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
1. Blake Griffin 6-10 248 PF Oklahoma
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
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
7. Jeff Pendergraph 6-10 240 PF Arizona
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
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.