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2003 NBA Draft: Top 10 centers

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2003 NBA Draft: Top 10 centers

By Chad Ford

NBA Insider

Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, May 1

Coming up with a Top 10 centers list is a little bit like trying to put together a list of ten reasons to move to Bristol. After you get past one or two, you have to start making stuff up.

We've known for a long time that good centers were going the way of the dodo bird and real blondes. Blame it on global warming, a bad diet or the axis of evil, but it's easier to find an "I voted for Bush-Cheney" bumper sticker in North Korea than it is to find a decent big man in the NBA draft.

Last year we got Yao Ming, who the media quickly anointed the second best center in the league behind Shaq. This from a guy who averaged 13.5 ppg and 8.2 rpg.

After Yao, the next best center was Curtis Borchardt who played zero games this season.

In 2001 we got Eddy Curry (who's coming along quite nicely), Jason Collins (he's OK) and Samuel Dalembert.

The 2000 draft gave us Joel Przybilla, Jason Collier, Jamaal Magloire, Dalibor Bagaric, Jake Tsakalidis, Mamadou N'diaye and Primoz Brezec. But hey, one for seven isn't bad.

Teams are getting desperate. This year, the top center prospect dominated at Central Michigan. The next top prospect was virtually unknown until Insider stumbled upon a scout who had stumbled upon him in Siberia. The next two guys are still in high school. And then there's the 7-foot-6 guy from Yugoslavia who can't get in the game (blame the coach not Slavko).

Here's a look at the Top 10 centers expected to declare for the 2003 NBA Draft. By way of warning, it's ugly folks. . .

Also see: Top 15 PF | Top 15 SF | Top 15 SG | Top 15 PG | Top 15 International

Note: The list includes all players seriously considering entering the 2003 draft. An asterisk (*) by a player's name indicates he is an underclassman who has officially declared.

1. Chris Kaman, Central Michigan*

The line: 7-0, 255, Junior

The skinny: Kaman is quickly becoming the "sleeper" in this year's draft. He's a legit 7-footer, has a nice frame and ranked among national leaders in rebounding (No. 3, 12.2 a game), scoring (No. 16, 22.5 ppg) and blocked shots. He's an above-average athlete for someone his size. He's no stiff. Kaman is very mobile and is equally comfortable facing the basket or backing down someone on the post. He's got a soft shooting touch with decent range. Good free throw shooter for a big man. Kent State coach Jim Christian had the line of the year about Kaman. "If this guy was from Slovenia, and didn't speak English, the NBA would call him a top-five pick right now," Christian said. Christian may be right. He's a definite lottery pick. Once he gets into workouts (he's training with Michael Jordan's trainer, Tim Grover), he could work his way into the Top 5.

2. Pavel Podkolzin, Russia

The line: 7-4, 300, 18 years old

The skinny: After the story on Podkolzin appeared in Insider in December, representatives from 18 NBA teams have made the their way to Varese to watch the 18-year-old giant play. While admitting that he is very raw, and only now beginning to get playing time in Italy, most of the teams that have seen him play claim that he'd be a late-lottery to mid-first-round-pick if he puts his name in the draft this year. Sources in Europe continue to tell Insider that Pavel will put his name in the draft. Obviously, teams are enamored with his huge frame. But it's another attribute that makes him something more than George Muresan. "He's a legitimate athlete," one NBA executive told Insider. "I'm not saying that he's Vince Carter, but he's got above average athletic skills for his size. He runs the floor well and he's pretty active. He's a big-time project, but at 18, he's probably worth it."

3. Edu Hernandez, Spain

The line: 7-0, 240, 20 years old

The skinny: Teams have had their eye on Hernandez for a while. He's very skilled, has a soft touch around the basket, can hit the open jumper and is a good rebounder and shot blocker. He doesn't mind contact in the paint and he's a decent athlete. He doesn't have the strength or toughness to play in the league just yet and seemed to regress a bit at Real Madrid this year. Word is he may wait another year before declaring, but he's a late first rounder, early second rounder if he declares now.

4. Kendrick Perkins, Texas

The line: 6-10, 270, HS Senior

The skinny: Perkins is a brick in the middle. He's big, tough and loves to play with his back to the basket. Some claim he's the best big man to come out of Texas since Shaq. But there are problems. He's undersized to play center in the pros. He's not an athlete and has developed a reputation for not playing hard. He should go to college, put Perkins is itching to get into the NBA now. He's a borderline first rounder if he declares.

5. James Lang, Alabama

The line: 6-11, 300, HS Senior

The skinny: Scouts feel the other dominant high school big man, Lang, is more skilled than Perkins. He's a talented scorer around the basket and knows how to use his body to get separation. He's also fundamentally very solid. However, Lang has even more serious conditioning issues. He dropped 70 pounds this year just to get down to 300. Scouts consider him a good athlete and love how aggressively he plays the game. He's a solid rebounder and a good shot blocker, but stamina is a major issue. He also is very foul prone. If he went to school and proved to scouts he could stay in great shape, he'd be a lottery pick in a few years. As it stands now, he has an outside chance at the first round if he works out well and stays in shape.

6. Slavko Vranes, Yugoslavia*

The line: 7-6, 250, 19 years old

The skinny: He's huge. He's very raw offensively, but he isn't a stiff either. He can run the floor, block shots and has enough meat on him to defend in the league. He's not ready for the NBA but that doesn't mean that NBA teams won't take a shot on him in the late first round, early second round.

7. Chris Marcus, Western Kentucky

The line: 7-1, 285, Western Kentucky

The skinny: Two years ago Marcus was a sure-fire lottery pick. But Marcus decided he wasn't ready for the NBA life and it has cost him dearly. Foot injuries have kept him from playing the last two season and his stock has crashed and burned. He has the skills and size, but not the athleticism scouts love in a center. His foot will scare just about everyone off. Unless he can play in Chicago, get a clean bill of health, prove he's in great shape and can play his heart out, Marcus is a second rounder. It's a pretty sad story.

8. Marquis Estill, Kentucky

The line: 6-10, 236, Senior

The skinny: He plays like a center, but Estill will probably have to make the move to power forward in the pros because of his size (scouts claim he's much closer to 6-foot-8). Estill knows how to score in the low post and his big 28-point game against Wisconsin in the tournament helped his stock. But he's got a tough road ahead of him. Someone will take a shot one him in the second round.

9. Will McDonald, South Florida

The line: 6-10, 255, Senior

The skinny: McDonald was the PIT's second-leading scorer with 19.3 ppg and 11.7 rpg. The biggest challenge for McDonald is proving to scouts he's tough enough and big enough to play center in the pros. Most likely, he'll have to make the transition from center to power forward. He doesn't have the greatest face-up game which will hurt him.

10. Jason Keep, San Diego

The line: 6-11, 276, Senior

The skinny: He looks like a skin head biker on steroids, but that's probably his biggest strength. He isn't the tallest or most athletic guy, but he manhandled everyone in Portsmouth. He's never going to put up big numbers for a team, but who wouldn't love to have this guy come in and hack the hell out of Shaq for 15 minutes a game.

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