Top 10 Small Forward Prospects
1. Otto Porter - Georgetown - Whereas most of the top prospects in this draft have boom or bust potential/talent, Porter is a guy who carries with him the smallest amount of risk when comparing him to any other lottery pick in this year's draft. If Cleveland were to pick based purely on need then Porter would be the first pick in the draft hands down but considering he lacks the flash and/or freakish athleticism and upside that most top picks have, he isn't getting as hard of a look. Porter is a guy who doesn't have to have the ball in his hands to be successful. He is a slashing forward that can get his during the normal flow of the game while playing off of other players. He has great length to go along with a high basketball I.Q. He would be a perfect fit alongside Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and would give them a defensive presence on the wing that can knock down shots, get to the free throw line and not command the ball. He won Player of the Year Honors in a loaded Big East this past season and with a little work could be a sleeper candidate for Rookie of the Year in the right situation.
2. Shabazz Muhammad - UCLA - Over the last year, Muhammad has gone from being the #1 high school player in the country and sure fire lock for the top selection in this year's draft to a guy who has a ton of question marks that could slide out of the lottery. He is as talented as any player in this draft. It isn't his game or skill set that has caused him to slide. Before his freshman season at UCLA it was reported that he violated the NCAA's amateurism rules causing him to miss the first few games of his college career. When he finally did get on the court he looked out of shape and overweight. He also clashed with his teammates at times, especially Larry Drew III. It was after Drew's game winner in early February that Muhammad seemed almost upset because he didn't get the ball while he was frantically calling for it on the last play. Those kinds of things don't endear you to scouts as basketball is a team sport where locker room and on court chemistry are half the battle. Still, there is no denying his talent and potential to be a potent scorer in the league. His jump shot tapered off during his lone season at UCLA but he doesn't lack for confidence which is viewed as a weakness to some but in the long run should benefit him as he works his way into the league. He lacks elite level athleticism but has the potential to be an above average defender that can guard multiple positions. It will be his adjustment from being "the guy" to "a guy" that will make or break Muhammad's career.
3. Giannis Adetokoubo - Greece - Adetokoubo is getting a lot of love recently among teams and scouts because of his length and upside but also because he is a guy that teams in the mid to late first round could snag and stash overseas until he develops his body and polishes his significant offensive potential. He is raw overall but is a good athlete with a ridiculous wing span. Adetokoubo loves to get out and finish in transition as he can use his athleticism to get anywhere on the floor while also hiding his half court offensive deficiencies. He's likely 2-3 years away from being NBA ready, so his value is decreased a degree as there will be a long wait for him. However with so many teams unsatisfied with the talent level in this year's draft, Adetokoubo will allow teams to take a flyer on a player without worrying about adding another salary to their cap.
4. Tony Snell - New Mexico - Snell is probably more suited for the shooting guard position but at 6'7 could just as easily play the three in the NBA. He is one of the better shooters in the draft behind Ben McLemore. He averaged double figures during his final two seasons at New Mexico and is banking on a weaker than usual draft, as far as wings are concerned, to get into the first round. He is another player who is better suited playing off of the ball as he doesn't necessarily have the handles to create his own shot off of the dribble. It is that lack of smooth handles that projects him at the small forward position rather than the off guard, though he does show some potential to ceate off the dribble. He isn't going to be a starting player initially in the league but he can fill a need for a team in need of shooting and defense off the bench. He had a solid showing at the combine in solid workouts which has caused him to climb up draft boards. He's a fringe first round pick that could get into the early 20's if the right team falls in love with what he brings to the table.
5. Livio Jean Charles - France - Much like Dennis Schroeder, the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland was a coming out party of sorts for Jean-Charles. Statistically, he was the best player on the floor scoring 27 points and hauling in 13 rebounds in the contest. He's a bit of a tweener so it will be seen if he has the footspeed to defend on the perimeter. He's got good size and length at the small forward position, he finishes at the hoop, can face up and has a great motor. He's needs to add strength or teams will abuse him in the post but he's long and crafty and has an above average mid-range game which will keep defenses honest. A team late in the first round could take a flier on Jean-Charles as he is ready to contribute to a team right away.
