T5Tuesday: “Five Bigs to Watch”

Our T5Tuesday coverage continues with a few big men who could make a decent impact at the next level.

1. Cheick Diallo (Freshman, Kansas)

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Power Forward-Center/6’9/220/Age: 19

Key Stats: 3 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Cheick Diallo averaged only 3 points/game last year in just 27 appearances. But you know what…he’ll still be a first-round pick. The pure definition of a raw project, Diallo is seen as an investment for the future – but boy, could it pay off!

Risking a low-first round selection on Diallo might be worth it, as some scouts believe he can develop into the next Bismack Biyombo (yes, Biz is now a barometer for many young bigs after his breakout postseason performance) considering his athleticism and possession-controlling potential.

18-35 is a realistic range.

2. Stephen Zimmerman (Freshman, UNLV)

(Troy Babbitt/USA TODAY Sports)
(Troy Babbitt/USA TODAY Sports)

Power Forward-Center/7’1/220/Age: 19

Key Stats: 10.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2 bpg

Everyone wants to stretch the floor these days, including 7’1 freshman Stephen Zimmerman. During his brief time at UNLV, he showed flashes of becoming an everyday player at the next level – turning heads with his fluidity and shot-blocking.

In a couple years, Zimmerman could be a nice UnderDOG off the bench. Until then, he needs to become best buds with his strength and conditioning coach. Living in the gym and developing a stronger base is priority number 1 early on.

3. Ben Bentil (Sophomore, Providence)

(Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports)

Small Forward-Power Forward/6’8/220/Age: 21

Key Stats: 21.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.1 apg

Ben Bentil aka “Ben Baller” is a future matchup problem four man in the league. Similar to guys like Al Harrington and Marcus Morris, Bentil is a hybrid forward, with a strong frame, whose main focus is scoring the ball. He doesn’t have true NBA range yet but has a very quick release and a consistent motion on his J.

The one thing holding him back, though? Defense.

Bentil doesn’t always lock in on D, whether it’s an easy blow by or sacrificing ground and/or space to opposing players, it’s just not a challenge to score on him most nights. If he falls to a squad that can mask his defensive struggles (at least in the first couple of seasons), Bentil will reward them with plenty of big nights from the field.

4. Damian Jones (Junior, Vanderbilt)

(Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)
(Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)

Power Forward-Center/6’11/245/Age: 20

Key Stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Damion Jones didn’t really ‘wow’ at Vandy but he could really stand out in an uptempo system in the NBA. One of the draft’s top “big man” athletes, Jones can get up and down the floor, finish up top and has an underrated midrange J.

This draft is deep with young, yet unfinished bigs and Jones is a true representation of that. He isn’t the best rebounder and fouls a little too much but we also said similar things about a guy like Myles Turner last year. Now Jones doesn’t have as many moves on offense but he’s a better athlete and rim runner.

And if all goes right, a future All-Rookie selection is in the cards as well.

5. Thon Maker (Australia)

(Roberto Serra/Getty Images)
(Roberto Serra/Getty Images)

Power Forward-Center/7’1/215/Age: 19

I’m sure you’ve seen Thon Maker’s infamous highlight videos on YouTube before…everyone has! Though he probablyyyy won’t generate that same time of buzz in the NBA, he can make waves as a stretch four/shot-blocker…a rare combination.

At 7’2, Maker has the length and quick leaping ability to extend on rotations and make help-side swats. His jumper is steadily improving also, as well as his ability to put the ball on the floor.

At 215, that won’t cut it playing any interior position but if he lands on a contender (ahem, San Antonio) with a late first-early second round pick, Maker could end up San Antonio Spurs as a rotation player by Year 2.


-Jabari J.

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