June 25, 2013
By Jeffrey Paadre (@Paaj13)
Much like the batch of small forwards entering this year's NBA Draft, the power forwards hoping to be selected are not the deepest pool of prospects. At the moment, it looks like only 2 power forwards will be selected in the first round this year; there aren't many guys on the fringe either that have realistic chances of rising into the first round. The second round is full of solid players who could become decent role players depending on the teams that select them. Second round prospects range from stretch fours who can space the floor to rebounding specialists who may be undersized. In terms of first round talent though, this position is certainly this draft's weakest.
The cream of this year's power forward crop is UNLV's Anthony Bennett. Bennett is a freak athlete who many believe may have the biggest star potential in the entire draft. He is an offensively versatile player; he's capable of scoring both on the blocks and while facing up with solid range on his jump shot. Bennett has range out to the three point line; he shot a respectable 38% from behind the college arc this season. He has elite physical tools and a very quick first step which allow him to use his body to get to the rim against bigger, slower defenders. He is a very good rebounder and does a great job coming up with offensive boards to give his team extra possessions. His athleticism and length give him tremendous defensive potential at the next level. He needs to be more consistent though with giving effort on the defensive end. He also frustrates scouts by settling for long jumpers too often. Despite his range, he definitely has physical tools that can get him to the hoop and he frustrates many by hanging out on the perimeter too often. He also needs to work on a few more post moves; he isn't bad with basic moves that require overpowering a defender, but those won't work as well in the NBA. The last real concern surrounding him has to do with his size: he's only 6'7". His over 7-foot wingspan helps with that though. He makes a lot of sense for the Bobcats (#4), the Suns (#5), and the Kings (#7).
The only other power forward expected to go in the first round is North Texas' Tony Mitchell. Mitchell, like Bennett, is a remarkable athlete with freakish explosiveness. He's a very good shot blocker due in large part to his 7'3" wingspan, which gives him very good defensive potential. Mitchell already has great defensive timing, both with deciding when to leave his feet to block a shot as well as when to slide over and play help defense. He has also proven that he can do a decent job at defending either of the forward spots. He's very valuable in that sense because if he can stick with perimeter players in the NBA, with his length, he can really contest shots. He plays with a high motor most of the time and as a result, he's an excellent rebounder. He does some of his best work when he gets a chance to catch the ball in a face up situation and can use his quickness to get by his matchup and to the rim. He needs to either improve his offensive shooting range or improve his post moves and cut down on his perimeter shot selection. He also needs to bulk up to prove that he can guard traditional back to the basket power forwards who want to bully him on the blocks. Another aspect of his game that's concerning is that he regressed a lot this season. He played against weak competition at North Texas, but most of his production fell off from where it was two seasons ago. Despite these areas of concern, he has great potential due to his athleticism and the Knicks (#24) are enamored with him. He could also make sense for the Nets (#22), Pacers (#23) or the Nuggets (#27).
Although only 2 power forwards are likely to be selected in the first round, there are up to 8 guys who may be selected in the second round. CJ Leslie of NC State is a great athlete and is extremely explosive. That said, he's thin and doesn't have many developed post moves. He's more of a tweener forward. His athleticism alone though should get him selected. Jackie Carmichael of Illinois State is a great rebounder. He's very strong as well and plays hard with a high basketball IQ. His main drawback is that he doesn't have much of an offensive game outside of the post. He could be a decent steal though in the second round if teams focus on what he is, a back to the basket big man, rather than the skills he lacks. Both players will likely see themselves drafted in the earlier half of the second round.
DeShaun Thomas of Ohio State made his name known nationally as one of college basketball's top scorers. He's very versatile as well offensively and likes to go left which makes him tougher to defend. Holding his draft stock back are his defense, which isn't great because he allows himself to get beaten quite easily. Scouts also wonder about his shot selection which can be suspect at times. Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe is a very intriguing candidate, who boasts a 7'4" wingspan, which helps him as one of the best rebounders in the entire draft class. He is also strong and plays a very physical brand of basketball. He's undersized though at just 6'8" and doesn't have a tremendous offensive game. He also scares teams off with his history of knee problems. Mbakwe will likely be selected early in the second round while Thomas will probably be selected towards the middle of the round.
Two stretch four candidates will likely be chosen in the second round as well. Grant Jerrett of Arizona surprised a lot of people around the league after declaring for the draft after just one relatively disappointing season for the Wildcats. Jerrett has very good range and has some potential in the post; he has decent moves that are predicated on quickness rather than strength. He needs to bulk up significantly though in order to hold his own against NBA caliber power forwards. He also has a tendency to play passively from time to time and increased aggression would really help his game. Florida's Erick Murphy was one of the best shooters in the SEC this past season. Like Jerrett, he also has very deep range. He's also very mobile for a player his size and he can beat his man off the dribble and get to the hoop with very basic, quick, straight ahead dribbling moves. He needs to work on his strength as well to become more of an inside presence. His rebounding also isn't great for a player his size; adding strength will help in that area of his game as well. Jerrett will likely be picked higher than Murphy.
Two international players round out the power forward class. Livio Jean-Charles coming out of France has good athleticism and plays solid defense. He needs to work on bulking up though. Jean-Charles also has a very passive demeanor on court which needs to change in order to make him a better bet to develop into a productive player down the line. Bojan Dubljevic from Montenegro is a decent shooter from the midrange and he works tremendously hard. He plays aggressively whenever he's on the court. He's not the best defender or rebounder though which is quite concerning for a power forward entering the NBA.
There's certainly some value to be had at this position in this year's draft but it comes more from the second round picks who all display the ability to be role players. Both first round prospects are players with extremely high upsides. This position isn't as deep as the crop of centers this year and really only boasts one player who's a lottery pick. For the class as a whole, this is a weak year for power forwards, but some of the second round guys at least should pan out as back of the rotation players for the next few seasons.