The power forward position has unprecedented depth in this year’s draft with as many as 12 potential first rounders and 8-9 guys with a legitimate chance of being lottery picks. Henry Ellenson, a player that was rated as high as 5th overall on some prognosticators boards, comes in at ninth on this list, to give you an idea of how deep and talented this group is.
1. Ben Simmons – (PF/PG, LSU, 6-10, 240, Freshman)
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Australia native is widely considered the prize of this year’s draft class. Projected as the likely number one pick, Simmons’ NBA position was somewhat unclear prior to his freshman season at LSU. But by the time the Tigers’ season ended, it was apparent that the power forward spot is where his strengths can be maximized the most as he continues to develop and work on his weaknesses (although he’s as interchangeable as a prospect could be). He will likely bring the ball up the floor a lot and facilitate the offense fresuently. Despite LSU failing to participate in any type of postseason play, Simmons flexed his potential superstar talent on numerous occasions. He finished the season averaging a double-double with 19.2 points on 56 percent shooting and 11.8 rebounds to go along with 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals. Simmons is viewed as the most talented forward in this draft thanks to his unique combination of athleticism, size (overall physical tools), fluidity, versatility, quickness, speed, ball-handling (can get to any spot on the floor), playmaking, court vision, and basketball IQ. His athleticism and size allow him to rebound well on both ends like a big. He can score in a variety of unorthodox ways and has the ability to consistently create high-percentage shots, including off the dribble and in the post (efficient finisher with either hand with a nice touch). He’s a dynamic playmaker for himself and his teammates in transition and in the halfcourt. He draws and kicks as well as any point in this class. In most cases, he’s an overwhelming mismatch for whoever’s defending him. Defensively, he’s very good perimeter defender who actively plays the passing lanes when engaged. Simmons’ perimeter shot was basically nonexistent last season. He took very few jumpers from long distance and never seemed comfortable or confident with his shot. There are questions and concerns about his demeanor, attitude (aloof?), and competitiveness but they should subside as he continues to mature as he is still young. Overall, Simmons is a can’t miss prospect whose potential at the next level is
2. Dragan Bender – (PF, Croatia, 7-0, 220, International)
To the average basketball fan, the Croatian big man remains a bit of a mystery. Little do they know, Bender has been playing professional basketball since 2013. NBA executives and international scouts have the most intel on the skillset and potential of the 7-foot-1, 220-pound 18-year-old because of his time playing in FIBA tournaments, Eurocamp and Basketball Without Boarders. There is a notion that Bender has the highest upside of anyone in the draft and especially at his position. He’s very skilled for his size and has exceptional mobility. Although he isn’t a very explosive athlete or leaper, as he measured a 27.5 inch max vert at Eurocamp last season, he’s a versatile offensive player with the impressive ability to make things happen from different spots on the floor. His fluid ball-handling skills are terrific (for his size) in transition, having shown the capability of going coast to coast and attacking defenders off the dribble before finishing. He also holds value as a stretch forward from mid-range and beyond the arc. Last season he shot 39.5 percent from the three-point line. Bender is also a solid passer (has good vision) at his position with a high basketball IQ. On the defensive end, he has the lateral quickness to be an effective one-on-one and pick-and-roll defender. He also does well switching onto smaller players and protecting the rim as a weak side defender. Moving forward he’ll need to add some muscle. His lack of strength allows him to be outmuscled at times in the post and on the perimeter. It also plays to his disadvantage when it comes to rebounding despite having long arms because he can often be moved out of position. Adding strength and muscle should be a primary area of focus for him as he continues to approach next season. Bender definitely has the upside that comes with being a high lottery selection and should be an impactful player on both ends of the floor at the next level.
