Rim protector, low post presence, glass eater, 5 Man. Dont get me wrong there are plenty of face-up big men that have become the flavor of the month. The “Stretch 4” has blended into the “Stretch 5” but as we've seen with Tim Duncan, Marcin Gortat, Roy Hibbert and others, a big man who can get a bucket and protect the rim has value.
The modern center must be able to defend pick-and-roll, even if that means “sinking” and guarding the rim, or protecting the paint on a side ball screen when it is “downed” or “blue” the ball screen. If you have the foot speed of Al Horford or Joakim Noah and can switch and contain the ball, even better, but for the legit centers, simply protecting the paint and making guards take difficult shots is enough.
Perception is that the NBA doesn't use centers anymore. The reality is these giants only come around so often, so teams who play without them do so out of neccesity, not strategy.
1. Joel Embiid, Kansas
Far and away the best prospect in the entire draft, Embiid is making everyone nervous due to his injury situation. Embiid is like a gorgeous new Range Rover that lives more in the shop than on the road. Every scout and GM fears oversized bodies breaking down, but it's not like his warranty is up. Embiid is a lean specimen who does not have a history of anything but killing a lion and dominating the Big 12. Still if healthy he has feet like Hakeem and good lateral agility. He not only blocks shots, he keeps them in bounds. Bright, and a good teammate, the other knock on Embiid is what makes him so enjoyable. He has no AAU baggage, no 'turd' in him and yet his lack of basketball knowledge is apparent with ill-timed shots in the second half. Eliminating that will come with reps in a high-possession league.
2. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia
A big, big body with nifty feet. Nurkic should be a starting center and seems to be undervalued when compared with undersized 3 and 4 men who were born stateside. Nurkic is only 19, he moves very well, especially for his massive size and 280-pound frame. In the Euro league he averaged nine points in 18 minutes per game. Nurkic could be a slightly better rebounder, but at his age and considering who he has competed against, I think he would be a steal anywhere out of the top 10.
3. Clint Capela, Switzerland
A freak frame, with the body type to be a 5. Capela is not a traditional banger and he has fallen in love with his jumper before, but he looks the part and seems to be figuring out that he is best getting the ball near the bucket or getting it off the rim. Capela has a 7'4 1/2” wing span, but teams should beware that he used to think he was a small forward and may suffer from Kevin Garnett sydrome (shooting jumpers due to lack of bulk.)
4. Walter Tavares, Cape Verde Islands
The classic rim protector/rebounder Tavares mostly offers huge mitts on offense to help, but at 7'3 and rangy he makes life tough on small guards who drive. Obviously he is a bit of a project, but he can easily be a starting center after a year or three of learning the NBA craft.
5. Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
One of the oldest players in the draft, but also one who has improved greatly. Bachynski was the best shot-blocker in America last season and his own personal transformation has been magnificent. The lefty only goes left, but does it smartly. The classic backup center, who works and works and finds a way to score.