2009 NBA Draft: Power Forwards

Mon, 06/22/2009 - 2:24pm
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Headlined by perhaps the draft's top two talents, the 2009 power forward class comes up short in depth. As a result, most of the better players are established college veterans, almost entirely lacking upside. Still, there might just be a few sleepers who drift into the second round and prove capable of making an immediate impact.

Blake Griffin

1. Blake Griffin 6-10 248 PF Oklahoma So.

Griffin is, hands down, the top available prospect. The only issue now is figuring out which NBA All-Star to compare him with. Some have suggested Shawn Kemp, others Karl Malone or a more athletic Carlos Boozer. Still other, more cynical, pundits have suggested he's similar to Kenyon Martin. I tend to favor the Kemp comparison athletically, because Griffin has similar freakish strength and explosiveness. But he's even more polished than Kemp, and shouldn't take nearly as long to develop into a stud at the NBA level. If Griffin's offensive intensity can translate to defense, where he already has the natural abilities to dominate, watch out.

2. Jordan Hill 6-10 232 PF Arizona Jr.

Fans don't seem to want to buy into the Jordan Hill hype. I'm not sure why. Hill didn't just miraculously appear this past season. He was a hidden gem two years ago, when Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger were controlling the ball for the Wildcats. And his consistent dominance last season, averaging 18.3 points and 11 rebounds per game in the Pac-10, prove he has the potential to be a stud at the next level. He's a relentless rebounder on both ends with a silky touch and developing post moves and has the potential to become a Jermaine O'Neal-level defender and one of the better power forwards in the league.

3. DeJuan Blair 6-6 277 PF Pittsburgh So.

Recent hype surrounding Paul Millsap's excellent performance for the Utah Jazz while Carlos Boozer was sidelined with an injury this past season does a lot to help Blair's case. The super-long and powerful Panther has proven capable of defending taller, more athletic opponents and dominating the boards against just about anyone. But any team that drafts Blair has to answer two questions: Is he more like Millsap or Reggie Evans, the former Iowa forward who has proven to be little more than a board hog in the NBA? And will Blair maintain his physical fitness, which will become even more essential as the opponents become taller and more athletic?

4. Tyler Hansbrough 6-9 234 PF North Carolina Sr.

Hansbrough will go down as one of the greatest players in NCAA history, a four-year stud for one of the greatest programs in the history of the game who culminated his career with a championship. But at the NBA level, none of that matters (see Laettner, Christian). One of the big worries about Hansbrough has been resolved, though. He measured in at a solid 6-foot-9 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, so he's clearly big enough for his position at the next level. And his intensity and will to win are unquestionable: the guy has the heart to make the most out of his abilities. Still, Hansbrough spent most of his college career bullying people around, and he won't be able to do that in the NBA. From Day One, Hansbrough should be a solid role player. It's just not likely he evolves into much more.

5. Taj Gibson 6-10 214 PF USC Jr.

Any evaluation of Gibson must start with his absurd 7-foot-4 wingspan. The man is a condor, physically comparing best to Golden State Warrior Brandan Wright. But Gibson is essentially a true, back-to-the-basket power forward. He possesses a nice array of post moves, including a baby hook with his right hand that is tough to stop when combined with a drop step. What's not clear is how effective any of his post moves or his rebounding and shot blocking will be in the NBA. Gibson is thin and doesn't have particularly great upper- or lower-body strength, so teams will have to be wary that he may get pushed around at the next level. Still, he's a fairly polished product who with defensive potential should make for a nice big off the bench.

6. Josh Heytvelt 6-11 246 PF Gonzaga Sr.

When Heytvelt first broke onto the national scene, as a sophomore after helping the Bulldogs topple Hansbrough's Tar Heels, he was viewed as a potential lottery pick. A lot has happened since then to the beleaguered big. Heytvelt has dealt with an arrest and an injury, enough to kill anyone's hype. So the Zags' leading scorer will have to fall back on his abilities. Heytvelt has a nice midrange jump shot and good athleticism for someone of his size. What he lacks is toughness and intensity, along with a true post-up repertoire. The 23 year old will probably be a decent backup who could be helped by the weak selection of big men in this draft.

