NBA Draft 2010: Small Forwards Part 2

The SF class of 2010 is a deep group, but doesn’t have much in the way of potential star power. There are several players who I feel would make a good late first, or second round draft pick, but few who look like lottery picks. The plight of these players is further complicated by the fact that there is a strong group of combo forwards also in the competition to catch the eye of scouts. So we have several SFs who have the potential to forge decent NBA careers, but few, if any stars or impact players.

Here is a quick recap on what to look for in SFs. This might be a little vague. That’s due to the nature of the position. Rather than always having a defined role, such as scorer, rebounder or distributor, a SF is often asked to do many different things. Therefore, the more skills any SF prospect can flash the better.

  • Scoring: The best SFs have been at or over 20.0 P40 by the time they were seniors with an Adjusted FG pct of at least .530. In each case, the higher the better. The younger a player is, the more leeway is given here. This year there are no freshmen and only 3 sophs who would be considered prominent prospects. For that reason I’m going to hold most of the players pretty strictly to these guidelines. It isn’t necessary that a player can hit the 3-pointer, but it doesn’t hurt.
  • Rebounding: A R40 of 7.0 seems to be the minimum here. Again, the higher the better.
  • Passing and defense: For SFs I’ve been using their ASB40 as sort of a combined passing/defense rating. The number is simply combined assists, steals and blocks per 40 minutes. Historically it has been very important for a player to be over 5.0 ASB40.

I think the easiest way to explain successful SFs is this: It is very important for them to score often and efficiently. It is also important for them to have at least one other skill they do exceptionally well, be it rebounding, passing or defense. In addition they shouldn’t be below 5.0 on ASB40 or 0.7 on A/TO.

This group is players who look like they’ll mainly play SF. The last group was players who looked like they might be able to swing between SF and SG. Next up will be the combo forwards. Here are the numbers:

Player

AFG

P40

R40

A/TO

ASB40

Devin Ebanks

.462

13.9

9.4

1.1

4.8

Gordon Hayward

.527

18.7

10.0

0.7

4.3

Lazar Hayward

.495

23.1

9.6

0.8

5.0

Darlington Hobson

.484

18.3

10.7

1.5

7.2

Tyren Johnson

.537

20.3

9.0

0.9

7.4

Wesley Johnson

.564

18.5

9.6

1.0

6.4

Quincy Pondexter

.547

23.7

9.0

0.9

4.4

Stanley Robinson

.559

16.5

8.7

0.4

3.5

Combined with the SFs reviewed in the previous post, this is a deep, interesting group. Players are listed in order of preference, all other factors being equal.

Wesley Johnson, Syracuse: Johnson spent two seasons at Iowa State, before transferring to Syracuse. Because he sat out a season in between, he’s the age of most college seniors. He wasn’t much of a prospect at Iowa State and that could have been because he just wasn’t utilized properly. His sophomore season there, almost half his shots came from beyond the arc. At Syracuse he was the main guy in the offense and his numbers took off. Here is a look at Johnson’s numbers for his first two seasons, compared to this season. Below that is a breakdown of his splits for this year.

Wesley Johnson

AFG

P40

R40

A/TO

ASB40

Freshman

.495

15.5

9.9

0.5

3.7

Sophomore

.477

18.4

5.9

0.7

4.1

Junior

.564

18.5

9.6

1.0

6.4

Nov-Dec

.666

21.2

11.2

1.0

8.4

January

.536

17.6

9.8

0.7

5.0

February

.349

13.0

8.1

1.8

6.8

March

.625

20.6

7.8

0.7

4.6

Jan-Mar combined

.509

17.1

8.7

0.9

5.4

Wesley Johnson definitely spent his year off in productive fashion. He went from a non-prospect to a top ten prospect. What concerns me though, are the splits. Johnson’s top 5 draftee rep is built on an ultra-impressive 2-month run to open this season, when most of the games were played against small colleges. Other than those two months he was tepid for two seasons at ISU and fairly ordinary as far as prospects go for his final 3 months at Syracuse. Overall his numbers for the season are good, but don’t place him in the top echelon and this is a problem, because he is slated to go top 5 if the rumors are correct. The biggest problem is he didn’t score as frequently as successful college juniors usually do. Here is a table showing NCAA juniors who scored less than 20.0 P40 and went on to have successful careers:

