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By the numbers: 2015 NBA Draft Center Prospects

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of a five part series in which I analyze the 2015 NBA Draft by position. As a source I used DraftExpress's mock draft and for statistics I used both DraftExpress and Sports-Reference. All statistics used are for the prior college basketball season. Because of the lack of advanced statistic information and difference in playstyle for international leagues, I have only included NCAA players in this analysis. For information such as player position, school, height, etc. please click on the player's name and it will take you to their DraftExpress page with all that information.

If there's one position that the Sacramento Kings can say they have pretty much settled, it's the center position that DeMarcus Cousins mans.  Cousins took a big step in his development last season, making his first All-Star team and the All-NBA 2nd team.

Would that stop the Kings from drafting a center later this month?  Not necessarily, especially if said Center has the ability to play with Cousins.  Fortunately for the Kings, there are several players in the draft that fit that description.

Basic Stats:

Karl-Anthony Towns Fr. 21.1 10.3 .566 .250 (2/8) .813 6.7 1.1 0.5 2.3 1.4 2.9
Jahlil Okafor Fr. 30.1 17.3 .664 0 .510 8.5 1.3 0.8 1.4 2.5 2.1
Willie Cauley-Stein Jr. 25.9 8.9 .572 0 .617 6.4 1.0 1.2 1.7 1.2 2
Myles Turner Fr. 22.2 10.1 .455 .274 (17/62) .839 6.5 0.6 0.3 2.6 1.4 2.4
Robert Upshaw So. 24.9 10.9 .593 0 .434 8.2 0.5 0.4 4.5 1.3 2.1
Dakari Johnson So. 16.3 6.4 .506 0 .625 4.6 0.7 0.4 0.9 1.1 1.8
Alan Williams Sr. 32.6 17.3 .455 0 .768 11.8 1.7 1.2 1.8 2.0 2.7
Joshua Smith Sr. 20.5 10.8 .621 0 .646 5.8 1.2 1.0 0.7 2.0 3.5

Advanced Stats:

Karl-Anthony Towns 31.4 .627 .523 14.2% 22.3% 11.6% 1.4% 11.5% 14.2% 23.7% 126.8 78.1 31st
Jahlil Okafor 30.7 .641 .462 14.8% 18.2% 9.4% 1.5% 4.5% 15.6% 27.6% 119.9 95.4 3rd
Willie Cauley-Stein 23.8 .588 .542 11.1% 17.3% 7.4% 2.9% 7.1% 13.9% 17.8% 119.8 80 31st
Myles Turner 25.5 .556 .436 7.2% 24.9% 6.2% 0.8% 12.3% 13.2% 25.1% 112.6 86.3 21st
Robert Upshaw 29.4 .564 .572 12.0% 24.9% 4.4% 0.9% 17.4% 11.5% 22.9% 110.6 91.4 82nd
Dakari Johnson 22.3 .553 .923 13.4% 19.1% 8.9% 1.4% 6.1% 15.8% 22.0% 113.9 82.6 31st
Alan Williams 29.5 .524 .481 12.3% 31.6% 12.9% 2.3% 6.5% 10.6% 30.9% 111.1 89.7 108th
Joshua Smith 28.2 .635 .682 15.5% 18.5% 14.3% 3.1% 3.9% 19.3% 27.1% 116.1 95.8 10th


This year's big man class is pretty stacked compared to most years.  It's quite possible that this list contains the first two picks in the entire draft in Karl Towns and Jahlil Okafor.  Towns and Okafor are seemingly a step above their competition and could both end up being stars in their own right.

If the Kings had managed to win the NBA Draft Lottery last month, I would have been all over the Kings draft Karl Towns.  Towns seems to offer a perfect mix of what the Kings want in a frontcourt partner in DeMarcus Cousins while also having the potential to become a franchise cornerstone himself.  While not as offensively prolific as Jahlil Okafor, Towns does possess the ability to both score on the block and step out and hit a jumper.  His 81.3% shooting from the Free Throw line bodes well for his ability to potentially stretch the floor.  Defensively he's a potential monster, with one of the highest block rates in the draft as well as the best Defensive Rating.  He's a very good rebounder as well, particularly on the offensive glass.  He's also got a decent, although not spectacular, assist rate for a big man.  Towns is the complete package and would seemingly fit on any team in the league.  Towns isn't perfect of course. He fouls at a pretty high rate, and will need to rein that in if he hopes to play extended minutes early on in his career.

