The 2013 power forward crop is saturated with diverse prospects, ranging from athletic specimens to face up threats to defensive wizards to floor spacers. There are a handful of potential position “tweeners” in the group, but for classification purposes we had to take a stand on their most practical usage at the next level. Even with Dario Saric withdrawing from the proceedings, four power forwards could be off the board in the top ten with an optimal number of seven potentially cracking the first round.
1. Anthony Bennett – The one-year dynamo will be next in the line among a new breed of undersized NBA power forwards. At 6’7 with a skilled face up game, explosive power and a jump shot with range, Bennett is a matchup nightmare with the rock in his mighty hands. His offensive arsenal and 240 pound frame are mature products at 20-years of age. It’s clear he’s still accustomed to bullying his opposition, however, frequently forcing the action and taking the bait of a well-schooled defense. For all his strength, Bennett has a tendency to flail when bodied up rather than going straight up and utilizing his upper body. Basketball intelligence is a work in progress and he struggles to find the open man when doubled. Tweener status defensively is a concern, but he displayed a lot of maturity off the court in Las Vegas. Bennett has still not been ruled out for the top pick and will likely find a spot in the top 5.
2. Cody Zeller – Zeller has the highest “floor” in this draft class. He’s not necessarily a game changing talent, but he’s ready to produce in a number of critical areas. In addition to a consistent shooting stroke and advanced post skills, Zeller tested through the roof athletically: 35.5 no-step vertical, 37.5 max vertical, 17 reps of 185-lb bench press and 3.15 3/4 court sprint. His ability to get up and down in transition was a well-known commodity, but the vertical explosiveness measurements opened eyes. On the con side of the ledger, he struggles against length and physicality. He tries to match physical play by muscling up and his moves become predictable. Zeller has not yet shown a willingness to impose his will on the game on the biggest of stages.
3. Nerlens Noel – It’s not often the potential #1 overall selection is the most controversial prospect in the draft, but that is indubitably the case with Noel. Weighing in at 206 pounds at the combine following a torn ACL in February didn’t quiet the critics. Nevertheless, while Noel is the poster boy for 2013’s “weak top tier”, he’s still got a chance to go first. He possesses legitimate game altering defensive skills and explosive athleticism at 7-feet that are difficult to pass up: world class shot blocking behind a 9’2 standing reach with guard-like foot speed. His offensive constraints are clear for the layman to see, limited to garbage buckets and transition opportunities at this stage and likely for the duration. To his credit he’s tried to progress with his back to the basket, but he’s stiff, lacking both feel and strength.
4. Lucas Nogueira – Coming off an impressive showing at the adidas Eurocamp earlier this month, Bebe’s draft stock is once again on the uptick. The Brazilian’s“ potential” has had scouts salivating since his U18 days, displaying exceptional agility and shot blocking prowess in a 7’0, 7’6 wingspan frame. He appears to have added a good 20 pounds since 2010 making him a more formidable presence on the backline of a defense. Along with his physical development has come much needed mental maturity, albeit his possession in, possession out motor remains in question. Nogueira’s offensive repertoire is raw and relatively untapped, but there is an awful lot for organizations to work with. Cultivating feel and sparking desire will be determining factors in his short and long-term growth. Some scouts like his potential over Noel’s.
5. Mason Plumlee – Plumlee made monumental strides during his four years in Durham. While he’ll never be a natural in the post, his comfort level and confidence with his back to the basket have increased tenfold. He has an excellent feel for court geometry and makes the right pass out of trouble. Plumlee is a smooth run/jump athlete with explosive leaping ability behind a head of steam. His fluidity, long strides and willingness to put the ball on the deck should result in success as a face up 4. His jump shot finds the promise land more often than expected given its flat trajectory. He stands to upright as a post defender and relinquishes position far too easily. Plumlee has toned his upper body but he’d be well served to work on core and lower half strength. He can’t use his length if he’s pinned to the ground.