Player

AFG

P40

R40

A/TO

ASB40

Vince Carter

.649

19.98

6.6

1.9

5.2

Shane Battier

.599

19.7

6.4

1.6

7.0

Detlef Schrempf

.539

17.6

7.8

1.0

4.6

Richard Jefferson

.529

16.5

7.9

0.9

6.2

Robert Horry

.505

15.9

10.8

0.8

7.1

Tyrone Corbin

.525

15.9

8.3

1.2

5.2

George Lynch

.541

18.7

11.9

1.1

6.6

Chris Morris

.574

17.0

9.1

1.1

6.5

Bryon Russell

.579

18.7

9.9

0.5

5.7

Stacey Augmon

.574

17.8

8.7

1.6

8.4

Bobby Simmons

.539

19.7

10.1

1.2

4.0

Jason Kapono

.577

18.5

5.9

1.1

3.2

Vince Askew

.504

17.6

5.8

1.5

6.3

Luke Walton

.493

17.1

7.9

1.6

9.4

Wesley Johnson

.564

18.5

9.6

1.0

6.4

I think the best thing to say about this list as it relates to Johnson is 3 of the most successful players on the list, Carter, Battier and Jefferson, all came from major programs with crowded rosters that could have suppressed their P40. With Johnson it would be hard to argue that his scoring was suppressed at Syracuse, because he was the top option this year and he didn’t exactly light it up at ISU before transferring. It is also a good thing that Johnson’s numbers are all in the top half of these players. Not so good is that the only real star in the group is Carter. Carter’s offensive prowess was evident in his .649 Adj FG pct. Johnson’s is a solid, but still fairly ordinary .564. Most of these players were simply very good role players. Players like Battier, Horry, Corbin, Lynch, Morris, Augmon and Walton all stayed in the league a long time because of their ability to excel while playing a supporting role.

I have to believe that this is the future for Johnson. That he’s not much more than a good supporting player. That he’s a 2nd banana at best and probably not even that good. He just never scored at the level star SFs historically have been at and there’s nothing else in his numbers to suggest he’s anything different. Normally a career like the one enjoyed by a player like George Lynch or Shane Battier would be a good thing, especially considering where Johnson was a year ago. The problem is that Johnson is currently ticketed to go as high as #4 in this draft. That could and should change by draft day, but if it comes to pass there will be unrealistic expectations on Johnson and would likely result in a label of “bust”. That wouldn’t be a good thing for anyone involved. But the truth is Wesley Johnson looks like nothing more than a very good NBA role player at this point. He never has shown the type of scoring ability that has been necessary to become a star and expecting as much from him will only hurt his career.

Gordon Hayward, Butler: On the surface, Gordon Hayward doesn’t look like much of a prospect. He played at a small college, didn’t score a lot of points and has few other numbers that would blow you away. He seems like the type of player who would be overrated simply because he was the star of the team that was the best story of the year in college basketball. And that might be the case. But there are signs that suggest he’s a  pretty good prospect. Look at Hayward’s numbers from his freshman and sophomore seasons:

Gordon Hayward

AFG

2 pt

3 pt

P40

R40

A/TO

ASB40

Freshman

.611

.523

.448

16.4

8.1

1.2

5.5

Sophomore

.527

.592

.294

18.7

10.0

0.7

4.3

As a freshman he looked like a very promising prospect. Hayward was super-efficient scorer with good passing and defensive numbers who just needed more looks to prove he belonged. He got those looks his sophomore year, but was much less efficient, especially from behind the arc. There is one other important difference in his seasons though. As a freshman, he played the perimeter in what was often a 4-guard offense surrounding Matt Howard. As a soph he moved inside more often, because the Bulldogs were short on inside players. As basically the PF, Hayward hit 59% of his 2-pointers and averaged 10 R40. Honestly that’s pretty darn impressive. More impressive is that his spending more time on the inside is probably what drove the Bulldogs’ great season more than anything. As far as his prospect status goes, in two seasons at Butler, Hayward has hit .592 from 2-point range in one season and .448 from behind the arc in another. That suggests he has some serious potential as a scorer. I’d prefer that he had done this while scoring more frequently, but these numbers are impressive. Before I go on, I need to address a couple of points about Hayward:

  • I wrote in the last piece that small college forwards who succeeded in the NBA usually scored over 26 P40 and that would be correct. In two seasons Hayward has a high of 18.7. I’m not going to hold this against him too much. One reason is that really only applied to seniors. The other is Butler just does things a little differently. They really are driven by team success and Hayward was the leader of that. This has to count for something.
  • Addressing Butler’s small college schedule, the Bulldogs played 8 of their 12 non-conference games against major college opponents. Throw in 6 tournament games and another game against a tournament-quality team in their bracket buster vs. Siena and that’s 15 of 37 games against quality opposition. Not quite at the level of a major power that plays about 80% of their games against quality opposition, but better competition than most small colleges.

