Breaking down KU center Udoka Azubuike's chances in the NBA Draft
So now that we know that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is going to test the water and find out where he stands with NBA scouts and executives, it's time to examine Azubuike's chances of making the jump.
According to ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, who runs ESPN's mock drafts and predraft coverage — and used to run DraftExpress.com — the competition to be one of the 60 players selected in the June draft is more intense than ever.
"There are 175 guys currently who are testing the waters according to my count, so the field is getting pretty crowded at this point," Givony told the Journal-World. "He had a good year for KU, outside of after he got injured, but the market for centers in his mold has almost completely evaporated at this stage."
Instead, the NBA has placed a premium on players like Joel Embiid, who, even at that enormous size, still can operate with guard-like skills. Embiid, obviously, is the class of that crop and on pace to become one of the young faces of the NBA's future. But even among the lesser-known big men on multiple teams, it's those skills that translate to roster spots and playing time.
"I think anyone watching the NBA playoffs can see that," Givony explained. "Guys who can't pass, shoot, block shots prolifically or reliably step outside of the paint defensively are essentially dinosaurs these days."
That, of course, does not mean that Azubuike does not have a shot at attracting attention from the powers that be in the NBA. Anyone who stands 7 feet tall and 280 pounds is immediately going to get noticed.
But the change in the game has created a different demand at the center position and the way Givony sees it, the modern game does not make a player Azubuike's size as automatic as it once was.
There was a time, not that long ago, when a man with Azubuike's measurements would have been an automatic lottery pick, with NBA teams valuing a big body to clog up the paint and create problems for opposing defenses on the other end.
But today, with the game moving faster than ever and becoming more of a shooter's game, those Greg Oden-, Spencer Hawes-, Hasheem Thabeet-type players who all were lottery picks within in the past 12 years, are no longer as attractive because they, in many ways, are viewed as one dimensional and a step slow to play today's game.
That's not to say Azubuike can't become the type of player the NBA wants. Even though it's unlikely that he ever will transform himself into an elite shooter, he moves his feet well for a man his size and certainly has the size and drive required to become a force in the paint. And there are plenty of people who believe that the easiest way to make it in the NBA is to find one thing you do well and become elite at it. For Azubuike, that could become shot blocking and/or rebounding.
But Givony, who has not had the KU center on any of his two-round, 60-pick mock drafts in the past two years, does not believe Azubuike has reached that level yet.
"He is a heck of a college player, and I do think he has a chance to develop into a NBA player eventually," Givony said. "But the appetite for taking on a project big man in his mold just isn't where it was 10-15 years ago."