6. Tony Mitchell 2586 – Mitchell stunned many by returning for his sophomore season at North Texas, and unfortunately his draft positioning will likely pay the price. He produced a lackadaisical campaign, posting statistical drop-off in all major categories. Competition in the Sun Belt, or lack thereof, did not fuel his fire, nor did his teammate’s aide his efficiency. From the standpoint of physical tools, Mitchell oozes promise. His offensive game doesn’t have a staple at this stage, but he possesses explosive leaping ability, a quick first step and can step out behind the three-point line with comfortable form. His athleticism alone will yield clean looks. He was a prolific collegiate shot blocker at 6’8 with quick hops and 7’2.5 wingspan.
7. CJ Leslie – Whether he eventually settles into the SF or PF spot, one thing is for certain: Leslie is an absolute freak of an athlete. He finishes above the rim with ease and runs the floor like a gazelle. He is most effective in the half court as a face up threat, where he scores as a result of athleticism and length rather than touch and skill. His explosiveness doesn’t shine in the post where his movements are constrained and he’s often knocked off balance. Leslie weighed in at 209 pounds at the combine and didn’t participate in the bench press due to wrist tendonitis. There are serious questions about his ability to add bulk, let alone support it without losing his calling card athleticism.
8. Kenny Kadji – Kadji is a wiry, thin power forward with a 7’3 wingspan. At 6’10 his skill set could plausibly translate better to the 3 more so than as a pick and roll or space creating 4-man. He shoots well spotting up from range while also displaying the ability to rise up off the dribble. Solid vertical athlete but foot speed and lateral agility are lacking. Kadji is a tweener defensively, not strong enough to battle with PF’s and not quick enough to stay with SF’s. At 25-years old his ceiling has been tapped, but he boasts a specialized skill and should contribute right away.
9. Bojan Dubljevic – Dubljevic is automatically eligible and despite not receiving much hype has drawn comparisons to former Raptors power forward Jorge Garbajosa for his scrappinesss and intanglibles. He has been a key member of Valencia averaging 12.1 ppg while shooting a blistering 47% from 3 on a high volume of attempts while playing in the ACB this season. He should not take too long before being ready to join an NBA team and contributing.
10. Ryan Kelly – In a word, Kelly is “solid”. He’s a prototypical stretch-4 at 6’11 with a pure stroke and range to match. He plays to his strengths and possesses high-level basketball intelligence. From a strictly athletic point of view, he doesn’t fit the bill: short arms, slow footed and bereft of explosion. Despite length shortcomings, Kelly is a praiseworthy on-ball post defender and capable shot blocker. He’s also a viable option to eat up minutes at the center position.
Honorable Mention: CJ Aiken 6-9 200 SF/PF St. Joseph’s Jr., Jared Berggren 6-10 240 PF/C Wisconsin Sr., Devin Booker 6-8 250 PF/C Clemson Sr., Jackie Carmichael 6-9 240 PF Illinois State Sr., Jack Cooley 6-9 245 PF Notre Dame Sr., Brandon Davies 6-10 242 PF BYU Sr., Elias Harris 6-7 240 SF/PF Gonzaga Sr., Richard Howell 6-7 250 PF NC State Sr., Grant Jerrett 6-10 232 PF Arizona Fr., Arsalan Kazemi 6-7 230 PF Oregon Sr., Joffrey Lauvergne 6-11 240 PF/C KK Partizan 1991, Augusto Lima 6-10 234 PF Unicaja Malaga 1991, , Erik Murphy 6-10 240 PF Florida Sr., Mike Muscala 6-11 230 PF/C Bucknell Sr., Derrick Nix 6-9 270 PF/C Michigan St. Sr., Marshawn Powell 6-7 240 PF Arkansas Jr., Daniel Theis 6-9 230 PF Ratiopharm Ulm 1992, Marko Todorovic 6-10 240 PF Barcelona Regal 1992, Ray Turner 6-9 230 PF Texas A&M Sr., Mouphtaou Yarou 6-10 255 PF/C Villanova Sr.
Also See: Top 10 Center Prospects
Follow Adam on twitter for draft coverage and insight @AdamGaneles