Brian Patrick

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Small Forward Comparisons

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Only three small forwards were taken in the first round of last year’s NBA draft, with two of them taken in top three. This year, we may see as many as eight, with a strong group that has strengths across the offensive and defensive spectrums. As a side note, it is interesting to see that five of the eight players looked at this year came from the ACC, as many of the one-on-one battles were quite forgettable.

 

Check out the previous position comparisons: PGs | SGs | Centers | PFs  

 

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Age

Pts/40

FG%

3FG%

TS%

Reb/40

Stl/40

Ast/40

FT Rate

OG Anunoby*

6’8

215

19

17.6

55.7

31.1

61.1

8.7

2.1

2.3

39.3

Dwayne Bacon

6’7

221

21

23.9

45.2

33.3

54.4

5.8

1.4

2.4

28.2

Jaron Blossomgame

6’7

220

23

20.5

49.8

25.5

55.9

7.3

1.0

1.8

38.1

Dillon Brooks

6’7

225

21

25.5

48.8

40.1

58.5

5.1

1.7

4.3

29.9

Josh Jackson

6’8

207

20

21.2

51.3

37.8

55.9

9.6

2.2

3.9

40.3

Justin Jackson (UNC)

6’8

210

22

22.8

44.3

37.0

55.5

5.8

1.0

3.5

22.0

Tyler Lydon

6’9

223

21

14.6

47.2

39.2

59.7

9.6

1.1

2.3

36.4

Jayson Tatum

6’8

205

19

20.2

45.2

34.2

56.6

8.8

1.6

2.6

38.1

Brandon Ingram (2016)

6’9

195

18

20.0

44.2

41.0

55.2

7.8

1.3

2.3

35.1

Jaylen Brown (2016)

6’7

225

19

21.2

43.1

29.4

51.8

7.8

1.2

2.9

57.8

DeAndre’ Bembry (2016)

6’6

210

21

18.7

47.9

26.6

53.9

7.8

1.5

4.8

36.8

Stanley Johnson (2015)

6’6

225

18

19.4

44.6

37.1

55.1

9.1

2.1

2.3

45.6

Justise Winslow (2015)

6’6

225

19

17.3

48.6

41.8

57.2

8.9

1.8

2.9

43.8

Kelly Oubre, Jr. (2015)

6’7

200

19

17.6

44.4

35.8

55.5

5.0

2.2

1.5

44.4

Sam Dekker (2015)

6’9

230

21

17.9

52.5

33.1

60.5

7.1

0.7

1.6

27.8

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (2015)

6’7

215

20

15.7

50.2

20.7

57.3

9.5

1.6

2.2

74.5

*Played only 16 games this past season due to injury

 

As has been the trend, the small forward position usually provides the most diverse group of players, though like last season’s small group, they all share one common trait – good size for the wing. Each of the eight potential first round picks is at least listed at 6’7, with Tyler Lydon topping the group at 6’9 (Of course, these measurements will likely change with the official measurements at the NBA combine). While none of the players is sub-200 pounds, like Brandon Ingram last season, you also aren’t going to find the solid builds we’ve seen the past few years in guys like Jaylen Brown and Stanley Johnson. For the most part, this year’s group is a tall, wiry collection.  

 

And what has also been a usual trend, there is a wide range seen in scoring and shooting numbers, with any number of reasons as culprits. Players can be play different roles at the college levels, or they may play in a very structured offense which doesn’t always lead to easy opportunities.  Two seasons ago, none of the players taken in the first round averaged at least 20 points per 40 minutes, and last year, two of three first-round small forwards averaged 20 or more points per 40 minutes. This year’s group is more diverse than either of the past two seasons. Dillon Brooks leads the way with 25.5 points per 40 minutes, though he did it in the defense-optional Pac-12. Five others in this group also averaged at least 20 points per 40 minutes, while two, OG Anunoby and Tyler Lydon averaged below 18 points. Anunoby just isn’t a very capable scorer, though he missed the second half of the season due to injury. Lydon is a versatile scorer, but the Syracuse offense wasn’t always very efficient, especially in trying to get him the ball in good spots.

 

Besides different roles, the players on this list through the years have also varied in the types of scorers they are.  Some guys will end up playing a stretch four, or even as a small five, at times, and others could end up playing as big twos. You will also find variations between players who were primarily perimeter shooters versus those small forwards who like to attack the rim, as well as those who have a balance of both. Like Ingram last year, guys like Dwayne Bacon, Dillon Brooks, and Justin Jackson relied primarily on jumpers. This isn’t necessarily bad if you shoot 40-percent from three, like Brooks, but for a player like Bacon, who took one-third of his total shots as threes, shooting 33-percent isn’t going to help much.

 

Jaron Blossomgame was the worst of this year’s shooters, hitting just above 25-percent from above the arc, but still hit almost 50-percent from the field, a result from taking an incredible 44-percent of his total field goal attempts at the rim. Players like Blossomgame, Anunoby, Josh Jackson, and Jayson Tatum, all had around a 40-percent free throw rate (free throw attempts/field goal attempts), which is often an indication of a player who likes to attack the basket, but in the case of players like Tatum, it’s the result of a balanced offensive skill set. Josh Jackson did seem to become more comfortable from the perimeter as the season went on, but he just hasn’t found consistency, even with his decent long-range percentage.

 

The small forward position has also become diverse in many other ways, and with such a versatile group, I wanted to look at some other areas other than scoring to see where they contributed as college players. As expected, there is a large spread in rebounding numbers, with guys like Brooks and Justin Jackson not contributing all that much for their size, and on the other end, a player like Josh Jackson and Tyler Lydon, who put up a rebound per 40 minutes average better than any other draftee the past few years. Jackson was extremely active on both ends of the floor, gathering his rebounds in various ways, while Lydon was the beneficiary of Syracuse’s zone, where he had a good understanding of his job in the zone, and controlled his area well.

 

As we’ve seen the past few seasons, the assist numbers from the small forward position continue to rise, with Brooks becoming the only player other than DeAndre’ Bembry in this list to average at least 4 assists per 40 minutes. Brooks often had the ball in his hands, and with the pace of Oregon’s offense accounted for, it’s easy to see how he would have chances as a playmaker. Josh Jackson and Justin Jackson also came in with between 3.5 and 3.9 assists per 40 minutes, with both players showing a strong ability to drive and kick the ball, especially for their sizes. On the low end of the scale we find Blossomgame, who was really the only consistent scoring threat for Clemson, so it is somewhat understandable that he wouldn’t give up the ball too much.

 

Josh Jackson also showed his ability on the defensive end, being one of just two players in this year’s group to top 2 steals per 40 minutes. The other, Anunoby, already had a great reputation as a defender, and his performance pre-injury did nothing to dispute that.

 

With such a diverse group, the numbers would be just a start in trying to determine what kind of player they may become at the NBA level. As seen through the various examples given, the individual circumstances are almost all so different, that just looking at this list gives you a small part of the puzzle. Still, when seeing how they measure up against those who came before them, you should be able to learn where you should do a little more digging for answers.  

 




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