7. Jeff Pendergraph 6-10 240 PF Arizona St. Sr.

If you were to compare Pendergraph to Hill physically, you'd think you were looking at the same player. They're essentially the same height and length, with Pendergraph weighing in at a just few pounds heavier. They even rated as similar athletes, though Pendergraph was a little stronger and quicker. But the Sun Devil forward lacks the natural ability his in-state rival possesses in abundance. Pendergraph, instead, relies on his height and length as a quiet but efficient type, a post player who will compete and give a good effort but lacks real star potential. He's a solid second round pick, capable of competing right away off the bench for a winner. As a point of reference, in their three meetings this past season, Pendergraph averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds while Hill averaged 16.7 and 11. But Arizona State won all three games.

8. Jeff Adrien 6-6 235 PF UConn Sr.

Adrien probably has the biggest wingspan-to-height disparity of any player who will be drafted this year at a ridiculous eight inches. As a result, the undersized grinder can bang with players far taller than him, still grabbing rebounds against anyone. In fact, Adrien probably compares better to Paul Millsap than Blair. He's a versatile player with the athleticism and quickness to guard small forwards and the capability to learn to play on the wing. But he'll always be at home in the post, which makes him a Chuck Hayes-type, someone who can be a defensive stopper and solid rebounder but doesn't fit an NBA position, which is becoming less relevant every year.

9. Leo Lyons 6-9 235 SF/PF Missouri Sr.

Lyons might have been the best player not invited to the NBA Combine this year. But he's a guy who really strutted his stuff at the Portsmouth Invitational, proving capable of playing either forward position. His best role is as a face-up power forward, capable of shooting and driving against bigger opponents, while also strong enough to guard them down low. Lyons is most similar to Denver forward Linas Kleiza, in that he could be a really nice offensive spark off the bench but shouldn't be asked to defend quicker wings.

10. Robert Dozier 6-10 215 SF/PF Memphis Sr.

There's something inherently awkward about Robert Dozier's physique, but it's not a bad thing. He's just gangly, and while that inhibited him from playing to potential early in his collegiate career, he's learned how to use his 7-foot-3 wingspan to his advantage, soaring for rebounds and learning just enough post moves to become a serviceable player on the block. There's still a good chance he'll get beat up down low at the next level, but Dozier has a strong face-up game and an unblockable mid-range jump shot, as well as the defensive commitment and wherewithal to find a role in the NBA.

Honorable Mention:

Alade Aminu, Connor Atchley, Korvotney Barber, Jon Brockman, Chinemelu Elonu, Vitor Faverani, Taylor Griffin, Chris Johnson, Ahmad Nivins, Shawn Taggart

Other Rankings:

2009 NBA Draft: Small Forwards

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Hansbrough: We Almost Agree

I think Adi's assessment of Tyler Hansbrough is essentially on the money. However, I would add a few additional comments.

1. Most people forget that Tyler Hansbrough was double teamed virtually his entire career. Even though he won't be an explosive player in the NBA, he will be going one on one for the first time since early in his freshman season. At the very least, that should be interesting.

2. He has a Team First Attitude that will enhance team chemistry. We've seen so many spoiled, immature players in the NBA that have immense talent but hurt their team in other ways. One thing an NBA GM knows for sure reference Hansbrough will be his positive attitude. I would never underestimate the value of a guy who truly believes in the team first concept.

3. I don't know if Adi meant it when he said he won't evolve into much more, but I think that sounds like a negative value judgment on role players. In my opinion, role players are critical to the success of any team.

It started with Red Aurerbach, who realized the immense impact of role players on a championship team. You can only have 2 or maybe 3 stars, then your success depends upon role players and guys coming off the bench who know their job. Hansbrough will indeed be a role player, but one who knows and embraces his job.

The Hoops Manifesto
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Solid position

Pretty solid list of players. The top 4 guys will be around the League for a while.


scootover7's picture
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Joined: 03/31/2009
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I think Tyler Hansbrough

I think Tyler Hansbrough would fit in on New Orleans to back up David West granted that he is still on the board. I for some reason feel that Jordan Hill is going to Memphis with the number 2 pick. I may be wrong but nothing is certain after the number one pick which is without a doubt Blake Griffin. I feel that Blair will be a beast on the boards.

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