Top 10 Small Forward Prospects

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 8:34pm

With Ben Simmons being shifted over to the power forward position rankings with him potentially creating more of a match up problem at that position and a good chance of him ultimately ending up there in the NBA, Brandon Ingram takes over the top spot in the SF rankings. Even without Simmons, the position has a lot of talent at the top. Jaylen Brown is another extremely talented prospect with a chance to land in the top 5. The talent drops off a bit after the top two, with a few other possible mid-to-late first round prospects such as Denzel Valentine, Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry and Timothe Luwawu.

1.) Brandon Ingram, Duke

Brandon IngramBrandon IngramThe 18-year-old is younger than many kids yet to graduate high school (Josh Jackson for instance), and yet his shooting ability is among the best in this draft. Pair that with his 7’3” wingspan and his improving ability to create shots, and Ingram is intriguing in his own right. While Simmons may have greater potential, Ingram is the superior shooter. Simmons has drawn comparisons to LeBron James, while Ingram has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant. Neither is expected to become near the player they are compared to, but both could have a solid impact in the league if they develop.

Ultimately, Ingram has the ability to be a starter from day one and, as he ages and develops, he has the potential to become the face of a franchise, which at this point, appears to be the Lakers. The main knock against Ingram is, physically, he’s merely a solid athlete and he’s very thin and altogether in need of a serious effort at bulking up. There's a likelihood that he'll get bullied, a la Durant in his first few years, and on the flip side adding weight could potentially limit his speed and athleticism.

2.) Jaylen Brown, California

Coming in second on our list, and likely the only other small forward who will be joining Ingram as a lottery selection, is another one-and-done, Jaylen Brown. The 19-year-old adjusted to the college game as the season went along and ended up having a pretty good year. From a physical standpoint, he doesn’t have the height or the length of Ingram, but his strength and athleticism is elite and his skill level seemed to improve as the season went along. He went through some highs and lows as his consistency wasn't great, but he's a unique kid with a lot of interests outside of basketball. The fact that he chose to represent himself in the draft instead of signing with an agent, shows how much he thinks outside of the box.

He’s great at getting to the rim and finishing through contact, and he clearly won't be overwhelmed physically at the NBA level. The main concern with Brown is how reliant his offense is on his superior strength and athleticism, an advantage that will be somewhat neutralized at the next level. He needs to develop a more consistent jumper and become an altogether more consistent presence on the court, as he often plays too passively and disappears for stretches of games. All in all, however, Brown entered college with loads of promise, mostly delivered, and finds himself as a likely top 10 selection in this draft.

3.) Denzel Valentine, Michigan St.

Steady improvement over his four year career has put a player that many saw as a likely second rounder even at the beginning of this season, squarely into the first round. He has developed his ball skills to the point where he is among the draft's top shooters and passers. He plays particularly well off the pick and roll. Granted he struggles when forced to create baskets without a screen set for him.

Valentine is a difficult player to project as he became a phenominal college player but his lack of foot speed could make it difficult for him to find the same success at the next level. He's a supremely confident player and tremendous leader who is sure to be a great clubhouse guy. He seems to be a guy that truly "gets it" having taken full responsibility for the Spartan's first round collapse in the tourney. Even if he isn't a key contributor for a team, he's likely to be a positive influence for a team's morale.

4.) Taurean Prince, Baylor

Prince is a very solid, though non-flashy, prospect who is likely to have a spot waiting for him in the NBA due to the role he can play for an NBA team. He’ll probably never be a star player, but he’s both a very capable defender due to his length, his strength, and his defensive instincts, and a very solid spot-up shooter. DeMarre Carroll is a very common and very apt comparison for Prince, who comes in with four years of college experience under his belt, and can possibly someday crack a strating lineup like Carroll has. He’s not a good ballhandler or shot creator, especially since his strength won’t be as much of an advantage at the next level, but he’s certainly a guy who can stand in the corner and stretch the defense while being able to guard both forward positions. He’s spent most of his college career coming off the bench, so he should be able to come in and make the transition to NBA role player pretty seamlessly, and with the likelihood that he goes near the bottom of the first round, he can be a nice contributor for a contender.

5.) DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s

Standing at 6’5” and coming from an Atlantic 10 school, Bembry isn’t the most conventional player on this list, but he was the star for the Hawks as they earned an 8th seed and nearly took down #1 seed Oregon. He’s an explosive athlete and a smooth facilitator, and his 6’9” wingspan and lateral quickness gives defensive upside. He certainly has his limitations, as he's not very tall, his jump shot is a huge concern and he hasn’t quite realized his potential as a defender. But he has the athletic gifts that a lot of wing prospects in this draft lack, and that alone gives him the potential to be a solid perimeter contributor in the pros. He could find a spot in the late first round, or at least the early second.

6.) Timothe Luwawu, France

Luwawu has received a lot of Internet hype with some projecting him as a lottery pick. But that hype surrounding him is, to be blunt, unrealistic. He has some intriguing attributes with his 7-foot-2 wingspan, ability to defend and improved long range jumpshot. But respected European scouts have their doubts about his game comprehension, strength and toughness. He clearly needs to add strength and doesn't have much of a midrange game at this point. He's a good athlete in Europe, and obviously his great length helps, but an average athlete by NBA standards. He struggles to create shots and also has disappeared at times in games, showing his lack of aggressiveness and maturity. Scouts like his potential as a defender and he often gets compared to Swiss NBA player Thabo Sefalosha. Playing for Serbian team Mega Leks has helped his skill level as he has added a new dimension to his game with his improved three point shot, granted his form still lacks consistency. Luwawu is a few years away and projects more as a role player than a star, but his length, stash ability and the hype around him could land him somewhere in the first round.

