Scouting the NCAA: Power Forwards and Centers

Scouting the NCAA: Power Forwards and Centers

Sunday, Apr. 4, 2010
5:20 P.M.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

On the eve of the NCAA Tournament's national championship game--who could imagine hometown Butler would make it to Indianapolis, let alone get to the championship game?--here is the final installment of college players who are prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, with a slant toward those who could be available when the Bulls make the selection and fit the team's needs. While several post players are expected to go extremely high in the draft this June, there are also some options outside of the elite prospects. Please note that some of these players are centers for their college teams, but will play power forward on the pro level, so the respective positions are combined here.
POWER FORWARDS AND CENTERS
Overview: Although Kentucky's Patrick Patterson is projected to be a lottery pick, the 6-foot-9 junior isn't viewed as having the same upside as other prospects, so the bruiser could slip, depending on the needs of various teams. Georgetown sophomore Greg Monroe is in a similar boat--although he might opt to return for another season, unlike Patterson who will graduate in three years--as his skill set, albeit unique, may not fit every franchise, as the 6-foot-11 southpaw is more of a finesse, passing big man than a true low-block big man.

A pair of post players who weren't on the radar as future pros when the season started, but are now considered at least borderline lottery selections are Baylor's Ekpe Udoh and freshman Hassan Whiteside of Marshall. Whiteside, a seven-footer, is still raw offensively, but his athleticism, shot-blocking ability and strong numbers this season has NBA personnel types salivating, despite coming from a mid-major program. The 6-foot-11 Udoh, a junior transfer from Michigan (where he wasn't much of a standout), is also an excellent shot-blocker, but adds another dimension as a versatile offensive player, as his unorthodox game intrigues next-level decision-makers.

True centers Solomon Alabi, Andrew Ogilvy, Dexter Pittman and Jerome Jordan form a quartet that intrigues pro teams, but each of the players have holes that worry teams. Alabi, a 7-foot-1 shot-blocking force from Florida State, has the defensive presence and athleticism NBA franchises love, but lacks strength and is raw on offense. Vanderbilt's Ogilvy, a native of Australia, has some similarities to countryman Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks, but doesn't possess Bogut's athletic ability and projects as more of a role player, although he's skilled--albeit basic--on the offensive end and has the requisite size for his position. While Alabi and Ogilvy are underclassmen with the option to go back to school, Texas' Pittman and Tulsa's Jordan are both seniors. Pittman's massive weight loss throughout his college career speaks to his work ethic, but he is still a project, although his touch and huge frame have scouts convinced he will be drafted at some point, likely in the second round. Jordan may have faced mid-major competition, but he is a known commodity, and like the aforementioned Alabi, he is coveted for his defense and agility, and is a bit more offensively polished.

A group of potential early-entry candidates at power forward are also high on the radar of NBA teams. Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal was overshadowed by teammate and likely lottery pick Derrick Favors, a freshman, this season, but his bruising style and physical, blue-collar mentality appear to be able to translate well to the pro level. Iowa State's Craig Brackins came into the season with high expectations and although he had a bit of a disappointing year, his high skill level and ability to face the basket may be a good fit for teams looking for some versatility. Larry Sanders of Virginia Commonwealth is still somewhat of a project, but his athleticism, rebounding and tremendous shot-blocking talent should earn him a niche as a role player, even though his offense is behind his defense at this stage. JaJuan Johnson of Purdue is in a similar boat, as he needs to significantly bulk up, but showed major signs of development as a high-energy, pogo stick-type on both ends, especially in the wake of the season-ending injury to teammate and Boilermakers star Robbie Hummel.

