Teams follow one of two selection theories when making their choices -- drafting according to need or drafting the best available player regardless of position. We're here to help with the first option through a weekly series of position comparisons, ranked and evaluated by NBA.com's Draft analyst, Brad Greenberg.
Greenberg brings 22 years of successful NBA and NCAA management and coaching experience to NBA.com as our player personnel expert. His roles included eight years in the personnel department of the Portland Trail Blazers and a stint as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was during Greenberg's tenure that the Sixers drafted league MVP Allen Iverson. He is currently serving as the director of basketball operations at the University of South Florida.
The big name in big men for NBA Draft 2002 is of course, China's 7-5 center Yao Ming. He's the player getting the most hoopla, but that doesn't mean there aren't other post players -- both American and international worth a close look for all the teams that are in need of size and don't have the No. pick.
Following are the top 10 centers available in NBA Draft 2002:
YAO MING Status: International - eligible Height: 7-5 Weight: 296 Team: Shanghai Sharks (China)
Yes, it was against the six-time defending Champion Bayi Rockets and not top flight NCAA competition, but anyone who can make 21 consecutive field goals in a championship game is ready to take on a new challenge. Desiring tougher games and the opportunity to play against the best, Yao Ming has indeed “outgrown” -- no pun intended -- basketball in China. After producing 44 points and pulling in 21 rebounds in this year’s Chinese League championship game, he is ready for the challenge of competing against the world’s best players.
Ming, whose mother was the captain of the Chinese National Team and whose father was once the center for the Shanghai Sharks, is extremely coordinated, has a 7-5 wingspan and very good balance. He shoots it easily to 20 feet and appears ready to be an effective inside/outside big man once he gets acclimated to the NBA with the athleticism and quickness of its premier interior players.
Some scouts feel that despite his size, he is not quite ready to battle close to the basket but can be an efficient perimeter center at the offensive end next year. He is perhaps the only big man prospect around who might eventually be able to make Shaquille O’Neal react to him and that makes him an attractive prospect for any team with championship aspirations.
Smart, athletic and competitive, Borchardt has a fairly complete game and is still improving. Most scouts feel he is more of a NBA center than the Collins brothers who both had solid rookie seasons for very competitive teams.
A fourth-year junior with skills and shot-blocking ability, he pursues rebounds and has the frame to carve out space in the lane. He is the premier domestic center in the draft and will likely be a lottery pick.
NIKOLOZ TSKITISHVILI Status: International - early Height: 7-0 Weight: 225 Team: Benetton Treviso (Italy)
While not a regular front-line player for Bennetton (a combination of his joining the roster mid-season and being young and inexperienced), Tskitishvili has been feverishly scouted by NBA in the last few months. A seven-footer with a solid frame, NBA athleticism, a major league sweet stroke and NBA three-point range, “Skita” can run the floor, is a quick leaper and has an exciting floor game.
Benefitting from the tutelage of former Denver Nugget and current Benetton coach Mike D’Antoni, expect Tskitishvili to be selected somewhere in the lottery. He can face up, drain long jumpers and will also try to complete a drive with an aggressive throw-down -- prompting scouts to compare him favorably to Dirk Nowitzki. Tskitishvili is climbing the draft charts on his fundamental soundness, basketball IQ, and recent NBA history, where foreign players making a significant impact has become common place.
AMARE STOUDEMIRE Status: HS Senior Height: 6-10 Weight: 245 High School: Cypress Creek HS
More athletic than Chris Wilcox, Stoudemire’s physicality reminds some of a young Alonzo Mourning. He plays with energy and explosiveness. Are those qualities enough to compensate for undeveloped footwork and a primordial low post game? Is he such a promising athletic wildcard that general managers will ignore his inexperience and immaturity?
Stoudemire is primarily an athletic garbage man right now, but any player that draws athletic comparisons with Mourning and appears to enjoy competition is someone to seriously consider in the middle of the first round. Remember, there are very few total packages available in any draft.
A gifted offensive player who can put it on the floor, score some facing and show an occasional back to the basket spin move, Ely is a center/power forward prospect likely to be selected in the first round.
He needs to get stronger to match up against strong interior players and equally as important is his need to improve his concentration and energy to take advantage of his solid physical attributes.
Long armed and extremely athletic, Hilario compares athletically with Amare Stoudemire and Chris Wilcox. A good rebounder and shotblocker, he impressed NBA scouts with his play in the Goodwill Games. While he is raw offensively, his “upside” is huge and his enthusiasm plus a condor-like 7-4 3/4-inch wingspan intrigue NBA officials.
Just 19 years old, Hilario has the quickness, speed, and instincts that lead many to believe he will be among the top 15 picks in the draft. He has been working out for numerous NBA teams in the last month and his stock appears to be rising as the draft gets closer. He does not speak English right now and that may result in hesitancy by some team uneasy about making a non-traditional lottery selection.
CARLOS BOOZER Status: Junior Height: 6-9 Weight: 280 College: Duke
While Boozer may be more suited to playing power forward, his Adonis body teases scouts who question his athletic ability. Nobody questions his ability to score with his back to the basket, although some are concerned he will have to adjust to score consistently over bigger defenders.
He is not a shotblocker but he is a mature and experienced war-horse in the paint who has been coached by one of the game's all-time great basketball teachers.
DAN GADZURIC Year: Senior Height: 6-11 Weight: 240 College: UCLA
Gadzuric is a strong looking kid with legitimate center size who can move north-south pretty well but is “robotic” and “stiff” and lacks fluidity and balance. He can make a rolling hook into the lane to his right and can seal his man a little for a lob, but he has no touch on his shot nor a genuine “feel” for the game.
Aggressive and capable of moving college centers off their favorite low post scoring spots, he will also clock an occasional shot and he does a decent job of pursuing defensive rebounds. His history of knee tendinitis is a concern as is his “suspect” hands trying to catch any pass below his waist. But there are players on rosters that he can compete against and he has the potential to be a backup postman. Remember, players like Andrew DeClercq have been able to carve out a niche for themselves in the NBA and evolve into contributors for playoff teams.
DAVID ANDERSEN Status: International - eligible Height: 7-0 Weight: 242 Team: Kinder Bologna (Italy)
A good runner with agility, Andersen is Australian, has a Danish passport and currently plays for Kinder Bologna in Italy. Regardless of what he will be able to accomplish on the court, at least he will be able to help solve any geographic illiteracy problem in the NBA locker room he eventually inherits. Where in the world is Matt Lauer?
Comfortable facing the basket with a nice medium range jumper, scouts like Andersen's pick and pop potential. He has also shown a decent turner and jump hook in tight. As a starter for one of Europe’s best teams, he possesses some solid experience and plays with poise. This has been a breakout season for Andersen and it has resulted in him being a bona fide first round prospect.
While not the most agile of big man prospects, Papadopoulos is an experienced professional with six years of high-level European competition under his belt. He has a decent frame, long arms and decent hands, but needs to develop more upper body strength to be a more efficient rebounder capable of carving out legitimate real estate in the lane.
Papadopoulos is a decent low post offensive prospect with an adequate short range touch. While he did not impress NBA scouts last year participating at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp, he did open some eyes helping Panathinaikos win the European Final Four by defeating a strong Kinder Bologna Italian team in the championship game. That performance places him solidly on this year's draft radar screen.