As we continue to look at potential draft picks in the upcoming NBA draft, a focus will inevitably turn to the center position. With Andrew Bynum on the shelf for the entirety of the 2012-2013 NBA season, the 76ers centers were outproduced by a PER of -3.9, by far the worst of any position on the court (shooting guard came in second at -1.4).
In this segment, we'll take a look at a couple of defensive big men who could be available when the 76ers select.
Rudy Gobert, 7'2" center, Cholet (France - ProA)
Rudy Gobert is all over draft boards, from lottery to late first round. Big men who can dominate a game defensively are always at a premium, so it wouldn't shock me if somebody drafted Gobert towards the upper end of that spectrum.
The first thing you'll notice about Gobert is that he's long. Really long. He measured in at 7'2" in shoes with a ridiculous 9'7" standing reach. That's 2 full inches higher than Shaq! It's also 2" higher than Hassan Whiteside, so standing reach alone is clearly not a full-proof indicator of future success.
But Gobert knows how to use his length, at least on the defensive side of the court. While not an explosive athlete, he moves his feet surprisingly well on the perimeter when hedging pick and rolls, and shows excellent timing on blocked shots. He rotates fairly well as a team defender, and he plays angles well.
He does show some potential as a pick and roll threat offensively, as his long frame gives passers an excellent target, and he has very soft hands. Pick and roll, as well as opportunities off of offensive rebounds, are the main areas he can contribute on the offensive end. The rest, from his jump shot to his post-game and overall offensive feel, are very much a work in progress.
My biggest concern with Gobert is not his jump shot, though. Don't get me wrong, his jump shot is very broken, as he appears off balance with a long, deliberate release that is in no way consistent, and simply doesn't show much touch. But my biggest concern is his physical strength. From lower body strength (which limits him defending the post, trying to establish post position offensively, and on the defensive glass), to simply hand strength and an ability to play through contact, Gobert has a lot of maturing to do physically before he's able to really handle the physicality of the NBA, and I'm not sure he necessarily has the frame to add a lot of weight.
Gorgui Dieng, 6'11" center, Louisville
Dieng was a key component of Louisville's national championship squad and the linchpin of the best defensive team in the country.
Dieng's overall shot blocking numbers were down a bit from his sophomore season, from 3.2 blocks per game in 32.8 minutes to 2.5 blocks in 31.1 minutes, but he overall did a much better job staying out of foul trouble, one of the things I always look for in the development of a shot blocker. He also improved substantially as a defensive rebounder, from a relatively pedestrian 18.6 defensive rebounding percentage to a much more respectable 22.1%. Both of those improvements far outweight a slight drop in shot blocking rate in my mind.
For as much potential as Gobert displays as in impact team defender, Dieng is farther along in realizing it. He has added significant weight over the last few years, and holds his own much better on the blocks than Gobert does. He's also a much better overall athlete, both from an explosion standpoint as well as overall fluidity. Like Gobert, Dieng moves his feet very well on the perimeter, showing good technique defending pick and rolls and usually in a good defensive stance.
On the offensive end, he's a little bit more of a threat with the jump shot, but still not something you'll see him attempting with regularity. Still, he appears to be in the process of developing a consistent mid-range game, which would be huge. He also is a little bit more comfortable scoring in the post. He doesn't have much in the way of advanced or counter moves, but he does have touch on a hook over his left shoulder and a bit of a turnaround, and can at the very least take advantage when he has serious mismatches down low.
That being said, he's still most likely to contribute off the ball, in terms of offensive rebounds, cuts to the basket, and dives off of pick and rolls. Neither of these two big men are likely (at all) to project into major offensive options, but Dieng presently has less holes in his game offensively, and would likely be significantly easier to find time early on in his career.
Of the two, I would select Dieng if I had to chose between them, although you could probably trade down a little bit from where the 76ers pick at 11 and still get him. While Gobert's sheer length and defensive potential are intriguing, his lack of physical strength - and my uncertainty that he'll ever significantly improve upon that - make me think there is much more risk in Gobert than there is in Dieng, a player whom I have liked for quite some time.