So where does Gordon Hayward rank? That’s a tough question, because I’m still not sure after spending 3 paragraphs defending him. The truth is I still think the mocks that have him going in the lottery overrate him a little. Right now he’s a player who has great potential as a scorer, but is probably a little soft defensively. The problem is he hasn’t shown he can handle a big scoring load, just that he can be extremely efficient with a lighter load. Because he is a sophomore, I can give him a bit of a break there. I’m impressed that he led a moderately-talented team to such a high level this past year. That just has to be considered a plus for him as a prospect, even if there’s no number I can place on it. It does help his case that he’s still just a soph. Because he’s young the potential is still there. I can see that he has 20 PPG potential, where the others have eliminated themselves from such classification with their play during their careers. Hayward hasn’t had the opportunity to do that yet. He is hitting the draft while he’s hot, which is a smart move. The other edge of that sword is the bust potential that comes with being a higher draft pick. Hayward is definitely a gamble, but because of the offensive potential he has flashed, he has to rank second in this group behind Johnson.

Tyren Johnson, Louisiana-Lafayette: The common story of the SFs of 2010 is the many seniors who emerged as semi-serious prospects in their final seasons. Even juniors Wesley Johnson and Darington Hobson are players the age of a college senior who emerged at a new locale. I doubt there was any emergence more unlikely than that of Tyren Johnson. Johnson wasn’t even a regular until this season and wasn’t anything other than a semi-intriguing prospect until about mid-January. Around then he took off and was one of the better forwards in the country. Here are his numbers by year followed by his monthly breakdowns for his senior season.

Tyren Johnson

AFG

P40

R40

A/TO

ASB40

Freshman

.375

7.6

7.7

0.2

2.6

Sophomore

.433

6.6

7.5

1.0

6.3

Junior

.451

12.0

8.5

0.8

6.0

Senior

.537

20.3

9.0

0.9

7.4

Nov-Dec

.572

18.9

10.1

0.8

6.6

January

.504

18.3

9.4

1.1

7.9

February

.533

24.7

7.2

0.9

8.2

March

.464

17.8

7.3

0.8

7.3

The March totals are for only one game, as La-Lafayette wasn’t even good enough to get into one of the many post-season tournaments. Johnson played a total of 1476 minutes his first 3 seasons. He wasn’t much of a scorer the first three years, but played good defense. As a senior he came alive offensively, continued to play solid defense and became the Ragin Cajun’s leading scorer and a borderline NBA prospect.

There are some problems with Johnson as a prospect. Just looking at his numbers, he passes every test I would ask of a SF. He scores often and efficiently enough. The defensive numbers are solid and his passing numbers are OK. His TOs are a little on the high side, but not terrible. But his case is based solely a scorching month-and-a-half stretch where he came alive as a player after 3 dormant seasons. It is a good thing that this stretch came at the end of his career, rather than the beginning or middle. But it happened in the Sun Belt conference, a mid-major, and followed 3 seasons where he had only progressed to the level of 5th-leading scorer. It is better to have a period of sustained success, because that shows the player was able to adjust when opponents would gear their defenses to stopping him. Johnson didn’t have that, just a crazy good stretch at the finish to get his numbers up to snuff. For that reason I have to downgrade him some.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Tyren Johnson beats the odds, gets a spot in the NBA and fashions a decent career. Players with similar numbers have a decent history of NBA success. The only other player in this group I can say such a thing about is Wesley Johnson. I have to respect that and that is why he ranks 3rd in this group. But prospects rarely take this long to put themselves on the map and they almost never emerge after 3 such ordinary seasons. For that reason I’m extremely wary of him. Teams are in a good position with such a player. He isn’t a hot item and will probably be available as a UFA. If it turns out his final run was just a fluky hot streak, not much will be lost.

Darington Hobson, New Mexico: Hobson had a tough road to get to where he is. He went through several high schools and a junior college before ending up at New Mexico this year. All this moving around cost him a year, so he’s 22, the age of a typical college senior. He made the most of his opportunity at New Mexico, leading the Lobos in scoring, rebounds and assists and to the tournament. He has himself solidly in the draft discussion. His strength as a forward is passing. His passing numbers look like those of a PG. Here are former NCAA junior and senior SFs who, like Hobson, averaged an A40 over 5.0:

