2009 NBA Draft: Small Forwards

Sun, 06/21/2009 - 12:46pm
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This year's small forward class lacks the elite prospects of the power forward class or the depth of the guard classes, but there are a lot of players with the potential to contribute immediately. Length and athleticism have become essential values at the position in recent years, as more and more teams look for defensive stoppers at the swingman position. This class is loaded with players who could fill that role right away for an NBA team, along with two or three guys who could one day become legitimate stars.

1. Earl Clark 6-10 226 SF Louisville

Earl Clark
The same question marks teams have about Clark, they had about Rudy Gay before the 2006 draft. Is he soft, does he love the game, why hasn't he dominated the way he should, etc etc. Clark has slid up and down the draft board for the past two years. Here is a guy with the ability to become a true point-forward, a 6-foot-10 swingman who can effectively defend four positions and run the floor. But Clark's detractors have a lot to say about how those abilities will translate to the NBA game. He's not a great shooter and at times played with a cavalier attitude, as he was capable of using his height and athleticism to dominate opponents at the college level. Clark is far from a finished product. He's yet to develop a true repertoire of offensive moves, relying heavily on his fade-away jumper, but he's got the ability to become something special. Defensively, his 7-foot-2.25 reach is absolutely freakish and he's shown the ability to play just about every position. Offensively, he has the potential to develop into a glue player. An absoulte specimen, Clark could be the next Lamar Odom (with or without the gummi worms). He's a player with immense upside, but a player scouts fear lacks the motor and focus to fulfill his great potential.

2. James Johnson 6-8 257 SF Wake Forest

With the recent dominance of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, NBA teams are looking for a new breed of small forward - bigger, stronger and committed to the defensive end of the floor. Johnson may fill that role just about perfectly. While his lack of elite-level speed has some calling him a tweener, Johnson has a clear place in the modern NBA as a versatile offensive threat who can be a lock-down defender when he wants to be. The big thing for any team that drafts him is to keep him hungry, as he was known to disappear in games for the Demon Deacons. At the same time, any team that drafts him will have to make sure he's not too hungry; Johnson is already an oversized wing and weight concerns could be a problem for his already limited foot speed.

3. Derrick Brown 6-8.5 225 SF Xavier

The longest, perhaps most athletic player in this draft is also one of the most anonymous likely first rounders. Brown isn't one of those guys who jumps out at you right away, though. So maybe it makes sense this way. Instead, he has incredible length (a 7-foot-2.5 wingspan) and does everything pretty well. He's a smooth wing with the potential to develop into a very good starter at the NBA level, though he probably will never be a star. Xavier's system hindered his statistical output, but there was no question he was their best player this season and best prospect last season as well.

4. Omri Casspi 6-9 211 SF Israel

Casspi has been very impressive in workouts showing why many feel he deserves to be the second International player taken (not including Jennings). His skill level and shooting ability are good, not great, but he possesses a strong motor and toughness. Casspi has a good deal of experience playing at a high level in Europe (Macabi Tel Aviv) for a few seasons. He aspires to be the first Israeli player ever to play in the NBA and has the talent to make that happen next season. The one question mark some critics have is whether he can accept the role of being a complimentary player and whether coming off the bench will be difficult for him to handle.

5. DaJuan Summers 6-8.5 243 SF Georgetown

Every once in a while, a player's stock is so tied to his team's success that scouts lose the ability to recognize talent if his team starts to lose. Summers went from a potential top-10 pick to a potential second rounder thanks to a horrible finish from Georgetown. While the Hoyas definitely stunk it up, Summers is still a very intriguing prospect. He's built and, like everyone else on this list so far, long. But his athleticism isn't hurt at all by his immense size - consider that he bested Wake Forest point guard Jeff Teague in both the three-quarter court dash and lane agility drill at the combine. Summers has the look of a guy who should find a place in this league and hold it for a while, a sleeper pick who should be one of the best players taken in the 20s or lower.

6. Sam Young 6-7 223 SF Pittsburgh

Young is in the exact opposite seat from Summers: his stock is largely the product of his team's success. Unquestionably the best offensive player the Panthers had last year, Young is a tremendous midrange jump shooter known for his pump fake that so often sends defenders flying past him before he sends a shot swishing through the net. Defensively, his 6-foot-11 wingspan does help make up for some of his size issues. But while he has the effort level, Young probably lacks the kind of elite-level athleticism that could make him a long-time starter. Still, if you're looking for anyone in this draft that could develop into a Bruce Bowen-type, it might be Young. At the very least, he's one of the draft's most polished products.

