Mega Soccerbet — Petrusev opted out of his junior year at Gonzaga to play in Serbia. That seemed to work for him: he was MVP the Basketball League of Serbia, a good professional league. He’s an excellent shooter who scores efficiently around the basket and rebounds effectively. Defense, passing and overall athleticism are question marks.
  5. Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky — Strengths: rebounding and blocked shots (5.0 per 40). Concerns: just 54.8% on twos (low for a big man), twice as many turnovers as assists, and rampant fouling (5.8 per 40).
  6. Usman Garuba, F/C, Real Madrid — Undersized big with a seriously limited offensive game. But, he’s a freak athlete and elite defender who can legitimately switch all five positions. He’s the kind of player who’d make sense in the late first or early second round.
  7. Day’Ron Sharpe, C, UNC — Big time rebounder (15.8 per 40 minutes) who couldn’t finish inside (52.3% on twos), just 50.5% on free throws, and somehow just 1.9 blocks per 40. He produced 3.0 assists per 40 (decent) but with 4.1 turnovers (not too good).
  8. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky — Scored inside, grabbed rebounds and blocked shots against relatively weaker competition. Showed no passing ability. Talented, though a bit ground-bound. Project center type.
  9. Matthew Hurt, PF, Duke — Stretch-four profile. Terrific shooter (44.4% on threes) who finished well inside (63.9% on twos) and...not much else. Subpar rebounding, no playmaking, not much defense. Still, there’s a place in the NBA for 6-9 guys who can catch-and-shoot (hi there, Davis Bertans).
  10. Moses Wright, PF, Georgia Tech — Considered to be athletic, but it doesn’t really pop in the numbers. Just 54.3% on twos, decent but unexceptional blocks and steals. Decent on the offensive glass but not driven to dominate defensive boards. Has some stretch-four potential (41.4% on a low volume of threes), but he’ll have to stop turning down open looks from outside.

Other bigs with second round or “take a look as undrafted free agent scores”:

  • Neemias Queta, C, Utah State
  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova
  • Santi Aldama, PF, Loyola (MD)
  • Jay Huff, C, Virginia
  • JT Thor, PF, Auburn
  • Luke Garza, C, Iowa

Tomorrow: the 2021 YODA Draft Board.