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2010 NBA Draft Prospects - Centers

This is part six of Matt Patton's look at the June 24 NBA Draft.
Point Guards | Shooting Guards | Slashers | Small Forwards | Power Forwards

Basketball axiom #1: You can't teach tall.

There are a lot of things that you can argue are hard to teach, but the age-old rule above will stand forever.  That rule is why a team will pick up Duke's Brian Zoubek knowing that his best-case scenario is Zydunas Ilgauskas sans the "jump"-er (Zoubek actually should be an offensive rebounding machine, so I guess that averages them out).  It's also why someone will take a man who averaged 3 points and 3 rebounds a game in the first round (possibly the lottery!).  Most importantly, basketball axiom #1 is why the GM who does take Daniel Orton might not be making a mistake.

DeMarcus Cousins (Freshman, Kentucky): DeMarcus Cousins was the most dominant and most efficient center in almost all aspects of college basketball last season (including fouls).  Cousins averaged 15 points and almost 10 rebounds in only 23.5 minutes a game.  If he had been able to play 40 minutes, Cousins would have a jaw-dropping 25.7 points and 16.7 rebounds (7 of which would be offensive) a game.  Cousins was best in half-court sets, and he has the most polished post moves of any of the big men in this year's draft.  He was a monster on the offensive boards with fantastic hands and surprisingly quick feet for a 292 pound man.  (How many times did you see him catch his defender leaning and spin to the basket for an easy bucket?  If you say "Not that many," then you didn't watch Cousins very much last year.) 

While Cousins should be an instant impact player, a lot of questions remain about his maturity and work ethic.  I won't guarantee Cousins will avoid the Derrick Coleman route, but I think he really matured as the season went along (there were still plenty of shots of Cousins sulking on the bench or looking like he might eat the referee, but he managed to play 26 minutes against Wake Forest's Chas McFarland in the tournament without throwing a single punch).  The other major concern about Cousins is his conditioning.  While fouls were a big part of not playing 40 minutes, I'm not sure he could've played many more minutes: he looked winded a lot between plays, and Cousins was often the recipient of at least one "I never made it back on defense, John Wall got a steal, so I get a free dunk" play a game.  All in all, I'd say concerns about Cousins are more bark than bite: he should be a productive center from the get go, and last season made him deserving of the top 5 pick he'll receive.

Cole Aldrich (Junior, Kansas): You know what you're getting when you draft Cole Aldrich.  He'll probably never be an All-Star, but he won't be a bust either.  Is that worthy of a top ten pick?  I don't know; truthfully, it depends on how badly I need a center.  Aldrich should be a good defender in the NBA, even if he's not the most athletic guy on the floor.  Like Udoh, his shot-blocking should translate well to the next level.  He's also one of the best centers at utilizing the pick-and-roll.  He's more mobile than many centers his size, but he's not going to be be winning many lateral races in the NBA.  Aldrich should be able to account for his speed handicap with his solid footwork in the post. 

I think Aldrich's biggest downside will be his ability to disappear.  This season, he had a tendency to become invisible on the offensive end for extended periods of time.  I don't know how much of that was Aldrich's fault, but I never got the feeling he could take over a game.  That shouldn't actually hurt Aldrich too much at the next level, where he's almost certain to be a role player.  No NBA team will build its offense around him, so it won't hurt as much to have him AWOL for a couple offensive possessions a game.  I can see Aldrich starting, or at least playing significant minutes, for 8 points and 8 rebounds a game next year.

Note: Thanks to the writers of DraftExpress for publishing all of the Pre-Draft Measurements.

Submitted by Matt Patton, Special to Big 12 Hoops