3. Domantas Sabonis – (PF/C, Gonzaga, 6-10, 240, Sophomore)
Sabonis, the son of Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis, has a chance to be an instant contributor at the next level. His represntation has been very selective in his workout schedule, focusing on four teams in the mid-late lottery. He took a huge leap between his freshman and sophomore season at Gonzaga, showing nice growth offensively with a well-rounded skill set (averaged 17.6 points per game last season). He’s as versatile as any other power forward in this draft in that he can shoot the ball from around 15 feet as well as overpower his opponents in the post with his physicality. While he does lack length, and there are concerns about his ability to scoring against long athletes inside, his numbers show that he is an effective at finishing at the rim thanks to his soft touch and craftiness. During his two seasons at Gonzaga, the 6-foot-10 power forward demonstrated strong and polished post moves and the ability to take his man off the dribble. When he doesn’t finish, he often absorbs contact and makes his way to the free-throw line where he made 76.9 percent of his attempts (attempted 5.4 free throws per game last season). Scouts not only love him for his scoring, but they also consider him one of the the best rebounding prospects in the draft. His strength, motor, and nose for the ball helped him corral 11.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore, including three offensive rebounds. He understands how to play in space and can make plays in pick-and-roll situations. He’s also shown solid passing ability from numerous areas on the floor. Sabonis isn’t a great athlete and often relies on his strength too much. It will be difficult for him to overpower NBA power forwards so he’ll need to add a few more post moves to help him score. The most underappreciated part of Sabonis game is his outside shooting ability. He has routinely knocked down 70 of 100 three point shots in individual workouts with teams. While he didn’t utilize that skill at Gonzaga, look for it to become a part of his game at the next level. His aforementioned strength and motor put him into foul trouble at times as a defender. He also needs to work on his overall post defense. Sabonis can go anywhere from the lottery to mid-first round. No matter where he’s selected, though, he should be able to contribute to his team right away.
4. Marquese Chriss – (PF, Washington, 6-10, 235, Freshman)
Chriss enters the draft as an early entrant who didn’t put up spectacular numbers – 13.7 points on 56 percentage shooting and 5.4 rebounds – as a freshman with the Washington Huskies. Although he remains an unpolished prospect, he has increased his draft stock tremendously since the season ended and is now viewed by some as a potential top-5 pick. Chriss is a high-level athlete – actually, one of the best athletes in this class – whose offensive skill set has quickly improved in a short amount of time. Chriss’ elite athleticism includes a 38.5-inch vertical jump. His athletic ability gives him the confidence to attack the basket with aggression. He’s dangerous from behind the three-point line as a spot-up shooter, connecting on 35 percent of his shots from long distance last season. His release and shooting motion are quick. Chriss is also a threat in transition as he uses his quickness to effectively run the floor and find spots to score. In addition, he often finishes fast break opportunities with exciting highlight dunks. He stills needs to work on his low-post game but and add some go to moves. Defensively, he has the ability to change and block shots consistently. He doesn’t give up on plays in which he seems to be out of and hustles to make plays on the ball. Despite his high talent level and potential, Chriss is a very raw product and needs to continue to translate his athleticism into basketball skill. Defensive rebounding should be an area of focus for him moving forward as he averaged just 2.9 rebounds on that end of the floor. One thing that can help his rebounding is added strength. He also needs to become a more disciplined defender. He led the nation in personal fouls with 138, over four per games and seemed to be in foul trouble on a nightly basis. He’s not an exceptional defender by any means at this point in time but his athleticism and shot blocking gives him tools to make an impact on that end of the floor as he gains discipline. Overall, scouts tend to drool over the upside that Chriss has. His size and athleticism will possibly make him a high lottery selection.
5. Brice Johnson – (PF, North Carolina, 6-10, 210, Senior)
Despite an extremely successful collegiate career at North Carolina, Johnson is a routinely underrated prospect. As a senior, he averaged 17.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocked shots per game while helping lead the Tar Heels to a 33-7 record and an appearance in the national championship game. Johnson can rival anyone in this draft at his position when it comes to athleticism. He’s a freak athlete who is long and thin and has a nice wingspan. Johnson has great bounce and can get off the floor extremely quickly. He demonstrated great efficiency and a soft touch around the rim, as his field goal percentage never dipped below 51 percent throughout his four-year career. He can shoot the jump hook, can finish off his penetration to the basket opportunities, and should be able to extend his shooting range, which should allow him to be a valuable stretch-4 option in the pros. Johnson excels in knocking down elbow jumpers as well. He hasn’t shown the ability to be a three-point threat but he is a great free throw shooter (made close to 80 percent last season). He thrives in running the floor and finishing in transition. Johnson was also one of the best rebounders – a force on the offensive glass – in college basketball using his quick-leaping skills that allowed him to get to missed shots before defenders could get off the floor. He’s good at guarding in space, can switch, and slides his feet well. His low post defense can see some improvement but that should come as his continues to get stronger and build upon his thin frame. He is a shot blocking threat but doesn’t necessarily have the speed, quickness or lateral movement to effectively defend on the perimeter. A knock on Johnson is that he can sometimes disappear and seems to lack toughness and maturity. His emotions seemed to get the best of him when things weren’t going his way in the national title game, but that isn’t viewed as a huge concern. His athleticism, inside scoring ability, rebounding, and ability to run the floor should have him selected in the mid-to-late first round.
