Good big men are hard to find, they say in the NBA, but great ones, such as Greg Oden, come along only once every decade or so.
That seems to be the consensus among talent evaluators, some of whom consider the Ohio State product to be a combination of Bill Russell and David Robinson in a 7-foot, 257-pound package.
On Thursday night, Portland is expected to open the draft with the selection of Oden, who is almost certain to erase the memories of centers LaRue Martin and Sam Bowie, a pair of much-hyped draft picks who failed the Trail Blazers in the past.
The only other true center to have lottery potential is Spencer Hawes, whom the Bulls have seriously considered at the ninth overall pick.
General manager John Paxson and his staff had enough interest in Hawes to invite him to the Berto Center earlier in the week for a second look.
At 7-foot-1, 244 pounds, Hawes is considered to be something of a project, as he played only one season at Washington before he decided to test the draft waters. In April, he turned 19 years old.
As a freshman, Hawes averaged 14.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Hawes is a work in progress at the defensive end. He lacks the strength to hold his own against physical opponents and the quickness and footwork to keep in step with athletic ones.
At the same time, Hawes has the kind of potential as an offensive threat that intrigues the Bulls, among other teams.
Hawes has unusual touch for his size and can shoot consistently from upward of 18 feet away from the basket. He also has soft hands and excellent vision, a combination that makes him an effective passer in the middle.
Hawes also has some NBA blood. His father, Steve, spent 10 seasons in the league.
Seven-footer Kyrylo Fesenko (Cherkasy, Ukraine) is another possible first-round selection at the position.
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