2021 NBA Draft Prospects: Centers

by Josh Cohen

Here are 10 of the most intriguing centers in the 2021 NBA Draft. They are listed in alphabetical order by their last name.

Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky

  • An aggressive and agile 6-foot-11 center with a powerful frame and a 7’3 wingspan who runs the floor well, is relentless on the glass and makes sound decisions on the defensive end.

  • Played three seasons at Western Kentucky, although his sophomore season was cut short after suffering a tibia fracture in his left leg. Bounced back in a big way in 2020-21 with averages of 17.6 points and 11.6 rebounds.

  • Born and raised in Nigeria before moving to San Antonio where he starred at St. Anthony Catholic High School. Recorded a triple-double in his first ever high school game. Transferred to Aspire Academy in Louisville before his junior season.

Usman Garuba, Spain

  • While limited offensively – lacking shooting range and ball handling skills – he wreaks havoc on the defensive end with his lateral quickness, toughness, mobility and high energy.

  • One of this draft class’ best pick-and-roll defenders due to his ability to switch onto speedsters in pick-and-roll and stay between his opponent and the basket. Some of his scoring originates from steals that allow him to get out into the open floor. Also has impeccable timing when rising to block or alter a shot near the hoop.

  • Has played for Real Madrid the last few seasons alongside several former NBA players, including Rudy Fernandez, Anthony Randolph and Edy Tavares.

Ariel Hukporti, Germany

  • Rim Running, catching lobs off rolls, and protecting the basket are his best traits at 7-foot, 251 pounds. Very mobile and bouncy, but not the most coordinated or skilled on the offensive end.

  • Moves his feet well enough to guard opponents on the perimeter, but at his best defensively in drop coverage.

  • Played for Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany for two years and then with Nevezis Kedainiai in Lithuania this past season.

Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

  • Arguably the most athletic big man in this draft and one of the best shot blockers. Limited on offense, but is a vertical lob threat and someone who can face up and attack against a flat-footed defender.

  • Ranked No. 1 in the SEC in 2020-21 in blocks per game (2.6), but also foul prone as he tends to hunt for blocks. Named to SEC All-Defensive Team as a freshman.

  • Played at four different high schools/academies. Finished up at Waterford Mott in Michigan before enrolling at the University of Kentucky.

Kai Jones, Texas

  • A unique big man in that he can drive to the basket using his slick handles and footwork and also do the things that players his size – 6-foot-11, 220 pounds – are more accustomed to doing such as rim-running, rolling to the hoop and rebounding.

  • Could be the latest player over 6’10 from the University of Texas to be chosen in the lottery portion of the NBA Draft. Tristan Thompson (2011), Myles Turner (2015), Jarrett Allen (2017), Mo Bamba (2018) and Jaxson Hayes (2019) were all lottery picks.

  • Shot 64.2 percent on two-point attempts during his sophomore college season, the second best mark in the Big 12 in this category in 2020-21.

Evan Mobley, USC

  • A supremely gifted and mobile 7-footer with a finesse-oriented offensive game and advanced defensive qualities.

  • Not just an elite rim protector, he can effectively switch in pick-and-roll on the perimeter and defend speedsters on an island.

  • Named the 2020-21 Pac-12 Player of the Year and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after ranking No. 1 in the conference in points, rebounds and blocks.

Filip Petrusev, Serbia/Gonzaga

  • A scoring threat from inside and outside at 6-foot-11, 235 pounds. Has nifty low-post moves, can face the basket and drive and recently extended his range beyond the 3-point line.

  • Last year withdrew from the NBA Draft after two seasons at Gonzaga to play for Mega Soccerbet in Serbia. Currently playing for Serbian national team in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

  • In 2019-20, ranked No. 1 in the West Coast Conference in field goal percentage (56.2 percent), made two-point field goals (207) and free throw attempts (238).

Yves Pons, Tennessee

  • One of this draft’s best rim protectors and capable of guarding multiple positions with his fast-moving feet and high-level defensive instincts.

  • Only 6-foot-7, but has a 7’0 wingspan and recorded a 42 1/2-inch max vertical leap at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine, the third highest mark this year.

  • Grew up in France before moving to the U.S. to play college basketball for the Volunteers. Named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year his junior season.

Alperen Sengun, Turkey

  • A 6-foot-10, 240-pound super skilled and mobile big man with excellent footwork, a soft touch down low and outstanding handles for someone his size.

  • Has somewhat of an old school offensive game. Great with his back to the basket on the low block and excels finishing on rolls inside. Also takes contact and draws fouls. Not yet a stretch big. Only made four 3-pointers in Turkish Super League.

  • Averaged 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds for Besiktas during the 2020-21 season.

JT Thor, Auburn

  • Defending in space on the perimeter and staying between his opponent and the basket are his greatest strengths. Blocked several 3-point attempts in college.

  • Capable of stretching the floor. Made 22 3-pointers in one season at Auburn, including knocking down five of them in a game against Kentucky.

  • Born in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Anchorage, Alaska after his family moved there when he was 5 years old.
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