6. Skal Labissiere – (PF/C, Kentucky, 7-0, 215, Freshman)
Labissiere is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft class. Although he had an extremely underwhelming freshman season at Kentucky (6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds), Labissiere remains in the lottery discussion because of is size, length, and ability to knock down shots from long range. He’s the best shooter on this list, and provides a lot of intrigue with his potential as a pick and pop guy. Now that the league is continuing to move toward versatile lineups while spreading the floor with shooters, Labissiere’s physical profile, shooting, agility, and athletic ability seemingly make him a perfect fit. His low post game is not a strength at this point in time. Instead, he’s best utilized when he’s playing on and around the perimeter where his strong shooting can be put to use. He showed that he can hit the mid-range pick and pop. He has potential as a defender, especially as a rim protector. In terms of things he needs to work on, it would be nice to see him develop a low post game at some point during his career. Other then his shooting from mid-range, there isn’t much else that comes with his offensive game. Labissiere has to continue to develop into more of shot blocker and rebounder. He has to get much stronger as well. One of the biggest knocks on him is his lack of toughness. He often seemed incapable of being an enforcer and was pushed around/bullied quite a bit. His confidence appeared to be very fragile and he didn’t respond well to Coach Cal’s in your face motivational style. His ability to defend in the low post and rebound were severely impacted by this. With that said, teams will be willing to take a chance on his raw talent and athleticism. He may spend some time in the D-League to help his development before making a true impact for whatever team that drafts him. But he is a high upside prospect who needs time and patience.
7. Cheick Diallo – (PF, Kansas, 6-9, 220, Freshman)
Diallo is another player on this list who didn’t live up to high expectations in his freshman year at Kansas. In fact, he missed his first five games due to suspension because of academic eligibility issues. When he did return, he barely saw the court – averaging just 7.5 minutes per game. He was never able to get into a rhythm during the season and wound up taking three straight DNPs during the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament run. Throughout the pre-draft process, Diallo has worked hard to re-establish himself and prove that he’s worth a mid-to-late first round pick. However, there’s a lot that remains to be seen from him. What we have seen on occasion is his ability to be a high-level rebounder at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds. He also uses his size and length when contesting and blocking shots with both hands (as a weakside and one-on-one defender). He has great footwork and keeps his feet active. His raw set of physical attributes and high energy level makes him a difference maker on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, Diallo is well aware of his limits. A lot of his offensive possession were post-ups, showing that he can seal off his man and make himself a target for entry passes. Right now, he looks much more comfortable with taking turnaround jumpers or 8-10-footers from the face-up position. He projects to be more of a pick-and-pop player than rolling to the basket. Rolling to the basket is something he isn’t as comfortable in doing because he doesn’t particularly finish well, especially through contact. However, he can get better in this facet by adding more strength. Diallo runs the floor well and has good athleticism but his defensive abilities will be the reason why a team will select him in the mid-to-late first round.
8. Henry Ellenson – (PF/C, Marquette, 6-11, 235, Freshman)
Other than Simmons, Ellenson is perhaps the most polished freshman in this draft class. He averaged a very productive 17.0 points on 44.6 percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocked shots per game during his only season as a Marquette Golden Eagle. In a nutshell, he’s a gym rat and a natural scorer and legitimate inside-outside threat. He can score from the low block with his back-to-the-basket (great footwork and long arms) and is capable of extending his jumper to the mid-range. There’s optimism that he can develop a more consistent shot from the three-point line but he only attempted 3.2 threes per game and hit 28 percent of them. If he can start to develop a three-point shot it will open up driving lanes. This plays to his advantage because he’s known for being able to face-up four that takes opposing big men off the dribble and attacks the basket. When he does so, he shows off a surprisingly good handle. His passing ability is an underrated part of his game but is a plus among big men. His lack of athleticism, quickness, and speed are causes for concern, although he runs the break fairly well after securing rebounds (also has a knack for throwing strong outlet passes off the rebound). Finishing through contact around the basket needs some improvement. Bulking up will help him in this area and with being an effective rebounder in the NBA although he dominated the boards at the college level. He’s a smart and aggressive defender who stays out of foul trouble, but his overall defense is not great. Defending in space and out on the perimeter is an issue and he sometimes disappears on that end of the floor as far as consistently making an impact. He struggles when guarding quicker bigs. He’s better defending in the post because he uses his length to force players out of position and away from the basket. Ellenson didn’t have trouble adjusting to the college game but may struggle to adjust to the speed of the NBA game. Like most young players at his position, especially freshmen, adding strength and establishing more post moves at the next level will be beneficial. He may be a bit overrated, as it’s hard to know how well his versatility will translate with a limited athletic profile, but he has some real intrigue with his skill set if his athleticism improves.
