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Top of the Class: Power Forwards

We continue our look at the top players by position with today’s breakdown of the NBA’s power forwards.

Cody Taylor

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Continuing our ‘Top of the Class’ series this week, today we rank the league’s best power forwards. We’ve seen the position change quite drastically over the past several seasons with the stretch-four becoming prominent in the game. As the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan continue through the latter years of their careers, we’re beginning to see the torch being passed down to some of the game’s younger players.

Factors to determine these rankings include players’ statistics, career accomplishments and what they mean to their respective teams.

6. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks:

After signing a three-year, $60 million contract with the Hawks, Paul Millsap is now being paid like one of the top power forwards in the league. Millsap reportedly turned down a max, four-year offer from the Orlando Magic to remain in Atlanta. He would have immediately transformed the Magic into a playoff contender, but by staying with the Hawks it will ensure the team can pick up where they left off last season. They had already lost DeMarre Carroll, so losing Millsap would have been devastating to a team that won a franchise-record 60 games last season.

Millsap has played some of the best basketball of his nine-year career during his two seasons in Atlanta. He’s earned two consecutive trips to the All-Star game and averaged a career-high 17.9 points in his first year in Atlanta, and is coming off of 16.7 points per game last season. Head coach Mike Budenholzer has really utilized Millsap’s strengths as a player that can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting. He knocked down 36 percent from three-point range last season and shot on 48 percent from the field.

Millsap likely opted to sign a short-term deal with the Hawks in order to take advantage of the rising cap in the next few seasons. He can opt out after the second year of the deal, when the cap is projected to rise past $100 million. With the opportunity to land an even larger contract in 2017-18, the Hawks are likely to see significant production from Millsap moving forward.

5. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies:

After 14 years in the league, Zach Randolph still remains one of the most productive big men in the game. Randolph has stepped in at times when Marc Gasol was injured, and when Mike Conley and Tony Allen missed time this past season. He finished just behind Gasol in team scoring at 16.1 points per game, and added 10.5 rebounds, which was seventh in the NBA. He joins only Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic in averaging at least 10 rebounds per game in each of the last three seasons.

Randolph represents possibly one of the best contract bargains in the league. He signed a two-year, $20 million extension last summer and will make $9,638,555 this season. Although he is 34 years old, he could have signed for much more given the rise in salary cap. He opted to leave the team with some flexibility and that paid off this summer when the Grizzlies signed Gasol to a max deal. The Grizzlies have some of the best team chemistry in the league and should be right back in the thick of the Western Conference next season.

4. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers:

Blake Griffin is coming off of an outstanding postseason run with the Clippers. He increased his 21.9 points per game average during the regular season to 25.5 in the playoffs, boosted his rebounding from 7.6 to 12.7 and his assists rose from 5.3 to 6.1 per game. It was easily his best showing in the postseason, and had it not been for an epic collapse against the Houston Rockets, he could have done more damage in the Western Conference Finals.

Griffin is beginning to change his game a bit. He’s transitioning from a player that would dunk a lot, to a player that will spot up and shoot more. He’s adding a three-point shot to his game, and converted on 40 percent of those shots (10-of-25) last season. He’s admitted that by relying on dunking and his athleticism that he’d be physically fatigued by the end of the season. By shooting the ball more, Griffin seemed fresh for what turned out to be an impressive showing in the playoffs.

The Clippers retained DeAndre Jordan this offseason and also added Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith into the mix. They went from having a disastrous offseason, to having perhaps one of the deepest teams in the league. By adding so many offensive weapons into the equation along with Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, the team may not need Griffin to drop 20-25 points a game and instead allow him to pick his spots during the regular season.

3. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers:

With a healthy Kevin Love returning to the Cavaliers, many are already penciling in the Cavs into the Finals again next season. His first year in Cleveland was statistically one of the worst of his career, but it was because he wasn’t his team’s best scoring option for perhaps the first time. Instead, he was the third option behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but still was a crucial part of the offense.

As we saw in the playoffs, Love is an important part of the Cavaliers’ offense. We’re left wondering what might have been had Love and Irving been healthy for the Finals against the Warriors. The argument can be made that at 100 percent, the Cavaliers could have defeated the Warriors.

