The power forward position has been slowly evolving over the years, and this group may be the most versatile, and most diverse, class in years. The focus has started to move to more perimeter-based offensive players, but many teams still like to employ a strong power forward who can play physical around the basket. Luckily for teams, they should be able to find what they want in this group.
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Here are the Top 5 Power Forwards:
Anthony Bennett, Freshman, UNLV – Offensively skilled with an NBA-ready body, Bennett impressed many with his ability to score around the basket and hit his long-range jumper with some consistency. He is explosive enough to finish above the rim and he can use his strength to be a good rebounder on both ends of the court. Defense is where Bennett really suffers, and he is likely a couple of seasons away from being even an average defender, really needing to learn a lot of the fundamentals needed. Still, Bennett will be a good NBA scorer almost immediately and he has the potential to develop more rather quickly.
Cody Zeller, Sophomore, Indiana – Some may debate whether Zeller belongs here or with the centers, but in my mind it is clear that his NBA future is at the 4. His game is based on solid fundamentals, especially on offense where he has a variety of post moves to go with a good mid-range jumper. On the defensive side, Zeller has good awareness and uses skill more than strength to guard the post area. Where Zeller really shines is in transition as he runs the court extremely well and can get out ahead of the pack and finish on the break.
Kelly Olynyk, Junior, Gonzaga – Similar to Zeller, I believe Olynyk would be most effective if played at the 4 in the NBA. Olynyk redshirted between his sophomore and junior seasons to work on his game and the result was a season which had him in some conversations for National Player of the Year. His perimeter game is where he saw the biggest change and his ability to start knocking down 17 footers consistently opened up the floor for the Zags’ offense. He has an average post-game, but he is not good against physical defenders. In fact, he tends to spend more time on the perimeter if you are going to play physical defense on him. Also, he needs to work on becoming a better defender in both the post and on the perimeter, but he certainly could help some teams right away on offense.
Tony Mitchell, Sophomore, North Texas – One of the more frustrating prospects in college basketball the past two seasons; Tony Mitchell may also be one of the most physically gifted players in this draft. Mitchell is strong and athletic, but still developing in the skills department. He is very good scoring around the basket and he has shown the ability to hit jumpers out to the college three-point line, though his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. Mitchell is better as a post defender and rim protector, even at 6’8, than he is as a perimeter defender, but he has improved. The mental part of the game is the biggest challenge for Mitchell. Is he willing to be coached and buy into the team concept? If so, some team may get a steal late in the first round.
Erik Murphy, Senior, Florida – Murphy isn’t as athletic as many of the others on this list, but he is highly skilled and has developed into a versatile offensive weapon. Many focus on his ability to step out and hit the three, but more impressive is how far Murphy has come as a back-to-the basket offensive player> He uses his body well in the post on both ends of the floor, and he uses a good understanding of the game to handle matchups with more athletic players. There won’t be a lot of upside in Murphy’s development at this point, but he is ready to step in and play minutes right away.
Five more to watch: Jackie Carmichael, Senior, Illinois State; Trevor Mbakwe, Senior, Minnesota; Richard Howell, Senior, North Carolina State; Ryan Kelly, Senior, Duke; Arsalan Kazemi, Senior, Oregon