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2017 Prospect Primer: The Big Men

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Adidas Eurocamp 2015 - Day One Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

The third installment of my primer series on the 2017 draft class. You can find the point guard and wing primers here and here, respectively. This will cover the incoming freshman big men, headlined by the Harry Giles.

Harry Giles, Duke

DX: 3, ESPN: 2, ESPN 100: 1

6’11 with shoes, 7’3 wingspan

Age: 18.3

Why to be excited:

Um. Harry Giles is freaking awesome. I know, that’s how I started the Josh Jackson blurb. But seriously. This dude is a freak athlete with incredible mobility and a budding offensive game with room to grow. I hate to keep doing this (really, mixtapes are the worst), but check out his mixtape.

The two things that most stand out about Giles are his explosive jumping ability, and his mobility. For a guy who is nearly 7-feet tall, he moves more like a guard than a big man. In the switch-heavy NBA, his lateral quickness and length will be perfect for disrupting pick and roll action, and he has the potential to be an elite defender because of it.

Giles’ biggest strength thus far is his rebounding. At the FIBA U-19 tournament in 2015 (his last real competitive venture), Giles averaged an insane 20 rebounds per 40 minutes. He’s got length and hops to get to balls his competition can’t reach, and he’s got the motor to keep on coming. His second jump also pops, giving him an advantage in volleyball situations.

On offense, Giles presents a lot of intriguing potential. He can rim run with the best of them, leveraging his jumping ability into a lob threat. But he’s got more skills than that, too. He has shown off a nascent jumper at times, and is coordinated enough to put together some impressive post moves. Neither of these aspects of his game are polished, although both could portend greater things.

Giles’ face-up game is what has stood out to me most on the offensive end. His quick first step combined with elite mobility for his size (and an impressive handle) allows him to take slower bigs off the dribble at will. Some of his best highlights were awesome drives. If he hones those skills, he could become a mixture between DeAndre Jordan on defense and Amare Stoudemire on offense.

Why you should be worried:

Other than this scary injury history? Giles has suffered two ACL tears in 3 years. Hopefully he’s getting the guidance to recover fully so that he doesn’t re-injure a different body part by overcompensating during the recovery process.

Beyond that, his offense is pretty raw, if enticing. He has shown flashes of greatness, but he only shot 46% from the field at U-19’s, (as a 17-year-old), so he has progress to be made. Similarly, while he profiles as an outstanding defender, he blocks shots at a solid, not outstanding rate. It’s unclear whether he’ll ever be an elite rim protector, even if he is a terror defending the PnR.

What to watch for:

Giles’ offensive development. To be sure, Giles can be a star simply by excelling on the defensive end and not developing his offensive skills at all. However, he also could profile as a two-way star big man, which would raise his ceiling to a Top 5 player in the league. If he’s a star on both sides of the ball, it would be hard to pass on Giles if he’s available with a Sixers’ pick, even if the big man logjam isn’t resolved.

(And yes, I do think there are 4 players in this draft—Jackson, Fultz, Giles, Smith—with the potential to be a Top 5 NBA superstar. One or more of those players may turn out to have a lower ceiling by the time the draft comes around, but this is highly unusual. The average number of those superstars per draft class is less than 1. 2017. What a year.)

Jarrett Allen, Texas

DX: 10, ESPN: 11, ESPN 100: 15

6’11 with shoes, 7’6 wingspan

Age: 18.3

Why you should be excited:

Allen is a rim-runner who fits the modern day prototype for defensive centers. He’s mobile (although not on Giles’ level), quick, and has a freakish 7’6 wingspan. Although he came into the showcase season a little under the radar, he impressed during Hoop Summit practices, and came out of April with his stock elevated.

He’s probably a step below Noel’s combination of lateral mobility and bounciness, but he’s still a good athlete who blocked 5 shots in the McDonald’s All-American game. Should the Sixers find attractive trades for both Okafor and Noel, acquiring Allen as a backup to Embiid would be an attractive option.

Why you should be worried:

There’s not a whole lot to worry about with Allen. He lacks offensive polish, but he’s great as a rim-runner, and I’ve been on record for a long time that centers need not do much else on O. He may not ever be a star in the league, but he seems to be a safe bet as a starting-caliber center by the time he hits his prime.

What to watch for:

How Shaka Smart uses Allen at Texas. After years of Rick Barnes recruiting elite bigs and then forcing them to play out of position next to two other behemoths and a non-shooting guard (Myles Turner says, “Hi!”), Texas finally has a coach who knows how to use his big men. Smart likes to play aggressive, pressing defense, which should show off Allen’s mobility really well.

Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Kentucky

DX: 9, ESPN: 12, ESPN 100: 5

No official measurements

Age: 19.1

Why you should be excited:

The kid was nicknamed “Bam” because he dunks EVERYTHING. He can’t do too much beyond that, but ask DeAndre Jordan how being a one-skill offensive player has worked out for him. Playing next to Dennis Smith with North Carolina’s Team Loaded, Adebayo was the lucky recipient of many perfectly packaged air mail deliveries, and he knew exactly what to do with them.

Adebayo also has surprisingly good body control for a player his size. He is mobile and quick, with intuitive footwork, giving him an intriguing offensive upside if he can channel those tools into discrete skills.

His first play in the McDonald’s AA game demonstrated that unique ability, even if he didn’t score.

Why you should be worried:

He’s a center in a power forward’s body. At 6’9 with shoes, he’s undersized for the center position in the NBA (he has no official wingspan measurements, but his arms don’t look outlier-long to me). As it stands now, his only real offensive skill is dunking, and that’s a skillset that actively harms NBA offenses if it is played at the 4.

If he’s not long enough to be a rim protector, he’ll probably be useless in the NBA. If he is a defensive ace he plays bigger than his height, he can thrive as a rim-runner off the bench.

What to watch for:

How effective he is as a defensive 5. Kentucky has too much size (again, shockingly), so Cal may use Adebayo at the 4 more than the 5. But when he does get run under the rim, watch his rotations and his shot blocking to see if he can make the transition up a position at the next level.

On the offensive end, if Adebayo can improve his jump shot and show some capacity to pass, he’ll improve his chances of sticking at the 4.

Marques Bolden, Duke

DX: 7, ESPN: 13, ESPN 100: 16

6’11 with shoes, 7’6 wingspan

Age: 18.3 years old

Why you should be excited:

At 6’11 with a 7’6 wingspan and with solid athleticism and fluidity, Marques Bolden has all the physical tools to step into the NBA at the center position. Bolden has great hands a good feel for finishing, making him an ideal target for dump-offs following point guard penetration. He thrived in that role at both the McDonald’s All-American game and the Nike Hoops Summit, as the superlative perimeter creation in this class presented him with plenty of opportunities to finish, and he did with aplomb.

Why you should be worried:

He seems... totally fine at everything? He’s not a special athlete, he doesn’t wow you with his arsenal of post moves, he doesn’t have great touch on his jumper, and he’s not an intimidating shot blocker. He’s adequate at each of those things, but I don’t see what his skill package is that sets him apart from any number of reasonably skilled, very large men. I’m more down on Bolden than most of the scouts seem to be.

What to watch for:

How he defends in space and protects the rim. The center position remains about defense, first and foremost, and if Bolden can turn into a winning defensive center, he won’t need to develop much more on the offensive end. He can start by mastering positioning and maintaining effort.