Although his numbers took a hit in Cleveland, Love still averaged 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He shot 37 percent from three-point range and knocked down 144 total shots from behind-the-arc, the second-highest of his career. Questions were raised throughout the season on whether or not Love fit into the system behind James and Irving, but after missing him in the postseason, it’s clear there’s a big need for his offensive skill-set. .

2. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs:

Heading into this offseason, LaMarcus Aldridge was perhaps the most sought-after free agent on the market. Aldridge was coming off of the best season of his career and there was no shortage of suitors for his services. Once it became known that Aldridge was open to the idea of leaving the Portland Trail Blazers, it seemed all but certain that he would be signing with the Spurs.

The Spurs have always managed to contend in the Western Conference with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. And even with those three playing in the last few years of their respective careers, adding Aldridge makes the West theirs for the taking. The Spurs also retained Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, which, in addition to Aldridge, gives San Antonio a promising core for the future.

With so many options on the team, Aldridge may not be asked to do as much in his first year in San Antonio as he has with the Trail Blazers, but he still may lead the team in scoring. He averaged a career-high 23.4 points last season with the Trail Blazers and would have easily been the Spurs’ top scorer as Leonard led the Spurs in scoring at 16.5 points per game. He can get it done just about anywhere on the court, as he’s a great post-up player and a player that has improved his shooting consistently throughout his career. He knocked down 37 three-point shots last season at a 35 percent rate. By signing with the Spurs, he will help transition the team into the next era of basketball after Duncan, Parker and Ginobili retire.

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans:

After playing just three seasons in the NBA, Anthony Davis signed the richest contract in NBA history last month. After signing a five-year, $145 million extension, it should come as no surprise that Davis is the league’s best power forward and perhaps one of the most non-traditional that we’ve seen. His combination of athleticism and quickness makes him one of the most dangerous players on the court at any given time.

The argument can be made that no one player is more important to his team than Davis is to the Pelicans. With Davis on the court, the Pelicans are a playoff team. It’s clear that he carries the Pelicans night in and night out. He led the Pelicans in scoring (24.4), rebounds (10.2) and blocks per game (2.94) last season and finished second in steals (1.58).

The scary part about Davis is that he’s yet to tap into his full potential. Players usually begin to play their best basketball five or six years into their careers, while Davis will be entering just his fourth year next season. It’s very possible that we’ll be talking about Davis being the NBA’s best power forward for several years to come.

Honorable Mention:

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks:

It’s clear that Dirk Nowitzki is no longer the player he once was. He’s coming off of a season in which he had the second-lowest scoring output of his career at 17.3 points per game. But his significance to the Mavericks is huge and they always seem to have a chance when he’s playing. He opted to take a “hometown discount” in Dallas to allow the team to stay flexible with the cap, which almost paid off big had they landed DeAndre Jordan. As long as Nowitzki is in Dallas, they won’t be in rebuild mode, but it’s clear the team could be on the outside looking in next year’s playoff chase.

Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls:

It’s possible no one saw the type of year that Pau Gasol had last year in Chicago coming. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons in Los Angeles, Gasol arrived in Chicago and looked to be the Gasol that we saw at the beginning of his tenure with the Lakers. He averaged 18.5 points, a career-high 11.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 blocks per game. He was even named an All-Star for the first time since 2011. With a change in leadership coming next season, Gasol could stand to benefit under first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg and his offensive system.

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs:

Tim Duncan will simply not go away. The offseason headlines for the past 3-4 years have all been whether or not Duncan will retire. Once again, Duncan decided to give it another run as he announced that he’ll be back for his 19th season. He’s coming off of another productive season with the Spurs after averaging just under 14 points, 9.1 rebounds three assists and two blocks per game. He finished with the 14th-best PER in the league at 22.69. With Aldridge joining the team, the team’s chances at winning another ring are extremely high as many have them favored to come out of the Western Conference.

Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz:

Derrick Favors is coming off of a career year with the Jazz last season after averaging 16 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The Jazz could quite possibly have one of the best frontcourts in the league with Favors and Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense down low moving forward. Both players were a big part of the Jazz’s second-half success last season, where they established themselves as one of the league’s best defensive teams. With the team’s core staying put in Utah for another season, the Jazz could be in for a huge season.

Just Missed the Cut: Serge Ibaka, Jared Sullinger and Ryan Anderson.

Who do you think deserved to make this cut but didn’t? Hit up the comment section below or keep the conversation going on Twitter. Also, stay tuned for the center rankings to wrap up the ‘Top of the Class’ series tomorrow.

