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.
5. BERNARD JAMES
Bernard James has arguably been the best post defender in college basketball the past few years so why isn’t he being considered as a first-rounder? For one he’s already 27 years old. He dropped out of high school at age 16 before going back to get his GED. Then he joined the Air Force for six years before finally arriving at Florida State. Secondly, his offense is atrocious. In his two years as a Seminole, he averaged 9.6 points but mostly on dump-offs and putbacks. From the charity stripe he shot just 52.8 percent. James does have enough positives to outweigh the negatives though. He’s ruthless on the defensive end of the court and has been proving it by playing against ACC competition. He averaged 2.4 blocks over two seasons for a team that liked to slow down the pace and grind possession for possession. Had they picked the tempo up, there’s no doubt in my mind he would have averaged 3.0. One thing GMs love about him is his maturity level. Rarely do you get to draft an NBA veteran, but after six years in the military, James knows all about teamwork and effort. If you’re looking for a potential all-star, you’ve got the wrong guy, but there’s no reason James can’t be a Joel Anthony-like role player. Look for a team to grab him in the second round.
4. FAB MELO
As the anchor of Jim Boeheim‘s 2-3 zone last year, Fab Melo used his physical presence to dissuade anyone from coming to the rim. At 7-0, 270 pounds, the Brazilian was able to distinguish himself from a different Melo who once suited up in Syracuse orange. In his lone year of major playing time, he swatted away 2.9 shots per game, including one night where he pulled off a 12-point, 10-block double-double. His offensive game isn’t perfect, but it could definitely be much worse. Given his 7-2 wingspan, his hook shot is tough to block. However, no matter who drafts him, it won’t be for offense. His size can sometimes be a burden as we’ve seen him in and out of shape for the past two years, but with the right mindset, Melo has the potential to develop into an exceptional defender. Expect the Big East Defensive Player of the Year to be drafted in the late first round.
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3. JOHN HENSON
At 6-10 and with a 7-5 wingspan, John Henson is blessed with the best genetics possible to become a legit NBA shotblocker. His standing reach of 9-3.5 was tied for the highest at the combine and his two seasons of playing time at North Carolina speak for themselves. Averaging 3.1 blocks over that span, Henson earned the freedom from his coach to just roam around on defense and contest shots wherever he wanted. He’ll swat you with either hand and is hard to trick with pump fakes. Offensively, his game is trending upwards. His jumper has steadily improved and he has mastered slipping picks for easy buckets. Henson is as skinny as a rail, but has also put on 40 pounds since his freshman year. He will need to bulk up in order to establish post position at the next level. John Henson has all the potential to become the NBA’s next big shotblocker so look for him to be drafted in the late lottery come Thursday night.
2. ANDRE DRUMMOND
Although Andre Drummond’s only year at Connecticut was disappointing, he’s still considered a prime candidate to be a breakthrough player in this draft. He’s 6-11 with a 7-6 wingspan, and when motivated, is an unstoppable force on both ends of the court. His timing is impeccable when rising up for blocks and his smooth, fundamentally sound footwork makes for a bright future. Offensively he’s equally dominant. Despite lacking much of a post game, Drummond can score at will with a combination of speed, power and athleticism. Because of maturity issues and a bad habit of disappearing at times, his draft stock is lower than it should be. Remember in 2010 when DeMarcus Cousins slipped down to the No. 5 pick? I see the same thing happening here. Drummond will still be drafted with one of the first 10 picks and will eventually make a difference wherever he goes.
1. ANTHONY DAVIS
What is there to be said about Anthony Davis that hasn’t been repeated 1,000 times over the past few weeks? The kid is an athletic freak. Standing at 6-10 with a 7-5 wingspan, it’s no wonder he blocked 4.7 shots per game in his only collegiate season. Davis should have no problem translating his game to the NBA. Offensively, he has to polish his range a bit and definitely needs to bulk up, but defensively he should be able to make a difference from the get-go. With a relentless motor, Davis has the ability to make game-changing plays and can influence the crowd, and thus the momentum, in the blink of an eye. New Orleans should consider themselves blessed to have an elite defender fall into their laps.
Who do you think are the best shotblockers in this draft?
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