With the 2018 NBA Draft slated for this Thursday, let’s take a look at our list of top 10 power forward prospects.
1. Marvin Bagley III – Duke
Bagley, the ACC Player of the Year, was arguably the best player in all of college basketball as a freshman with the Duke Blue Devils. After reclassifying into the 2017 class last summer, the 6-foot-11 big man joined an already stacked recruiting class for the Blue Devils and instantly became the center of attention thanks to his historic play during the season. Bagley is renowned for his offensive arsenal, quickness, fluidity, high upside athletic ability, motor/energy, a knack for manufacturing easy points in the paint, and commitment to dominating the boards every night. He also showed the ability to take over a game time and time again. The Phoenix, Arizona native looked like a man among boys, turning into one of college basketball’s most productive players on his way to averaging 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while spearheading his team to the Elite Eight in this year’s NCAA Tournament. There are a lot of things to like about Bagley’s prospects as a successful NBA player with all-star potential. Despite his defensive and shooting concerns, which can always get better over time if he puts the work in, Bagley’s immense talent level gives him the chance to the become a 20-and-10 player as his skill level continues to match up with his elite athleticism and physical tools. He still has a lot of room to grow, but his rare combination of size, athleticism and skills should at least help him develop into a productive offensive player who can put up big numbers.
2. Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State
There are many scouts and team personnel across the NBA who believe that Jackson has one of highest ceilings as anyone in his draft class. The Michigan State star has wowed teams throughout his pre-draft workout process. As a result, multiple teams are looking to trade up into the top four picks to select him. Jackson – who won’t turn 19 until September – possesses a 7’4” wingspan and is considered by some the best defensive player in the draft. His incredible shot blocking and his ability to switch onto guards effectively are noteworthy. While his offensive skill set is still developing, he’s proven to have great upside in this area. He can already stretch the floor with his shooting and has great ball skills for someone his size, for example. Due to limited playing time (averaged just 21.8 minutes per game), Jackson didn’t get to always show just how much all-around potential he has on a consistent basis and in key moments throughout the season. This caused him to think long and hard about returning to MSU for his sophomore year. But he has seemed to have made the best decision for him and it’s paying off in a big way.
3. Robert Williams III – Texas A&M
Williams enters the draft after averaging 10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks as a sophomore at Texas A&M. The 6’9” Williams imposed his will as a physical force inside. He displayed his explosiveness and high-level athletic ability in numerous ways, including rebounding, shot blocking, playing above the rim, and finishing around the rim. He didn’t put up big numbers all the time but he affected the game in a lot of ways. His athleticism and defensive capabilities are the two major things that have put him on the NBA radar since his freshman season. Having elected to not even test the draft waters after his freshman campaign, he was able to maintain his status as a starting-caliber post player at the next level. Williams still has to make strides on the offensive side of the ball, as he isn’t the most skilled and is limited as an offensive weapon when he isn’t close to the basket. But any team that drafts him won’t need him to be a focal point in their offense. Williams can put all his attention toward rebounding on both ends at a high level, using his length and quickness to make hustle plays, defending the rim, and getting easy baskets in transition as he continues to work on his offensive skill set.
4. Miles Bridges – Michigan State
Outside of his skill level, Bridges will offer any team that drafts him high energy and toughness at either forward spot. He’s strong, explosive, agile, and athletic. Position-less basketball should suit him well, especially since he’s undersized. But there are still some concerns about how his lack of length (6’9 ½” wingspan) will play into his effectiveness at the power forward spot. Much of that concern is aimed toward the defensive end of the court where he’d be defending the likes of Anthony Davis and Kristaps Porzingis, among others. Although he could turn into an above-average defender, it’s worth noting that he’s never been known as a standout on that side of the ball. Offensively, he’s shown that he can score from just about anywhere. He’s an active scorer who can create scoring opportunities off the dribble and without the ball, knock down jumpers from the mid-range off the pull-up, and has shown improvement as a spot-up shooter from the 3-point line. It remains to be seen if his developing 3-point range will translate to the NBA, and he’ll need to refine his handle to get past defenders and into the paint. Overall, Bridges has the talent level to carve out an optimal role as well as provide solid depth at both forward spots.
5. Isaac Bonga Germany
Bonga is an intriguing forward who has the potential to play positions 1 through 4. A point forward in the mold of a Boris Diaw, who the Spurs could potentially target in a trade as he potentially fills a similar role as a mismatch a la Diaw or Kyle Anderson. Bonga was found playing street ball and has been a fairly quick study. He didn’t have a great season playing in Serbia this past year. He still lacks great form on his shot and needs to add some strength. But his length, defensive potential and athleticism make him an intriging prospect. He was a bit of a surprise to stay in the draft and could find a spot anywhere from 25-45. His ability to stay in Europe as a draft and stash gives him added value.