Okafor is a great player in his own right but he's more of an old school big man than Towns.  The most impressive thing about Okafor is how good he was at finding a way to score against tough competition with the defense keyed in on him.  Here's a guy with a very high usage rate who was able to score just over 17 points a game on an absurd 66.4% shooting from the field.  He's got tremendous touch around the basket and is a pain to keep off the offensive glass.  While Okafor is easily the best offensive big man, he's not as well rounded in other areas.  Okafor's defense struggled in college compared to his peers.  He also wasn't particularly great on the defensive boards with a sub-20% defensive rebounding rate, the second lowest among all other Center prospects.  Okafor's range is also limited outside of the post and his 51% Free Throw percentage doesn't inspire confidence that it will improve for a while.  A team looking to draft Okafor will need to surround him with shooters to provide adequate spacing for his post play and Okafor himself will have to become a more willing passer.

While Towns and Okafor are the cream of the crop, Willie Cauley-Stein and Myles Turner are in the next tier down.  Cauley-Stein's numbers don't jump out at you, but that's partly because it's so hard to quantify defensive effort and impact.  Offensively, Cauley-Stein was very efficient, limiting his scoring opportunities to put backs, pick and roll finishes and easy dunks, which in many ways is all that's asked of supporting bigs in today's NBA.  Cauley-Stein's main focus was on the defensive end, where he sported a very good defensive rating, block rate and steal rate.  What isn't shown in the numbers is how good Cauley-Stein was at covering multiple positions, often getting switched onto guards or wing players in pick and rolls and managing to stick with them.  He's also able to play defense without fouling, an important skill.  Cauley-Stein's rebounding isn't particularly great on either end of the floor and will have to get better in the NBA, especially  on the defensive boards where he posted the lowest rate among all other Center prospects.  He also posted the lowest-usage rate, a testament to his inability to create his own shot.  One encouraging facet in Cauley-Stein's underdeveloped offense is his penchant for improving his shot.  While his 61.7% from the free throw line is not good, that's a big improvement from 37.2% as a Freshman and 48.2% as a sophomore.

Myles Turner is an intriguing prospect in that he brings a little bit of everything, similar to Towns.  Turner can step out and shoot (although his 27.4% from the college three isn't very noteworthy), and he can also rebound well and block shots, with the second highest block rate among center prospects.  If we're just talking about potential fit next to Cousins, Turner seems to be the kind of guy the Kings would love should he fulfill his potential since he could both space the floor and protect the rim on the other end.  Turner's shooting will have to get more consistent before anyone dubs him "the next Ibaka", but the potential is there for him to be a phenomenal two-way threat.

After Cauley-Stein and Turner, the field grows noticeably more thin.  Robert Upshaw is the best rim protector in the draft, with a ridiculous 17.4% block rate.  That's almost as much as Hassan Whiteside's 18.8% at Marshall.  However Upshaw comes with other issues, not the least of which is a potential heart issue that was just discovered that has forced him to cancel all his remaining workouts.  Alan Williams, who the Kings have already brought in for a workout, has the best defensive rebounding rate of this group of centers and is also a pretty developed offensive player as well.  He's a bit undersized however and he also played much weaker competition than his peers.  Dakari Johnson doesn't seem particularly special to me aside from his penchant to draw Free Throws at an incredibly high rate, although given his limited playing time, that could be a fluke.  Joshua Smith has the best offensive rebound rate, assist rate and steal rate, but also the worst defensive rating and is the most out of shape.  He kind of reminds me of Big Baby Davis, but it's unlikely he gets drafted.

Coming Tomorrow: Power Forwards