(Be sure to check out the point guard, shooting guard and small forward lists as well.)

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NBA Daily: They Guessed Wrong

Matt John reflects on some of the key decisions that were made last summer, and how their disappointing results hurt both team outlooks and players’ legacies.

Matt John

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It doesn’t sound possible, but did you know that the crazy NBA summer of 2019 was, in fact, over a year ago? Wildly, in any normal, non-pandemic season, it all would have been over three months ago and, usually, media days would be right around the corner, but not this time. The 2019-20 NBA season is slated to end sometime in early to mid-October, so the fact that the last NBA off-season was over a year ago hasn’t really dawned on anyone yet. Craziest of all, even though there will still be an offseason, there technically won’t be any summer.

Coronavirus has really messed up the NBA’s order. Of course, there are much worse horrors that COVID-19 has inflicted upon the world – but because of what it’s done to the NBA, let’s focus on that and go back to the summer of 2019. It felt like an eternity, but the Golden State Warriors’ three-year reign had finally reached its end. The Toronto Raptors’ victory over the tyranny that was the Hamptons Five – as battered as they were – made it feel like order had been restored to the NBA. There was more to it than that though.

Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s season-ending injuries, along with the latter skipping town to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn meant two things.

1. Golden State was down for the count
2. Brooklyn’s time wasn’t coming until next year.

A one-year window was open. Even if neither Golden State nor Brooklyn posed the same threat that the former did when it had Kevin Durant, those were two contenders out of commission. If there was a time to go all in, it was in 2019.

Milwaukee certainly seemed to go all in. For the most part.  Malcolm Brogdon’s departure seemed a little odd since he was arguably their best non-Giannis playmaker when they were in crunch time. Not to mention there was nothing really stopping the Bucks from keeping him except for money. Detractors will call out Milwaukee for electing to cheap out by not keeping Brogdon and hence, avoiding the luxury tax. However, there’s more to it than that.

Milwaukee thought it had enough with the core it had on its roster. Coming off the best season they had put up since the eighties, they believed the franchise built the right team to contend. There was an argument that keeping Brogdon may have been overkill with their guard depth – let’s not forget that Donte DiVincenzo did a solid job in Brogdon’s role as the backup facilitator. This would have been more defensible had it not been for Milwaukee picking the wrong guy to let go. That was the indefensible part- electing to keep Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon.

Bledsoe wasn’t necessarily a bad investment. No one’s complaining about an almost 15 point average on 47/34/79 splits or playing individual defense tight enough to get named on the All-Defensive second team. By all accounts, Bledsoe earns his keep. That is until the playoffs. Bledsoe’s postseason woes have been a weight ever since he first entered Milwaukee, and this postseason was more of the same.

Bledsoe’s numbers dwindled to just 11.7 points on 39/25/81 splits, and Milwaukee getting ousted in five games at the hands of Miami made his struggles stand out even more than it had ever been. Bledsoe may be the better athlete and the better defender, but Brogdon’s all-around offensive savvy and his only slight dropoff defensively from Brogdon would have made him a bit more reliable.

Milwaukee guessed wrong when they opted to extend Bledsoe before the postseason last year when they could have waited until that very time to evaluate who to keep around. Now they face a hell of a lot more questions than they did at the end of last season – questions that may have been avoided had they made the right choice.

Now they could have kept both of them, yes, but it’s not totally unreasonable to think that maybe their approach with the luxury tax would have worked and maybe they would still be in the postseason right now had they gone with the homegrown talent. And just maybe, there wouldn’t be nearly as much of this Greek Freak uncertainty.

The Houston Rockets can relate. They got bruised up by a team that everyone thought Houston had the edge on going into the series and then crushed by the Lakers. Now, Mike D’Antoni is gone. The full-time small ball experiment likely did not work out. Since the Rockets emptied most of their assets to bring in Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington, there may not be a route in which they can become better than they presently are.

The mistake wasn’t trading for Russell Westbrook. The mistake was trading Chris Paul.

To be fair, most everybody severely overestimated Chris Paul’s decline. He’s not among the best of the best anymore, but he’s still pretty darn close. He deserved his All-NBA second team selection as well as finishing No. 7 overall in MVP voting. OKC had no business being as good as they were this season, and Paul was the driving force as to why.

