Top 5 Small Forwards in the NBA Draft
Photo via USA Today
1. Justise Winslow (19, 6’7, 222lbs, Freshman, Duke, Projected 4-6)
Winslow’s strong tournament performance in Duke’s title run has helped see his stock rise to a potential top five pick. His athleticism and strong physical build will transition well to an NBA wing player. He has the ability to throw around weaker opponents on the offensive end using his athleticism or toughness. But his defense is the best part of his game. He is already a tailor made NBA wing defender, he is strong enough to defend bigger forwards with his back to the hoop and quick enough to step out on guards and stay in front of them. He has tremendous defensive quickness moving side to side as well, and is also very competitive and takes pride in his defense. He will be an excellent defensive player at the next level and his versatility makes him that more valuable to teams. His offensive game is not quite on par with his defense. He is not a dominant scorer, but can post up defenders and is good in transition. He will likely need to have teammates set him up for catch and shoot opportunities because he is not able to create his own offense at this time. He is a hard worker who will work on that part of his game.For the time being his intelligence and athleticism will allow him to be productive offensively while he shuts down opponents on the defensive end.
2.Stanley Johnson (19, 6’7, 242, Freshman, Arizona, Projected 10th)
Johnson has a great deal of natural strength and build for the small forward position, he can impose his will on other forwards who are smaller than him backing them down. He is not explosive driving to the hoop, but his large frame allows him to get to the hoop and be productive in the transition game or in half-court offense. Finishing at the hoop once he gets there is a different story. He struggled a bit finishing but improved as the season went on. He has the ability to create his own shot when his drives aren’t going down. He may be able to finish easier at the next level, as the NBA game has become more about spacing the floor, and the Arizona offense he played in did not space the floor well. He also improved shooting from the perimeter and three throughout the year, so he can improve on finishing at the rim. Defensively with his size he should be a lock-down defender, but his potential did not match the results. He is sometimes a lazy defender taking plays off. He will have to work on his defensive intensity and ability to convert easy buckets if he wants to be a starter at the next level.
3. Sam Dekker (21, 6’9, 219, Junior, Wisconsin, Projected 15-16)
Sam Dekker was a highly recruited high school player and likely would have been a first round pick in either his freshman or sophomore year, but decided to stay in school, and after Wisconsin’s long run to the title game everyone knew how good Dekker was. He had a fantastic tournament that saw him rack up points in a hurry and hit a number of clutch shots on the way to Wisconsin’s title run. He has great size and athleticism for a small forward and can get to the rim easily to go along with a smooth outside jumper. He can do everything on the offensive end well enough to be productive at the next level, but doesn’t excel in any aspect of his game. The same goes on the defensive end, doing everything well for a wing player, but no one will mistake him for a lockdown defender. Dekker should be able to contribute right away in the NBA, but whether he will develop into a starter or All-Star in the league is a question mark.
4. Kelly Oubre (19, 6’7, 203lbs, Freshman, Kansas, Projected 13-18)
Oubre was a top 10 high school recruit, but didn’t have the same success in his lone year at Kansas. He improved later in the season, but it was a very inconsistent year for him. Oubre has good size and moves well to be a good wing defender. His long arms help him disrupt passing lanes and also rebound well for a small forward. While he is good defensively he does need a bit of work, and also to be motivated to not take possessions off. Offensively he has a great jump shot and a scorer’s touch. When he can get an open look or an open lane to the basket he will finish, but he lacks the ability to create his own shot at this point.
5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (20, 6’7, 211lbs, Sophomore, Arizona, Projected 15-22)
Hollis-Jefferson is a high motor guy whose best ability is being really athletic, energetic, and goes full speed every time he’s on the court. The best part of his offensive game is in transition or driving to the hoop, where he is more than capable of finishing and drawing fouls. Other than using his athletic ability, his offensive game needs work. He has trouble creating his own shot off the dribble and is a poor shooter. Defensively is where Hollis-Jefferson will make his name in the NBA, he is a lockdown defender who can guard bigger forwards and keep up with most guards. Even with his offensive limitations he should find a spot in the rotation of an NBA team based on his defense. He will need to rely on more than just transition buckets on the offensive end to be a starter in the league.