5 Center Prospects The Sixers Should Target In The Draft

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 Minnesota at Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, IL – JANUARY 30: Minnesota Golden Gophers center Daniel Oturu (25) works the ball around Illinois Fighting Illini center KofiÊCockburn (21) during the Big Ten Conference college basketball game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Illinois Fighting Illini on January 30, 2020, at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Center is probably the least of the Sixers’ worries considering they have the best big man in the game with Joel Embiid. However, outside of Embiid, the Sixers really struggle for depth. They can play Al Horford there but then that leaves the power forward position open, and add in the fact that Al Horford is probably at the top of everyone’s list of who they want out of Philly, the Sixers need some new talent.

Thankfully, this year’s draft has some great center talent in the 2nd round where the Sixers have 4 picks in total, meaning they can add a cheap rookie to develop behind the best in the game whilst not spending too much.

Aleksej Pokusevski – Georgetown/Olympiakos 

European talent has seen a surge in success over the past few years in the NBA and Aleksej Pokusevski is looking to be the next one on that list. The Serbian center stands at 7’0, 190 lbs, and is considered to be a power forward/center prospect. Aleksej certainly has the height to play center but he’s on the slim side for a big man and can struggle with the physical side of playing the position.

The scariest thing about Aleksej is his skillset matches to a guard and he’s actually played in 4 positions over his time in Europe from shooting guard to center. Aleksej has incredible size and length and his coordination is astonishing for a player his size. His dribbling skills are just as good as a lot of the guards in this draft class but he runs the floor like a premier forward and is a strong 3 point shooter and general scorer. 

On the defensive side, he’s fantastic, using his length perfectly to get blocks and protecting the rim really well. He has the basketball IQ to read passing lanes and get steals and is a very technical defender. While Aleksej has a lot of development to go through before he’s the finished article, and no one has a clue where his best position is, he offers so much potential and promise, coupled with a fantastic base of skills and versatility that any team would be instantly excited to have him on their roster. 

Udoka Azubuike – Kansas 

I finally get to write about my favorite prospect in the draft.. Udoka is 6’0, 260 lbs, and is one of the most frightening big men I have ever seen. If you want a guy who can physically dominate any big man in the NBA from day one, Udoka is tha man. He was a strong defender in all aspects of the game at Kansas, showing glimpses of being an energetic and excellent rebounder who can block anywhere on the court with his 7’7, yes 7’7 wingspan and a 37-inch STANDING vertical leap. When partnered with his height means he can leap 12 foot 6 inches in the air without a run-up. It’s easy to see why the Sixers would be interested.

Udoka was a prospect everyone had their eyes on when he first entered college basketball given his incredible size and length but he worried a lot of people early on because of how raw he was. Over the past 4 years, Udoka has improved massively on the offensive side of the ball and ended his career in Kansas with an astonishing 74.6% field goal percentage, averaging nearly 14 points a game in his last year. 

Udoka is still far from the finished product and the issue he will have at the next level is that the league isn’t what it was back in the 90’s. Centers are a lot more athletic and the position has changed philosophies entirely. However, Udoka excels in many areas and he still will in the NBA so any team that needs a defensive, blast from the past center to come off the bench and defend at a high level would be really stupid not to take Udoka in the 2nd round.  

Daniel Oturu – Minnesota 

Outside of Wiseman and Okongu, Daniel Oturu is at the top of most people’s center rankings and the 6’10, 240 lbs, Minnesota prospect definitely deserves to be there. Oturu is incredibly mobile for his size and position and is the perfect modern-day big man. He can score at all 3 levels and is very solid on defense. Whilst he didn’t shoot the 3 at a high volume, he’s percentage was 36 and that’s pretty impressive for a center. His overall field goal percentage ended up as 56% and he was a great free throw shooter for his position, ending at a 70% success rate in his last year.  

Defensively, Oturu is very good and put up great numbers as a rebounder and blocker. In total, he averaged 11.3 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game which will translate very well at the next level. Oturu can use his speed and strength as a combo against any type of big man and given he has a decent 3 point shot, he knows how to defend the perimeter pretty well.  

Overall, Oturu is a great player for a team that has an early 2nd round pick and is looking for an impact-now center who still has a lot of room to grow into. Oturu needs to add some more muscle to his upper frame and will need to add more technique when it comes to making scoring opportunities off the pick and roll, but overall, Oturu would be a fantastic backup center for the Sixers and would benefit massively from learning from a guy like Embiid. 

Omer Yurtseven – Georgetown 

Omer Yurtseven rose to NBA contention when he was just 16 and playing in Turkey for his high school. Omer put up a 91-point, 28 rebound game. Since then, he has struggled to live up to the hype he gathered when he was younger but he’s always been an intriguing one to NBA teams because of the potential he has as an international stash player and his scoring ability. 

Omer is a fantastic scorer across all 3 levels and for a big man, he has a really nice 3 point shot, is lethal from mid-range, and is good enough in the post to beat some NBA centers – although his post moves and post scoring will need to improve a fair amount to be effective consistently at the next level.

He has a perfect size and weight combo for the position, standing at 7’0 and 264 lbs, but he really struggles to use this to his advantage. He would really need to focus on getting a more physical playing style if he was to be effective at the next level. 

Omer also struggles quite badly on the defensive side of the ball – he doesn’t have the understanding or a developed technique of stopping big men from scoring within the post and he will struggle seriously if he has to defend at the perimeter. However, his scoring has been good enough to outweigh that so far. I don’t usually like to compare players but he’s a lot like fellow Turkish player Enes Kanter, great rebounder and scorer but liability on defense. 

Nick Richards – Kentucky 

Nick Richards is a guy who soared up my player rankings in the last season as he pretty much improved in every single area possible, getting his points per game numbers up to 14, taking a huge leap in rebounds per game from 3.3 to 7.8 and got his free throw percentage up to 75%. Richards is an extremely long and athletic big man who can score well enough and defend well enough that it’s worth taking a risk on him. 

Richards attacks the rim incredibly, with a lot of energy and authority and a lot of guys won’t be able to stop him once he starts going. Like I previously mentioned, Richards took major steps in his development last year and he still has room to improve which makes him a very interesting late 2nd round guy.

Defensively, Richards is great, has enough speed and agility for the position to effectively defend most types of centers, and rebounds really well, averaging just over 2 blocks a game.

Richards doesn’t have time on his side, already being 23 years old, but he showed great improvement last year for Kentucky and he still has more room to grow into. In my opinion, he’d do well behind Embiid where he can still develop as a player, but has enough about him to make an impact off the bench for a team like the Sixers.

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