Brian Patrick

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Draft Small Forward Rankings

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Like last season, the small forward spot isn’t very deep this year, though again also led by a duo of likely top five picks. Even though a small group, it is very diverse, with everything from lockdown defenders to versatile scorers to combo three/fours.

 

The players are listed in order of how I see these players ranked in ability and long-term NBA potential, though much of it will end up mirroring my next mock draft coming soon. 

 

 

Jayson Tatum, Freshman, Duke, 6’8, 204 – As I mentioned in my first mock draft, this could really be flip-flopped with Josh Jackson with no real complaint from me. I gave Tatum the edge right now based on the polish to his game for his age, especially when it comes to scoring. With great size, the ability to score in a variety of ways, and strong ballhandling skills, Tatum was a nightmare mismatch at the college level, and much of his skill should translate well to the NBA level. Though he shot only 34-percent from three-point range, his shot looked more comfortable as the year went on, and teammates also learned the best spots to get him the ball. Also, if isolated, Tatum has little problem creating his own shot opportunities, or if help defenders come along, hit his teammates with strong passes in good spots. Some may question if his athletic ability will translate to the NBA level, but he should be fine after pre-draft and summer conditioning. Defensively, Tatum was rarely impressive, but his size and 6’11 wingspan, give him a decent foundation with which to work, but the biggest question will come with his foot speed, strength, and ability to deal with more athletic players. Tatum should be a top five pick, even if Jackson goes before him, and he will be one of my early favorites for most impressive rookie at Summer League.

 

Josh Jackson, Freshman, Kansas, 6’8, 203 –  Jackson is coming off a strong freshman season, where he continued to improve on the offensive end, especially as a long-range shooter, though his shooting motion and release need some fine-tuning to be effective at the NBA level. Where Jackson really shines is on the defensive end, with the ability to guard multiple positions, and a toughness/competitiveness that is rare in a college freshman. Whether on or off the ball, Jackson has the potential to be a game-changer on the defensive side. On offense, he was at his best in transition, where his athleticism was given a chance to shine, but he also showed the ability to attack the basket off the dribble, showing excellent body control, and the ability to finish strong, though his ballhandling certainly needs a lot of work. Another area of concern is Jackson’s sub-60-percent free throw shooting, which actually seems high when you watch him shoot. Between the two, Tatum is certainly more ready to transition to the NBA game, but Jackson may have more upside because it seems that his one year at Kansas was the first real coaching he has had.

 

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OG Anunoby, Freshman, Indiana, 6’8, 232 – Heading into this past season, Anunoby was the hot name being thrown around as a potential breakout star, especially coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance as a freshman where he shut down eventual lottery pick Jamal Murray. Moved into the starting line-up as a sophomore, Anunoby showed the expected rise in his stats, though he really didn’t look like he had improved much since his freshman season. The defensive ability was still there, but the expected improvement in three-point shooting never happened, though he could be a lot of fun to watch if he had some space to attack the basket. Right after the start of conference play, a knee injury ended Anunoby’s season. Heading into the NBA now, his offensive game is still going to need a lot of work, but he could make an impact fairly quick on the defensive side. Anunoby has a 7’2 wingspan, with quick feet, and great instincts, all which should allow him to guard multiple positions. He can alter shots on the perimeter or in the lane, and he can even add some help on the boards. While I may not go for him with a lottery pick if I was a GM, he would certainly have a good value near the end of the top twenty.

 

Justin Jackson, North Carolina, Junior, 6’8, 201 – The ACC Player of the Year, Jackson ended his college career on the best note possible, winning the National Championship. Jackson has steadily improved in all areas over the past three seasons, becoming a versatile offensive threat. Jackson worked hard to become a more consistent long-range shooter, and it showed, hitting 37-percent this past season. He has good size for the position, and has improved as a ballhandler, though he doesn’t have the strength or speed to be an effective driver at the NBA level right now. Jackson was also very good at using his size to find open teammates anywhere on the floor. Whether off the dribble, or out of the low or high posts, Jackson has developed into a passing threat. Jackson will never be mistaken for a strong defender, but he works hard, understands his role, and uses angles well to make up for athletic differences. Jackson could be a better rebounder for his size, but he will need to put in more effort. Jackson may not have a lot more untapped potential, but he brings a strong package of skills which could fit in seamlessly in many systems. He’s certainly worth a top twenty pick.

    

Semi Ojeleye, SMU, Junior, 6’7, 241 – For all the strength Jackson is lacking, Ojeleye seems to have it, and more.  An undersized power forward, Ojeleye has the skill set and potential to move to the small forward spot, though could play the four as needed at the NBA level with his strength and athletic ability. In his one season at SMU after transferring from Duke, Ojeleye made a major impression, scoring 19 points per game, along with 7 rebounds, while shooting 53-percent from the field, and over 42-percent from three-point range. Playing against fours, Ojeleye has the ballhandling and footwork to beat them off the dribble, or playing against threes, he has the strength to overpower them, if they choose to come out and defend him tight. As good and versatile as Ojeleye is on the offensive end, he needs work to defend either position at the NBA level. Ojeleye seems like he still has a good deal of development to go, and could be a decent value pick for the right team in the first round, but either way, should be picked within the first ten picks of the second round.

 

Dillon Brooks, Oregon, Junior, 6’6, 220 – One of the best “big moment” shooters the past two seasons, Brooks was a major part of Oregon’s run to the Final Four. Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, has a natural scoring ability, even if nothing about him really shines. Brooks hit 40-percent from three, a career best, and almost 53-percent from the field. He is at his best when he has the ball in his hands and can create scoring opportunities out of mismatches. Brooks can be a decent passer, at times, but his decision-making was never really sharp. Like the Oregon offense as a whole, Brooks was always much better when he could attack the defense before they could really get set, as he doesn’t have great quickness, ballhandling, or strength to make a huge impact off the dribble in halfcourt sets. Defensively, calling Brooks “indifferent” is maybe a bit too complimentary, though it wasn’t always lack of effort that hurt him; it seemed like had little understanding of how to defend, and a return to defensive fundamentals will be needed for him. Brooks could be a decent value in the second round, especially if he gets some time in the G-League to work on his game.

 

 

Others to Watch: Devin Robinson, Florida; Kyle Kuzma, Utah; Jarron Blossomgame, Clemson 




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