6. Chimezie Metu – USC
Metu has some intriguing qualities that make him an NBA-level talent. The USC Trojan cemented himself as one of the best bigs in the Pac-12. His improvement on offense was steady throughout his three seasons at USC. As a junior, he averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. Metu shot north of 50 percent from the field and looked a bit more comfortable away from the basket as time went on. He’s as bouncy and mobile as they come at his size and can shoot from mid-range. His shooting from the outside is an area that needs work (shot just 30 percent on 40 attempts). However, he remained aggressive and didn’t shy away from attempting those shots even though they weren’t falling. If he puts the work in, he could possibly thrive in pick-and-pop situations at the next level. Metu looks to be an early-to-mid second round pick as of now. For whatever team that selects him, he’ll need to improve his ability to rebound in traffic, work on his shooting from the outside, and become more comfortable operating away from the basket in isolation/face-up situations to give himself a chance.
7. Raymond Spalding – Louisville
Spalding primarily excels at rebounding, blocking shots, and effectively switching between defenders after a screen. His has great mobility and possesses a 7’4.45” wingspan (second longest among PFs at the combine). He assumed a starting role as a junior this past season but decided to forgo his senior year at Louisville after posting averages of 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. The 21-year-old big man is a player who teams will think about throughout the second round of the draft. He also offers solid athleticism and a developing offensive game. He’s shown great touch around the rim with both hands. There were also times in which he flashed the ability to knock down jumpers from mid-range. He shot 54 percent from the field overall. Spalding’s offense in a continued work in progress, and he isn’t the strongest or won’t wow anyone with explosiveness or vertical leaping ability. But he has good size, length, and can make an impact on the boards and defensively.
8. Alize Johnson, Missouri State
There aren’t any Draymond Green’s in this year’s draft, or guys that will likely fall into the mid thirties and end up having hall of fame careers. But a guy who could potentially flash some Draymond like qualities at the next level is Alize. He’s from a small school, Missouri State, which makes it a little tougher to evaluate him. Are his statistics affected by a lack of talent around him? He shows a multitude of skills with the ability to play tough around the basket, both rebounding and defending. Plus he’s got the ability to face the basket and shoot. On top of all of this his best attribute might be his excellent passing ability.
9. Justin Jackson MD – Maryland
Although Jackson’s stock has taken a tumble since his freshman year, there’s no denying the impact that a ‘7.3.25” wingspan and 8’11 standing reach could have. Not to mention, a 219-pound frame that can certainly be added to over time. Jackson has the physical tools that NBA teams look for from the forward position. Combine that with adequate strength and speed, he can be a special player if it all comes together for him. He has a nice set of ball skills and physical gifts that should allow him to develop into a solid rebounder, passer and versatile defender in the future. The 4-spot may be his best position, but he could play productive minutes as a small-ball five as well. His offense is a work in progress. A torn labrum injury caused him to miss a big chunk of this past season and may be the main reason why his 3-point percentage couldn’t match his previous season’s total. The hope is that he gains his 3-point consistency back while developing is feel for the game, toughness, and physicality so that he can reach his potential.
10. Yante Maten – Georgia
As a senior, Maten Maten averaged 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while posting shooting splits of 46/34/80. His 34 percent 3-point percentage dropped from his junior year in which he shot 49 percent on nearly half the attempts. NBA circles have still shown interest in his stretch-five potential. However, playing him on the outside may take away from one of his biggest strengths: offensive rebounding. He averaged 3.5 rebounds per game to lead the SEC last season despite being undersized for his position and not the most mobile. Maten may get some looks towards the end of the second round but he’ll most likely have to wait for an opportunity to sign with a team as an undrafted free agent.
Honorable Mention: Kostas Antetokounmpo 6-10 195 SF/PF Dayton Fr., Marko Arapovic 6-10 230 PF Cedevita Zagreb 1996, Gary Clark 6-7 220 PF Cincinnati Sr., Bonzie Colson 6-5 225 SF/PF Notre Dame Sr., Marcus Derrickson 6-7 250 PF Georgetown Jr., Obi Enechionyia 6-9 220 PF Temple Sr., DJ Hogg 6-8 220 SF/PF Texas A&M Jr., Aleksa Ilic 6-9 195 SF/PF KK Buducnost 1996, Arnoldas Kulboka 6-11 215 SF/PF Brose Bamberg 1998, Marcus Lee 6-9 225 C California Sr., William Lee 6-9 215 PF UAB Sr., Abdul Malik Abu 6-8 245 PF NC State Sr., Shaquille Morris 6-8 265 C Wichita State Sr., Ajdin Penava 6-9 220 PF Marshall Jr., Keanu Pinder 6-8 220 PF Arizona Sr., Malik Pope 6-9 220 PF San Diego St. Sr., Billy Preston 6-10 225 PF BC Igokea 1997, Zach Smith 6-8 220 PF Texas Tech Sr., Kyle Washington 6-9 240 PF Cincinnati Sr., Isaiah Wilkins 6-7 225 PF Virginia Sr., Johnathan Williams 6-8 225 PF Gonzaga Sr.