7.) Rade Zagorac, Serbia

A complete unknown among casual American basketball fans, Zagorac had a difficult season but came on strong at the end. He’s got good size for a small forward, giving him the ability to post up on smaller defenders and grab a fair amount of rebounds, but he’s also got some perimeter skills and a good jumpshot. As with many Euro prospects, he’s an excellent passer, and he’s already a fairly polished player at age 20. His potential range of where he could get picked is all over the place, but there’s definitely a solid chance that a team takes a chance on him as he’s one of the better European prospects in this year’s draft.

8.) Dorian Finney Smith, Florida

It’s been an interesting road to the NBA for Finney-Smith. After starting at Virginia Tech five years ago, the 23-year-old has finally made his way to the NBA Draft after putting it all together for an All-SEC season last year at Florida. He’s got great small forward size, at 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan, and he’s not as lanky as he used to be. In addition to his size, he’s a solid outside jump shooter, so he’s a threat to post up on his defender or shoot over top of the defense. He’s a solid athlete and a very unselfish and versatile offensive player, so he can certainly make an impact at the NBA level. There’s only so much developing he can do at his age, but he’s already developed to a solid level and has a decent shot at getting taken in the second round.

9.) Daniel Hamilton, UConn

Hamilton struggled shooting the ball this season and surprised some with his decision to enter the draft and leave his name in. He comes from a basketball family with two high level NCAA brothers including former first round pick Jordan Hamilton. Daniel lacks the run/jump athleticism of Jordan but is a slightly better shooter. Daniel rebounded the ball extremely well for a wing and shows some intriguing skills. His real weakness is his inability to create shots. It allows defenders to play up on him as he's no threat to get by them off the bounce. This makes getting clean looks difficult for him. He also has shown little improvement in his body over the past two years, and it appears that he will always be lanky.

10.) Troy Williams, Indiana

Williams is a great athlete with an improving offensive game, but Indiana fans can attest to his tendency to make frustrating plays. He’s a superb athlete and he showed the ability to be an excellent passer in Tom Crean’s offense where ball movement is key. But he also is prone to making poor passes or driving into the lane when he shouldn’t, and those turnovers will only increase in the NBA. His offensive game is expanding, and he can score both off the dribble and from outside.

Honorable Mention

Rosco Allen 6-9 220 SF Stanford Jr., Edin Atic 6-7 185 SG AEK Athens 1997, Romaric Belemene 6-9 205 SF Unicaja Malaga 1997, James Birsen 6-10 225 SF Olin Edirne 1995, Axel Bouteille 6-7 190 SF Chalon 1995, John Brown 6-8 210 SF High Point Sr., Kyle Collinsworth 6-7 210 SG BYU Sr., Elgin Cook 6-6 210 SF Oregon Sr., Quenton DeCosey 6-6 205 SG Temple Sr., Shaq Goodwin 6-9 235 PF Memphis Sr., Danuel House 6-7 215 SG/SF Texas A&M Sr., Derrick Jones 6-7 190 SF UNLV Fr., Jake Layman 6-9 225 SF Maryland Sr., Emmanuel Malou 6-9 215 SF/PF JUCO So., Isaiah Miles 6-8 220 SF/PF St. Joseph's Sr., Georges Niang 6-8 230 SF/PF Iowa St. Sr., Shavon Shields 6-6 225 SF Nebraska Sr., Nik Slavica 6-8 200 SG/SF Cibona Zagreb 1997, Aleksandar Vezenkov 6-9 225 SF/PF FC Barcelona 1995, Adin Vrabac 6-8 200 SF KK Partizan 1994, James Webb] 6-9 200 SF/PF Boise State Jr., Paul Zipser 6-8 210 SF Bayern Munich 1994

Moooose's picture
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Zagorac and Troy Williams?

If I am to do my own list, I'd probably take out Zagorac and Troy Williams off that list. And replace them with Niang and Zipser. Maybe even Slavica and Layman should be ranked higher than Zagorac and Williams.

Zagorac really looks like a Cabarkapa at best and there are more players in the honorable mention that has better potential. Well, just my opinion.

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First of all:Since when is Valentine a small forward? He's a SG in the NBA,maybe even a back up point guard because I'm not sure he can play off the ball. Secondly,he's way too high. Beware of that 4 year college player dominating younger guys in his fourth year. He doesn't have NBA athleticism,I don't know who he guards. Also I'm biased here,but Luwawu after Bembry seems ridiculous.

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really weird that you say

really weird that you say Daniel Hamilton can't create shots. Seems like that's the main part of his game. I think Jordan was regarded as a much better shooter as well. As an SMU fan, we said let him shoot. His ability to rebound and get into the lane and create for his teammates is what made him dangerous. That's why he handled the ball so much even at 6'9".

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Luwawu won't be an "average athlete by NBA standards". He is much closer to being an elite athlete. Lightning quick first step, and I'd wager you'll see him in a dunk contest.

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