Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Top 10 SFs (1-5)

The following is a list of the top 5 small forward prospects in the 2010 NBA Draft, along with their current NBA comparison, their main strength, biggest weakness, career outlook, and ideal situation.
  1. Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest) – Lamar Odom

Strength: Athleticism. Aminu is a truly remarkable athlete. Standing 6'8.5" with a standing reach of over 9 feet, Aminu has above average small forward size. He excels in transition and demonstrates a solid dribble-drive game.

Weakness: Jump shot. Aminu really struggles with his jump shot outside of about 15 feet. In today's NBA, that is a requirement from a successful small forward.

Verdict: I'm one of a few who believes that Aminu is better suited as a power forward at the next level. He's a great rebounder, who is admittedly a little undersized for the NBA four spot, but his speed and athleticism would make him a mismatch for bigger, more stationary defenders.

Best Fit: An up-tempo system like New York or Golden State. Golden State's unique brand of run-and-gun small-ball fits Aminu like a glove. Unfortunately, Anthony Randolph already fills that role for the Warriors.

  1. Wesley Johnson (Syracuse) – Corey Brewer

Strength: Shooting range. Johnson is a versatile athlete who performs well without excelling in any single area. He had great numbers at Syracuse in terms of steals and blocks, but a lot of that is a result of their zone system. However, Johnson's natural range and scoring ability appear to be above average for an NBA small forward.

Weakness: Shot creation. While Johnson is a more than capable shooter, scoring in the NBA requires more than that. Johnson will struggle to create air space at the next level, especially if he lands with a team who needs him to carry the offense.

Verdict: I'm not as high on Johnson as most. He had a wonderful season in his only year at Syracuse, but I worry that much of that success is a factor of the system in which he played. He is a great athlete with a nice jumper, but his dribbling, physical development, and on-ball defense will all need work at the next level. I'm not saying Johnson won't have a productive NBA career, but there is certainly still some work to be done.

Perfect Fit: I'd love to see Johnson somewhere like Philadelphia or Golden State where the existing perimeter players are athletic slashers who will look to drive-and-kick, accentuating Johnson's strength as an outside shooter.

  1. Paul George (Fresno State) – Danny Granger

Strength: Size. George has fantastic size for a perimeter player. Like most players on this list (and frankly, most NBA small forwards) his natural position is somewhat in question. He may be more of a shooting guard, but at 6'8.75" with a 8'11" standing reach, he has power forward size!

Weakness: Lack of quality experience. George played two years at Fresno State, but rarely faced NBA-quality competition. He was also put into a situation where he seldom played a team-oriented offensive game, which may have imparted on him some selfish tendencies.

Verdict: While George is far from a "can't miss" prospect, his size and scoring ability are undeniable. Players who's bodies are larger than their skill set (See: Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, etc.) are always valuable, as are players who display the ability to score on a consistent basis. I think that when it's all said and done, George will likely be the steal of the 2010 draft.

Best Fit: George could fall anywhere between #11 and #20, with just about everyone in that range providing a respectable fit.

  1. Damion James (Texas) – Jonas Jerebko

Strength: Consistency. James has been a solid contributor at Texas for four years, and now he'll take his smooth mid-range jumpers and tough rebounds to the NBA. He should be able to make an immediate impact on whichever team chooses him.

Weakness: Athleticism. Unlike some of the other players on this list, James won't wow you with his athletic ability. He'll never win a dunk contest and he'd be less than comfortable leading the fast break.

Verdict: Not every player in the NBA is a superstar. GMs come into the draft knowing that only a handful (if that) of the player pool will become All Stars. Therefore, the goal for most of those picking outside of the top five is to find a solid contributor. James is exactly that. He has a level-headed personality and a very reliable game on both ends of the floor. He'll likely have a very long and successful NBA career, which elicits the term "glue guy" more than once.

Best Fit: With the NBA's free agency period looming, many teams will likely have a new look next season. James would be a good fit with one such team, because his maturity and style of play will help a potentially mismatched set of pieces fit together nicely.

  1. Luke Babbit (Nevada) - Ryan Anderson

Strength: Efficiency. Babbit was probably the most efficient scorer in college basketball this past season, posting a 50% clip from the field, 42% from 3-point range, and an incredible 92% from the free throw line.

Weakness: Athleticism. NBA scouts wonder whether Babbit has a natural position and whether he's athletic enough to guard NBA threes or strong enough to guard NBA fours.

Verdict: Babbit had a strong showing at the Chicago Combine, but his stock assures to continue to polarize NBA scouts. Memphis is reportedly very high on him, with the 12th pick a real possibility, but falling into the 20's is also possible. Ultimately it will be Babbit's effectiveness on defense that will define his career. If his tenacity and will are enough to overcome his physical inadequacies, he'll have a long career. If he becomes blindsided by the money and the prestige of being an NBA player, and his intensity level suffers, he'll find himself in Adam Morrison territory.

Best Fit: Babbit would be a great fit with a team like the Boston Celtics, who really take pride in the defensive intensity. Learning good habits will be a great foundation to a long and successful career.

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