7. Victor Claver 6-9 236 SF Spain

After impressing two years ago at the 2007 Reebok Eurocamp, Claver has struggled to stay on track losing nearly all of the past season due to a knee injury. He returned for the final 7 games. The jury is still out on his recovery and how effective he can eventually be at the NBA level. His decision to enter and remain in this year's draft is a curious one, leading to speculation that he prefers being a second rounder in order to circumvent the first round salary scale and enter the league on his own terms (Marc Gasol was the 48th pick and essentially signed a deal equivalent to a top 10 pick). Claver is a talented kid, but his lack of great foot speed and perimeter skills make him a position question mark guy. But with legitimate talent, he appears to be a steal in the early 2nd and a guy some team could look to snatch up in the late first.

8. Austin Daye 6-11 192 SF Gonzaga

No player put up more embarrassing combine numbers than Daye. He was an efficient but erratic scorer his sophomore year for Gonzaga, the type of player who really could have used a full season as the go-to player on offense to prepare himself for the next level. He showed flashes of being a great shooter and standout player, but unfortunately his durability, strength and quickness have come into play. If he can improve his fitness in every aspect and accept a lot of time on the bench, he could become a nice player someday. At the same time, he might also be the riskiest college player in this draft, due to his lack of body strength. He has struggled mightily in workouts and some are beginning to wonder if he's still a lock for the first round.

9. Jonas Jerebko 6-9 220 SF Sweden

Jerebko is part American and has spent time in the States so the transition to the NBA should be easier for him than others (Internationals). He grew up speaking English and has a very American (style of) game as well. His team (Biella) had a surprising season, and he showed excellent development over the past year. His outside shot has improve (still a little slow to get off) and his understanding and feel for the game are coming along nicely. There is talk that he could find a spot in the late first, and could go anywhere from 23-late 30s.

10. Dante Cunningham 6-8.5 227 SF/PF Villanova

Any fan of college basketball has got to be rooting for Cunningham. Here's a player who took a major stride each of his four years in Jay Wright's system, from a key reserve on an Elite Eight team as a freshman to the star of a Final Four team as a senior. He works hard, does anything a coach asks of him and has been a general overachiever throughout his college career. Cunningham doesn't project perfectly to the NBA, as many wonder if he has the prerequisite wing skills to develop into a true small forward. But in the modern NBA, position matters less than ever. Cunningham is a player, and while it's doubtful he will ever be much more than a key reserve, he could turn himself into a nice low-risk mid-second rounder for a team in need of help at either forward position.

Honorable Mention:

Nemanja Aleksandrov, DeMarre Carroll, Charlie Coley, Brandon Costner, Luigi Datome, Micah Downs, Christian Eyenga, Danny Green, Paul Harris, Lawrence Hill, Joe Ingles, Jaka Klobucar, Marcus Landry, Nate Miles, Douglas Nunes, Emir Preldzic, Kevin Rogers, Diamon Simpson, AD Vassallo, Andrey Vorontsevich

Registered User
Joined: 12/09/2008
Posts: 30
Points: 57

i dont see james johnson being that good of a player either

The Hoops Manifesto
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Joined: 06/12/2009
Points: 6
Clark & Claver

It is true that people have the same concerns with Earl Clark that they did with Rudy Gay when he entered the draft, but Gay was a far better NCAA player than Clark was.

I like Victor Claver as a sleeper pick, especially if he ends up in the second round. He has lottery pick level skills.

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Joined: 06/13/2008
Points: 6
Deep small foward draft?

I think this years draft is more of a deeper point guard and shooting guard draft. The small fowards in this draft are potential busts. Austin Daye should have went back to school he's not ready for the pros and with only two years garunteed on the rookie contracts (if taken in the first round) there is no way in telling how long a team will be patient with you before they write you off and you're in Europe some where. So it's even more crucial that players know that they're ready to make the jump and contribute right away.

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Joined: 03/30/2009
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Daye will be better than

Daye will be better than people think. I believe once they put him on a weight program and strenghtening program, people will wonder how he fell so low.

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