NBA Draft: Which 'big' is best?

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
10:48
AM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN.com
Archive

Getty ImagesAlex Len, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett are three notable big men in this year's NBA draft.
Who’s the best big man in this year’s NBA Draft? The answer may surprise you.

Using advanced analytical data, let’s compare the top big man prospects that played college basketball last season: Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, Steven Adams, Cody Zeller, Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Withey and Tony Mitchell.

Jump shots

The best stretch big man appears to be Bennett, who led the top big men in jump shots made and effective field goal percentage (min. 15 attempts) –- a shooting percentage statistic that gives more value to three-pointers.

Bennett's 52.8 effective field goal percentage on jumpers was slightly better than Trey Burke and Allen Crabbe.

Dieng, who shot 50 percent on jumpers, is the darkhorse candidate for a stretch big man. Despite rumblings about his potential to knock down perimeter jumpers at the next level, Zeller was just 9-of-24 on jump shots last season (37.5%).

Len and Mitchell were at the bottom of the barrel, both shooting 28 percent. Noel attempted only three jump shots, although he did make two of them.

Finishing at the rim

Withey shot 79 percent around the basket on non-post-up plays, the highest percentage in the country (min. 100 attempts). Olynyk wasn’t too far behind at 70 percent.

Mitchell and Adams were the only two of the top big man prospects to shoot below 60 percent around the basket, as both were just over 56 percent.

Post-up plays

Olynyk was the most efficient post-up scorer last season, scoring 1.07 points per post-up while shooting 58 percent on those plays.

The only player other than Olynyk to shoot better than 50 percent in the post was Plumlee, who has improved in terms of points per play and field goal percentage on post-up plays in each college season.

Dieng was by far the least-efficient post-up scorer of the group. He shot 26.5 percent and scored 0.57 points per post-up play.

Post defense

Adams, Noel, Withey and Zeller all measured as outstanding post defenders last season. Each of them held opponents to 30 percent shooting or lower and fewer than 0.60 points per post-up play. Adams was the best of the group –- his opponents shot 25 percent and scored 0.46 points per play in the post.

Olynyk didn’t fare as well as the other big men defending the post. His opponents shot 48 percent and scored 0.92 points per post-up play –- twice as many points per play as Adams allowed.

Rebounds and blocks

Dieng measured as the best rebounding big man of the top prospects. He and Adams both grabbed more than 17 percent of available boards. The worst rebounder of the group was Mitchell (15%).

Withey and Noel both blocked more than 13 percent of their opponents’ field-goal attempts while they were on the court. Adams was the only other player above 10 percent. Bennett, Zeller and Plumlee were the only big men of the group below 5 percent.

Conclusion

Of the 10 big men evaluated using these metrics, Withey is the only one who didn’t rank in the bottom four of any of the six categories. Noel is the only one to rank in the top two of three different categories.

Perhaps surprisingly, the worst of the group were Len and Zeller. Len didn’t rank in the top four of any of the six categories, while Zeller ranked in the bottom three in four of the six categories.

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