For all we know, the previously-assumed tension between Chris Paul and James Harden would have made its way onto the court no matter what. Even so, Houston’s biggest obstacle in the Bay Area had crumbled. If they had just stayed the course, maybe they’re still in the postseason too.

To their credit, none of this may have happened had it not been for the Kawhi Leonard decision. Had he chosen differently, the Thunder never blow it up, and Houston might have very well been the favorite in the Western Conference. Instead, the Rockets took a step back from being in the title discussion to dark horse. But at least they can take pride knowing that they weren’t expected to win it all – the Clippers can’t.

Seeing the Clippers fall well short expectations begs the question if they too got it wrong. The answer is, naturally: of course not. They may have paid a hefty price for Paul George, but the only way they were getting Kawhi Leonard – one of the best players of his generation – was if PG-13 came in the package. As lofty as it was, anyone would have done the same thing if they were in their shoes. They didn’t get it wrong. Kawhi did.

On paper, the Clippers had the most talented roster in the entire league. It seemed like they had every hole filled imaginable. Surrounding Leonard and George was three-point shooting, versatility, a productive second unit, an experienced coach – you name it. There was nothing stopping them from breaking the franchise’s long-lasting curse. Except themselves.

Something felt off about them. They alienated opponents. They alienated each other. At times, they played rather lackadaisically, like the title had already been signed, sealed, and delivered to them. The media all assumed they’d cut the malarkey and get their act together – but that moment never really came. They had their chances to put Denver away, but even if they had, after seeing their struggles to beat them – and to be fair Dallas too – would their day of destiny with the Lakers have really lived up to the hype?

Even if it was never in the cards, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Kawhi chosen to stay with the team he won his second title with.

Toronto was the most impressive team in this league this season. They still managed to stay at the top of the east in spite of losing an all-timer like Leonard. That team had every component of a winner except a superstar. They had the right culture for a championship team. Just not the right talent. The Clippers were the exact opposite. They had the right talent for a championship team but not the right culture. That’s why the Raptors walked away from the postseason feeling proud of themselves for playing to their full potential while the Clippers writhed in disappointment and angst over their future.

In the end, everyone mentioned here may ultimately blame what happened to their season on the extenuating circumstances from the pandemic. The Bucks’ chemistry never fully returned when the Bubble started. Contracting COVID and dealing with quad problems prevented Westbrook from reviving the MVP-type player he was before the hiatus. As troubling as the Clippers had played, the extra time they would have had to work things out in a normal season was taken away from them.

For all we know, next year will be a completely different story. The Rockets, Bucks, and Kawhi may ultimately have their faith rewarded for what they did in the summer of 2019 – but that will only be mere speculation until the trio can change the story.

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NBA

Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

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We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

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NBA

Looking Toward the Draft: Small Forwards

Basketball Insiders’ examination of the 2020 draft class continues with a look at the small forwards.

Drew Maresca

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It was announced on Wednesday that the NBA Draft would be delayed from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18. The rationale is that the extra month gives the league and its players association more time to negotiate changes to the CBA. It also grants teams additional time to procure information on prospects and allows the NBA to establish regional virtual combines. But nothing is set in stone.

Still, draft prep must continue. This year’s draft class has more question marks than usual – which was complicated by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament (along with the NIT and a number of conference tournaments). There are incredibly skilled offensive players with limited offensive upside and jaw-droppingly talented defenders with incomplete offensive packages. But if (recent) history serves as a guide, there will be a few guys who make an immediate impact – and some of them very well could be small forwards.

The small forward position is key for the modern NBA. Want proof? Survey the league and you’ll find that most – if not all – contenders have an elite small forward – Milwaukee, Los Angeles (both), Boston, Miami, Toronto.

But the list of can’t miss small forward prospects feels smaller than usual. Scanning the numerous legitimate mock drafts (including our own by Steve Kyler), it becomes apparent that we lack a consensus on which small forwards will be selected (and in what order) after the top 3 or 4. Can any of them grow into a star? Maybe. Maybe not. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s identify what the top few bring to the table.

Deni Avdija, Israel – 19 years old

Avdija is a relatively well-rounded prospect who’s played professionally since he was 16. He boasts good height (6-foot-9) and uses it effectively to shoot over and pass around opposing defenses. Further, Avdija is an exceptional playmaker and he’s incredibly confident, enabling him to take chances many players would be apprehensive trying. Avdija is a high-IQ player. And what’s more, he’s a surprisingly strong defender. His height and above-average athleticism allow him to block shots, and he’s more physical than you’d expect him to be.

