Serge Ibaka is setting the precedent for shotblocking in the NBA. His 3.7 blocks per game this past season were the most since Theo Ratliff was swatting shots in Philly for the Eastern Conference champs back in the 2000-01 season. Ibaka is by far the best shotblocker in the league, but come Thursday, he may have some company.
Anthony Davis earned the No. 1 pick by leading Kentucky to a national championship with his defensive prowess and is heir apparent to the shot-swatting throne. But not all great shotblockers are drafted with a high pick. The aforementioned Serge Ibaka was taken with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Read on to see which trusty defenders are worthy enough to make our list of the Top-10 Shotblockers of the 2012 NBA Draft.
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10. MEYERS LEONARD
Meyers Leonard has been steadily rising up team’s draft boards recently and for good reason. For one, he is a 7-footer with the ability to put on even more muscle. For someone so big, he has a lot of explosiveness and is one of the best bigs in the draft at working out of the post. Although he may not be the most versatile defender, he certainly knows how to get the job done. Last year, his only year of consistent playing time, he averaged 1.9 blocks per game. Like most prospects, there is plenty of room for improvement, but still look for Leonard to be selected in the mid-late lottery.
9. TYLER ZELLER
Tyler Zeller wasn’t even the best shotblocker on his team last year, but that is meant more as a testament to the talent on his team than a detriment to his defensive ability. He is a 7-footer who likes to get out in the open court and can run like a deer. In four years at North Carolina, Zeller incrementally raised his blocks per game average from 0.9 as a sophomore to 1.5 as a senior. His defensive game isn’t based around shotblocking, but he is a great help defender and team player. He needs to put on some pounds to have equal success at the professional level but many GMs believe he has a lot of untapped potential. Expect Zeller to be off the board by the late lottery.
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8. FESTUS EZELI
If nothing else, Festus Ezeli will be able to clog up space and deter anyone from driving the lane at the next level. At 6-11, and 264 pounds, with a 7-5 wingspan, his frame is intimidating, but he still has to refine his game to take the next step. He’s had some injury issues in the past and has been extremely prone to foul trouble, but has all of the physical tools to further develop his offensive game. In four years at Vanderbilt, he averaged 1.7 blocks, including two years where he only averaged 12 minutes a game. Because of his size, he seems to be able to contest shots anywhere on the floor. Ezeli has a ways to go if he expects to see major minutes in the NBA but expect a team to take a chance on him sometime in the mid-early second round.
7. ANDREW NICHOLSON
While 6-8 power forward Andrew Nicholson may be a bit undersized, his 7-4 wingspan more than makes up for it. He’s not the most athletic or highly touted prospect, but a high IQ and long body will definitely help him find a niche somewhere in the NBA. He improved his stats each year at St. Bonaventure and by his senior year, he averaged 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Nicholson is your prototypical throwback player who loves doing all the dirty work like setting screens, grabbing rebounds, and putting just as much effort into his defense as he does offense. He will most likely be drafted in the mid-first round and if he continues to progress, has the chance to become a savvy, reliable role player.
6. TY WALKER
It seems like every single one of our top ten lists has one of these guys. Although Ty Walker will most likely go undrafted, he certainly carries the shotblocking credentials to hang with the rest of the guys on here. He spent his first two years at Wake Forest developing his game, but when given limited time in his junior and senior year, Walker made the most of it. While only averaging 19 minutes per game in those two years, he was able to block 2.6 shots. His per-40 minute averages would have him near the top with the likes of Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for Walker, he was dismissed from his team for an undisclosed violation of athletic department policy with just one game left in his collegiate career and we may never see him suit up for an NBA team.