9. Guerschon Yabusele (PF, 6-8 260, France, 1995)
One of the draft’s potential underrated gems, Yabusele really progressed as the season went on and had a tremendous finish, including a string of four straight 20 point performances. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a 8-foot-9 standing reach, he’s not nearly as undersized as some may have you believe. The burly, face up four man is shaping up to be one of the big sleepers in this year’s draft. While fellow countryman, 6-foot-7 small forward Timothe Luwawu seems to be getting a great deal of internet hype (he’s no where near a lottery level talent), Yabusele is in fact the superior prospect, which is the sentiment among many knowledgeable European scouts. Yabusele is a very quick footed player, which is shocking consideing his massive frame, and has a very good skill level, including shooting 43% from 3 this year. He still needs to improve his post game and despite a huge frame, his body fat is actually very good at below 9%. He really came on at the end of the season and will look to grab a spot in the late first round. Finding another Draymond Green will be nearly impossible, but in this draft Yabusele is probably the closest thing.
10. Pascal Siakam (PF, 6-9 230, New Mexico St., So.)
A late bloomer, Siakam is already 22, but showed excellent improvement from his junior to senior seasons. He made a difficult decision to keep his name in the draft, and while he’s considered a bubble first rounder, the decision was likely a wise one considering his age and the quality of this year’s draft. The power forward position has a lot of depth with players such as ben Bentil and Joel Bolomboy not even making the top 10. Siakam measured extremely well with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and plays with a terrific motor. His offensive game is unorthodox as he doesn’t seem to have much pace, as he could use a little more patience in setting up his offensive moves. His shot and offensive game are a work in progress, but showing signs of improvement. He’s not overly bouncy but can get off the floor. His speed on the other hand is very good and he gives great effort in going for rebounds and running the court. His foot speed is another big plus and allow him to guard smaller players on the perimeter at times. He’s considered a mature and high character kid off the floor. Given the depth at the position, Siakam may be a victrm of numbers and fall to the second round, but he’s drawin a lot of interest from late first round teams and figures to be a solid role player at the next level.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Anderson 6-9 235 PF Arizona Sr., Marko Arapovic 6-10 230 PF KK Cedevita 1996, Ben Bentil 6-8 230 PF Providence So., Joel Bolomboy 6-9 225 PF Weber St. Sr., Robert Carter 6-8 250 PF Maryland Jr., Petr Cornelie 6-11 210 PF/C Le Mans 1995, Matt Costello 6-10 245 PF/C Michigan St. Sr., Ilimane Diop 6-11 215 C Caja Laboral 1995, Perry Ellis 6-8 220 PF Kansas Sr., Anthony Gill 6-8 230 PF Virginia Sr., Ilja Gromovs 6-10 230 PF/C Jurmala 1994, Tyler Harris 6-9 220 PF Auburn Sr., Juan Hernangomez 6-9 225 PF Asefa Estudiantes 1995, Jalen Jones 6-7 225 SF Texas A&M Sr., Alpha Kaba 6-10 235 PF Mega Leks 1996, Mathias Lessort 6-9 220 SF/PF Chalon 1995, Shawn Long 6-10 250 PF Louisiana Lafayette Sr., Hassan Martin 6-7 230 SF/PF Rhode Island Jr., Jameel McKay 6-9 210 PF Iowa St. Sr., Shonn Miller 6-7 215 PF UConn Sr., Egidijus Mockevicius 6-10 235 PF/C Evansville Sr., Landry Nnoko 6-10 255 C Clemson Sr., Goodluck Okonoboh 6-10 225 C UNLV So., Chinanu Onuaku 6-10 245 C Louisville So., Alex Poythress 6-8 240 PF Kentucky Sr.