But there are drawbacks to Avdija, too. His main issue is around shooting. Avdija shot only 28% in the EuroLeague last season, and he shot only 60% from the free-throw line. Further, while he’s a decent athlete, he’ll struggle to secure a role in the NBA. He’s going to need to add speed to stay with modern wings, and he’ll also have to bulk up to bang with power forwards.

Still, Avdija’s upside is alluring. He’s only 19, and his smarts, confidence and grittiness should provide him cover for much of his rookie season. Avdija should be the first small forward off of the board.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn – 19 years old

Avdija might be the flashier name currently, but Okoro will give him a run for his money in terms of which small forward is first off the board. Okoro is built like a traditional NBA wing; he’s 6-foot-6 with good strength packed in his muscular frame (215 lbs). Okoro finishes well around the rim and he converts well through contact. He’s an exceptional athlete who excels catching the ball on the move. Like Avdija, Okoro has the poise and composure of a more experienced player. Also, like Avdija, Okoro looked the part of a high IQ player in his lone season at Auburn.

And while all that is great, the main allure of Okoro is his defense. He’s a fairly advanced defender given his age, and his athleticism and timing make him an effective weak side help defender.

While Okoro’s raw abilities are exquisite, his refined offensive skills leave something to be desired. Okoro shot 28 percent on three-point field goals and he struggled from the free-throw line (67.2 percent). His mid-range jump shot also needs work, and he struggles in isolation situations.

If Okoro can hone his offensive game, he could grow into an All-Star. He has the ability to guard multiple positions, and his strength and athleticism give him a leg up on most prospects. But even if he doesn’t become an All-Star, he possesses a fairly high floor given his defensive abilities — and the guy definitely fills the state sheet (12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, .9 steals and .9 blocks). He has lockdown defender potential and he’ll put his stamp on the game beginning on night one.

Devin Vassell, Florida State – 20 years old

Vassell played two seasons at Florida State, but he came into his own in his Sophomore season. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot a more than respectable 41.5% on three-point attempts, and he demonstrated a strong stroke from the free-throw line (73.8 percent) and on two-point field goal attempts (53.2).

Vassell is an extremely athletic leaper, who can rise up for a highlight dunk and sprint down the floor with ease. He has good body control and demonstrated a strong mid-range game, especially his step-back jump shot. But Vassell must generate more free throws through decisive moves to the hoop, which would be bolstered by a more muscular frame. Additionally, he must improve his ball-handling to get more from isolations.

Vassell will have an adjustment period in terms of scoring the ball at the next level. Fortunately, his defense and shooting should get him by. If he can bulk up and improve his handling, Vassell could grow into a serious player.

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt – 20 years old

Nesmith probably has a lower floor than any of the other top small forward prospects given that he’ll be 21 by the draft. Still, he looked quite good in his Junior year, averaging 23 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on a scorching 52.2 percent shooting from deep. Nesmith is an incredibly gifted shooter who has impressive range. His ability to catch-and-shoot and create space with fakes makes him a promising prospect – for the right team.

Nesmith is a high IQ player who uses his smarts on the defensive end. He’s also quite strong, can get buckets in the open floor and demonstrates above average ball-handling skills, as long as he’s not taking the ball to the hoop.

But there are inherent limitations in Nesmith’s game. He’s doesn’t create for his teammates too effectively and he turns the ball over more frequently than one would like with. Further, Nesmith is plagued by robotic movements that limit his athleticism. His ball-handling breaks down when taking the ball to the rack – something he’ll certainly have to work on in the NBA if he wants to be a versatile scoring threat against the bigger and stronger competition.

Still, Nesmith’s positives give him an excellent chance at being selected in the first round. His range alone will intrigue teams in need of a shooter.

Honorable Mentions:

Saddiq Bey, Villanova – 21 years old

Jaden McDaniels, Washington – 19 years old

Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State – 20 years old

With the uncertainty around small forward prospects, expect to see a revolving door of names enter the discussion after the first four wing prospects are off the board prior to Nov. 16 – assuming the draft is held then. But regardless of how you have them ranked, all of the aforementioned prospects have question marks. But all have had far more time to improve than they would have in years’ past. Let’s hope that shows come next season.

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