6. James Ennis - Long Beach State - Ennis is a guy who isn't getting a whole lot of attention heading into the draft. He played out on the west coast for a team that underachieved this past season and is a prime example of what the "East coast bias" can do to college athletics. Ennis is an explosive athlete that has the potential to be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft. Long Beach State is hardly the "Mecca" of college basketball so Ennis didn't get a lot of love during his senior year but he put up big numbers, leading his team in scoring and rebounding. He went up against some of the top players in this draft and held his own showing he has what it takes to play against top level competition. His handles need work along with his ability to create his shot off the dribble but he's a high character guy that could be had early in the second round where his reward would greatly outweigh any risk. He knows that it will be his defense that helps him carve out a spot in a team's rotation and compares himself to the Bulls' Jimmy Butler in that he can defend multiple positions while also score when he has to.
7. Jamaal Franklin - San Diego State - Franklin's stock has fallen some because of his inability to workout at the combine due to an injury and the fact that, like Ennis, plays for a smaller school out west where he doesn't get the attention he deserves. Franklin is your typical do-it-all type of player that seems to be willing to do anything and everything on the basketball court to help his team win. It was Franklin's performance against NC State in the 2012 NCAA Tournament that opened many eyes to how good he really is. He guarded positions 1-4 on the court that day and even though he was extremely undersized against a fairly long State front line, it was his tenacity on defense against [Player: C.J. Leslie] and his will to get to the basket and finish through contact that kept his team in the game. If he slips out of the first round it will be surprising considering all of the things he does well on the basketball court.
8. Robert Covington - Tennessee State - Covington is a little known player from the state of Illinois. He attended Tennessee State where he averaged double figures in each of his four years with the Tigers. He has a smooth shooting stroke and good length plus size, 6'8 in shoes. He played well at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament recently which earned him a surprising invite to the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. He isn't an amazing athlete and doesn't do anything extremely well but he has a good range and played well when he got a chance to go up against better competition. He is in a group of about 5-10 small forwards that could go in the second round of the draft based on team needs and individual workouts. Being 22, he doesn't have the upside that some other players have in this draft but his body of work in college is impressive even at a lesser known school like Tennessee State.
9. DeShaun Thomas - Ohio State - The best word to describe Thomas is "tweener". He's too small height wise to be a power forward but he's not quick enough on defense to be a true small forward. He was a matchup nightmare in college because of his frame against smaller defenders but he won't be able to do that against most small forwards in the NBA. He played a lot of four in college but he's not tall enough to guard the power forward spot at the next level as he's barely 6'7 in shoes. He's a situational player at best and a guy that teams will shy away from until the second round. He could have used another year in school to help trim down and work on his quickness and agility. He's not a great athlete by any stretch but he has a knack for scoring the basketball on the block against smaller defenders and facing up larger defenders. There was a report that he wouldn't even give the Spurs his phone number when they asked for it at the combine which seems a bit odd considering they hold a late first round pick which is his ceiling at this point.
10. James Southerland - Syracuse - Southerland played power forward most of the time in college and really used the second half of his senior year and Syracuse's NCAA Tournament run to help elevate him from a player who was unlikely to be drafted, to a player who could warrant a second round selection. At 6'8, Southerland can get his shot off over taller defenders and is a knock down shooter. He shot almost 40% from distance this season which is his calling card. He plays decent enough defense but that was against taller post players in college. He's somewhat of a tweener as well since he doesn't have a set position at the next level. Defensively it is hard to project what he could potentially be at the next level because he played at Syracuse in that 2-3 zone which helps hide defensive inefficiencies. Southerland doesn't have a high ceiling and has probably reached his full potential as a basketball player but he is worth a look in the second round to fill a role off of the bench for an NBA team that likes to play small.
Jordan Aboudou 6-6 210 SG/SF Chalon 1991, Laurence Bowers 6-8 227 SF/PF Missouri Sr., Will Clyburn 6-7 210 SG/SF Iowa St. Sr., Carrick Felix 6-6 203 SG/SF Arizona St. Sr., Solomon Hill 6-7 226 SF Arizona Sr., Milton Jennings 6-9 225 SF/PF Clemson Sr., Oleksandr Lypovyy 6-8 200 SF BC Donetsk 1991, Amath Mbaye 6-9 215 SF Oklahoma Jr., Kevin Parrom 6-6 220 SG/SF Arizona Sr., Andre Roberson 6-7 206 SF/PF Colorado Jr., DJ Stephens 6-5 188 SG/SF Memphis Sr., Adonis Thomas 6-6 232 SF Memphis So., Christian Watford 6-9 230 SF Indiana Sr., Rodney Williams 6-7 200 SF Minnesota Sr.
Follow Me on Twitter @CroweClayton