Chances are, you've heard it more than once in recent years. The NBA has changed. Not long ago, teams craved bulk and back-to-the-basket ability on the low block. The ideal NBA big man was a player who could excel in tight spaces. But the past half-decade has witnessed a paradigm shift, with teams increasingly valuing players who are capable of operating in space on the defensive end of the court while making those spaces less tight on the offensive end. Length, athleticism and lateral agility have become the commodities most in demand, and you'll find them reflected throughout the top of this year's draft.
Of the five players widely considered to be the top big men in this year's draft, four are likely to be long gone by the No. 10 pick, where the Sixers are slotted to draft. The one exception might be Duke's Wendell Carter Jr., who could end up slipping if teams in front of the Sixers end up prioritizing upside. A big man isn't high on their list of needs, but it also isn't something they would reflexively dismiss if one fell into their laps, given Joel Embiid's health concerns and the need to find a solid backup behind both him and Dario Saric.
Arizona • 7-0, Fr.
The Bahamas native clearly has the size that NBA teams need in the post, but it's his agility and ability to space the floor that have cemented him as the all-but-certain No. 1 overall pick. He averaged one three-point attempt per game during his lone season at Arizona, connecting on 34.3 percent of his 35 attempts. While hardly prolific, Ayton's accomplishments as a shooter underscore his versatility.
>>READ MORE: Meet the men in the Sixers' war room on draft night
Texas • 7-0, Fr.
Bamba's offensive game is not nearly as polished as Ayton's, and he lacks the bulk of a prototypical back-to-the-basket center. But his 7-foot-10 inch wingspan will be the largest in the league once he enters it. Scouts envision him as a Clint Capela type whose length and athleticism will immediately make him a vaunted rim protector.
Duke • 6-10, Fr.
Bagley was the best player in the ACC this season, averaging 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while displaying a relentless motor up and down the court. Like Jahlil Okafor before him, there are some questions about his size and his ability to anchor a team's defense around the rim. But he connected on nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts while averaging nearly two per game at Duke, making him a floor-spacer like Okafor never was.
Michigan State • 6-11, Fr.
Jackson's projection as a top-5 pick is a testament to the way the NBA's valuation of big men has changed. During his lone season at Michigan State, he averaged just 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but he has the athleticism necessary to switch onto guards and defend multiple positions, with the length and leaping ability that NBA coaching should be able to harness. On the offensive end of the court, he averaged well over two three-point attempts per game, connecting on nearly 40 percent of them.
Duke • 6-10, Fr.
Carter has drawn comparison to Al Horford, and anybody who watched the Sixers' five-game loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals should understand the problems that kind of skill set presents. He is regarded as a smart, technically-sound player who is a safe bet to have a long NBA career in some capacity. The only knock on him is his upside, as he lacks the size and athleticism that would project as a truly dominant five man or stretch-four.