Commentary

Draft Watch: Top big men

Here's a look at the top 10 big men in the draft based on conversations with NBA scouts and GMs.

Originally Published: February 6, 2009
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com

Thabeet/MonroeDavid Butler II/US PresswireHasheem Thabeet and Greg Monroe stand tall among big-man draft candidates.
Last time we profiled the top wingmen in the country and found 10 players with a great shot of landing in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft. This week we look at the big men -- the power forwards and centers -- with a shot at the first round.

Here's a look at the top 10 big men in the draft based on conversations with NBA scouts and GMs. Make sure you check out our newly updated Top 100 as well.

1. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
The consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, Griffin has excellent athleticism and toughness and an NBA body. He is a great rebounder and has also become a vastly improved offensive player this season.

While he may not have the superstar potential of a Kevin Durant or Greg Oden, his willingness to bang down low and do the dirty work has won him fans in NBA circles.

2. Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown
On pure talent and potential, Monroe is the top prospect in the draft -- his combination of size and skill is rare. However, the key difference between Griffin and Monroe is production versus potential. While Griffin dominates virtually every night, Monroe is still inconsistent -- some nights he looks fantastic, other nights ... not so much.

While it's doubtful he can catch Griffin for the No. 1 spot in the draft, it's hard to see him falling out of the top three right now.


3. Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
The big guy from UConn is 7-foot-3. That alone will get him a look in the lottery. But NBA scouts also see his potential as an elite defender and shot-blocker in the pros -- Thabeet is pretty athletic and has great defensive instincts.

Offensively, Thabeet's game still has a long ways to go. So while the comparisons to Dikembe Mutombo may be a little much, Thabeet should be able to find a spot in the NBA as a shot-blocker and rebounder.


4. Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill's offensive improvement has gotten the attention. But it's his fantastic rebounding numbers this season that have NBA scouts in love with him. His athletic, high-motor game looks like a great fit in the NBA.

He still needs to add muscle to his frame, but more and more scouts and NBA executives are putting him somewhere between 5 and 10 on their draft boards.


5. B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
If Thabeet's position in the draft is based on potential, then Mullens' is about long-range potential. He has the size and athleticism to be a dominant player in the pros, but by all accounts, he is not ready for the NBA.

Only in the last month has he been able to put up anything consistent on either end of the floor. And there are also questions about whether he has the maturity, the basketball IQ or the drive to make it at the next level.

However, while everyone agrees that Mullens needs another season at Ohio State, someone will take a chance on him in the lottery if he declares this year.


6. Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
Aldrich doesn't have the athletic upside of Mullens or Thabeet, but he's a much better player on the offensive end of the floor than both of them. Not only does he have a number of moves in the paint, he's also a dead-eye from 18 feet out. His passing ability and rebounding have also caught the attention of scouts. And he gets up and down the floor pretty well.

With so many teams looking for help in the middle, Aldrich looks like a lock for the lottery if he declares.


7. Jerome Jordan, C, Tulsa
After getting off to a slow start this season, Jordan has been on fire lately, putting up big numbers in Conference USA play. A solid shot-blocker and rebounder, Jordan possesses great size and good athletic ability for a big man.

While he doesn't look like a superstar, he does have enough ability that someone will likely grab him in the late lottery or mid-first round.


8. Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech
Lawal has cooled off a bit, especially on the offensive end of the floor, after a terrific start to the season. Defensively, however, he remains an intriguing prospect as he's become a terrific rebounder and an excellent defender this season.

If he can have more scoring outbursts, like his 25-point game versus Wake Forest on Saturday, he'll be a legit late-lottery prospect. Right now we have him ranked as a mid-first-rounder.


9. Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
He's obviously one of the three or four best college players in the country, but there are still questions on whether or not his game will translate to the pros. Most NBA scouts and executives remain skeptical -- they think Hansbrough is undersized and lacking explosive athleticism. While he makes up for much of that with his energy and toughness in the paint, it may not be enough to put him over the top once he gets to the next level.

Still, someone will take him in the second half of the first round and he'll have a good shot of being a solid rotation player in the pros.


10. DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
There are a number of players who could've taken this last spot, but right now, Blair is the hottest name out there. He lacks the ideal height NBA teams look for in a 4, but his toughness, rebounding skills, long arms and soft hands make up for a lot of his shortcomings.

His 23-point, 22-rebound game against Notre Dame on Saturday was the type of performance that has catapulted him into a potential first-round pick.

Others ranked in the Top 100: Patrick Patterson, Kentucky; Michael Washington, Arkansas; Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State; James Johnson, Wake Forest; Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga; Craig Brackins, Iowa State; Derrick Brown, Xavier; Andrew Ogilvy, Vanderbilt; Michael Dunigan, Oregon; Ed Davis, North Carolina; DeShawn Sims, Michigan; Luke Harangody, Notre Dame; Tony Woods, Wake Forest; Vyacheslav Kravtsov, Ukraine; Samardo Samuels, Louisville; Taj Gibson, USC; Henk Norel, Netherlands; DeMarre Carroll, Missouri; Leo Lyons, Missouri; Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State

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Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

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Senior Writer, NBA Insider