Sorting The Junior Big Men

In some respects, Malik Newman must feel like he's on an island. Our No. 1 prospect is the only perimeter player to rank among the top six players in our new junior rankings.

More often than not when reading broad evaluations of a given class, you'll see that the center spot fares relatively poorly when compared to the other positions.

But you aren't reading that today with respect to the Class of 2015, and chances are you won't be reading it a year from now, either. Junior big men dominate their smaller peers, and though not all project as centers each of the top six possesses an interior game and none projects as a wing forward.

Stephen Zimmerman currently occupies the No. 2 overall position behind Newman. Our pre-summer top dog, he mostly performed well in July but could not fend off the ever-improving Newman.

That said, he remains a scintillating combination of height, mobility and skill. Zimmerman's drives from 20 feet away result in frequent power slams, and along with that he's a capable turnaround jump shooter, rebounder and shotblocker.

And those dimensions push him just ahead of Diamond Stone. The burly Midwesterner doesn't boast quite the versatility of Zimmerman, but he's a far more polished and accomplished back-to-the-basket scorer. Stone also possesses excellent strength and should become an ace rebounder and interior defender as well.

Ivan Rabb receives consideration from some quarters as the country's best junior, and not without reason. He's a solidly built athlete who has erupted for huge scoring and rebounding performances versus older competition. His coordination and balance stand apart and he's making the transition from a more conventional big man into a face-up forward.

And then there's Skal Labissiere to round out the top five. Though less vetted than those ranking above him, Labissiere possesses the size (6-11) and polished skill to make a run toward even greater prominence in this class.

Checking in behind him is … ahem, Cheick Diallo. (His name actually is pronounced "Shek".) Diallo is a rugged warrior who plays much taller than his 6-9 frame. He's also a more talented scorer than most hard-nosed rebounders and defenders, and thus he competes like a specialist but is surprisingly well-rounded.

The other top-10 big man is Carlton Bragg. He doesn't boast the features those in the top six presently do, but he brings a great deal of athleticism and long-term potential to the table. Because these guys all have two seasons of high school basketball remaining, Bragg could become one of those to blow up over the next couple years.

Just outside the top 10, Elijah Thomas ultimately may play his way into that status. He's a strong, powerfully built center who scores via aggressive, bullying post moves. He's slightly undersized at 6-8, but he certainly won't have trouble getting shots in college and has ample time to develop for the pros.

The players mentioned here obviously aren't inclusive of the entire class, and naturally over the next 12 months many more will play their way into priority status. In the meantime, everyone — including college coaches — will enjoy the presence of such a potent frontcourt class heading into next spring's live period.

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