Lastly, we come to a trio of seniors who have established themselves as college stars, but aren't viewed as having the same ceiling as their counterparts. Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado is one of the most prolific shot-blockers in the history of the college game, but his rail-thin frame and relative lack of offensive prowess has professional organizations wary. Likewise, Notre Dame's Luke Harangody has done everything he can possibly do to improve his stock--increase his shooting range, get his once-flabby body into better shape and continue to dominate the Big East's considerable interior talent as an inside scorer and rebounder--but his lack of explosiveness and size are regarded as deterrents for his future success moving forward. Trevor Booker of Clemson has the necessary strength and explosiveness to make it in the NBA and although his height, at 6-foot-7, is seen as a minus, he is low-maintenance player who doesn't require a lot of touches to be productive, so while he may never be a big scorer, his toughness and workhorse nature may make him a high-value pick in the second round.

Scout's take: "It's always so hard to get that true back-to-the-basket guy beyond the lottery...the majority of points scored in the paint in the modern NBA are scored through dribble penetration."

Potential lottery picks: Cousins, Favors, Aldrich, Monroe, Davis, Patterson

Bulls fit: Booker

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more and read his Running with the Bulls blog.

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Although the punches didn't connect, the NBA was not going to take the Robin Lopez-Serge Ibaka confrontation lightly, suspending each one game Wednesday afternoon.

Lopez served his time in the Bulls' surprising 117-95 win over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. Per league rules, Lopez was not allowed on team property but he did speak to head coach Fred Hoiberg when the team returned from Toronto after the Bulls' heartbreaking overtime loss Tuesday.

Lopez will return to the Bulls lineup Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, a relief to the Bulls considering the league could've taken a harsher stance with Lopez — a two- or three-game suspension was being mulled at the league office, sources tell CSNChicago.com

Lopez was pushed into Ibaka after Jimmy Butler hit a three in the second half, and the two combatants squared off underneath the rim, with officials, teammates and coaches trying to separate them.

Ibaka appeared to have his arm reaching at Lopez's neck, prompting Lopez to swing at Ibaka. He missed, and Ibaka grazed Lopez's face with a wild swing of his own.

Both were ejected after being separated and shortly thereafter, the Raptors begun their run from being down 15 points to end the Bulls' recent mastery over them.

Despite the effect, Lopez had the full support of his teammates and coaching staff.

"I think you ask anybody in that locker room, Robin Lopez is one of the most if not the most popular guy on this team," Hoiberg said. "He's a guy that goes out and approaches his job the same way every day. He goes to work. He never complains. He does what's asked of him. Also if you asked them, they'd tell you he's as passionate of a guy as we have on this team as well. He's got a fire to him that you just don't ever want to take away."

That fire clearly got underneath Lopez and Ibaka, causing Lopez to lunge at Ibaka. Telling from the immediate reaction from the Bulls players and from Hoiberg and associate coach Jim Boylen, it seems as if it wasn't the first time Lopez's engine ran a little hot.

"This game gets very competitive obviously, it gets heated at times," Hoiberg said. "That happened last night. It's unfortunate what went down, but we've all got Robin's back. I think everybody in this organization, from the players all the way to up top, has Robin's back. We'll deal with it and move on. We'll be happy to have him in the lineup Friday."

Lopez averages 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, slightly higher than his career averages through his nine NBA seasons.

Considering the play seemed relatively tame, it was slightly puzzling to see both players go at each other so ferociously but there appeared to be more to the story than first blush.

"There's always more going on than it appears," Hoiberg said. "You go back and watch on film, there's little jabs that happen in the course of the game and sometimes it reaches the boiling point. Robin is a guy that plays this game with a lot of passion, and you don't ever want to see something like that happen, but it did. And again, you move on."

Normally, Lopez attacks mascots during timeouts or pregame warm-ups, so nobody felt Lopez was looking for an altercation, and considering it only cost him a game — one the Bulls won anyways — Hoiberg didn't seem too stressed about it beforehand.

"Yeah, you know, Robin's going to have our guys' backs as much as anybody in the locker room," Hoiberg said. "Again, you look in that locker room, all those guys are going to have each other's back, Robin as much as anybody. Unfortunately, it happened. It looked like it was a little hip check, they turned around and got squared off, and we all know what happened. Again, we'll all be excited to have Robin back in the lineup on Friday."

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