Player

AFG

P40

R40

A40

A/TO

ASB40

SB40

Grant Hill

.503

19.5

7.7

5.8

1.7

9.2

3.4

Rick Fox

.526

23.6

9.3

5.3

1.3

8.7

3.4

Walt Williams

.506

23.7

6.4

6.8

1.3

9.1

2.3

Luke Walton

.493

17.1

7.9

6.8

1.6

9.4

2.6

Jerry Reynolds

.502

15.9

8.8

5.2

1.3

8.2

3.0

Anthony Bowie

.515

15.5

6.7

6.1

2.3

8.1

2.0

Mark Davis

.524

21.4

10.5

5.9

1.3

9.4

3.5

Tom Kleinschmidt

.547

25.3

6.5

5.4

1.8

7.3

1.9

Spencer Nelson

.629

22.3

11.0

6.6

1.9

8.9

2.3

Brian Reese

.502

14.9

7.4

5.4

1.3

6.8

1.4

Darington Hobson

.484

18.3

10.7

5.3

1.5

7.2

1.9

The top 3 were the only players who were more than journeymen. The next 4 all stuck around for at least a little while. The bottom 3 never played in the league. The one trend I notice in this group is that the more successful players had the higher SB40. I normally use this stat only for PFs, but added it here since it seems to have some importance. Hobson is on the lower end here, at 1.9, which needless to say doesn’t help. His biggest strength other than passing, rebounding, doesn’t seem to be a factor in success. Also notable is 2 of the top 3 scored a lot of points. The other one, Hill, actually had a big scoring year as a junior in both frequency and efficiency, without the passing skills he showed as a senior. Hobson is an average scorer in frequency and a below-average one in efficiency. I think what we can take from this table is that Darington Hobson doesn’t look like a player who is being undervalued.

What I look for in a player like Hobson is whether there is anything here that suggests he’s better than his numbers. There isn’t. His strengths, passing and rebounding, don’t fit his position or size particularly well. He doesn’t score as frequently as a SF prospect should and he doesn’t have the efficiency or defensive numbers that successful SFs have traditionally posted. There are too many negatives here to think Hobson is anything other than a long shot.

Lazar Hayward, Marquette: Another senior who stepped things up. In Hayward’s case he had actually been a pretty good scorer for three seasons, but was stuck behind the likes of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews. This year it was his turn and he did OK. Overall he doesn’t quite measure up as a prospect. His efficiency is a tad low and his ASB40 of 5.0 just barely makes it. Another negative is his A/TO was too low until this season. He’s also 23, a year older than most seniors. I give him an outside chance of making it. The fact that he has been a decent 3-point shooter works in his favor and his long arms suggest he has some potential as a defender. Like all the other players here, he would have been better off arriving as a prospect in a draft that wasn’t so thick with similar marginal, but intriguing SFs. But life is random that way. Hayward is a long shot, but like the rest of this group he has enough to make him worth a look as an UFA.

Quincy Pondexter, Washington: Like Lazar Hayward and Tyren Johnson, Pondexter emerged from obscurity as a senior to put himself on the prospect map. The problem for him is the place he emerged just isn’t quite at the level Johnson and Hayward reached, let alone enough to stand out in this crowded class. The biggest problem with Pondexter is other than his impressive scoring numbers, his stats look weak. Successful SFs usually do something well other than scoring. Pondexter is an adequate rebounder, but his passing and defensive numbers are very soft. Another negative is he has yet to develop a consistent 3-pointer. He did hit .353 this year, but that was for only 51 attempts and was boosted by an 8-11 stretch during 5 games in January. Other than that he was at 25%. Quincy Pondexter had a nice senior season to cap a decent 4-year career. But all he is right now is a good college player and no team should be wasting a draft pick on such a player in this crowded draft.

Devin Ebanks, West Virginia: Ebanks just isn’t there yet as a prospect. He falls short in every important category and has yet to show any ability to hit a 3-pointer, which can always be sort of a saving grace for such a prospect. If anything he has shown some poor judgment shooting treys, hitting only 8 of the 70 he’s hoisted up in 2 seasons. There are a couple of things that give Ebanks a glimmer of hope. The first is there have been players before him who were close to where he is as a sophomore who forged long careers:

Sophomore SF

AFG

P40

R40

A/TO

ASB40

Detlef Schrempf

.466

13.7

8.8

0.6

2.9

Tyrone Corbin

.471

13.2

9.9

0.5

3.4

Chris Morris

.500

12.7

6.7

1.1

5.2

Ryan Bowen

.604

10.8

6.2

1.2

6.1

Vince Askew

.490

13.5

8.3

1.4

5.1

Chucky Brown

.587

14.3

4.4

1.2

3.7

Devin Ebanks

.462

13.9

9.4

1.1

4.8

The only impact player here is Schrempf, who became a 3-time all-star. I guess the only comment I would have on this group is it is a short, unimpressive list, but if Detlef can do it, Devin also has a chance. The other thing is that West Virginia may not have been the best place for a player like Ebanks. The two players ahead of him as scorers, Butler and Jones were similar players, big SFs. This left Ebanks doing a lot of the defense and board work. But his numbers are still pretty weak.

Drafting Devin Ebanks would be a reach. He does have great athleticism and length for a player his size and it is possible he’ll be a late bloomer. But that’s a pretty big reach. He just hasn’t done anything that would suggest he’s a prospect after 2200 minutes of college ball. With so many good small and combo forwards available this year, I don’t see any point in using a draft pick on Devin Ebanks.

Stanley Robinson, Connecticut: To say Robinson emerged as a senior like these other players have would be a stretch. He was a decent role player for 3 seasons at UConn, before stepping into a bigger role as a senior. That role was the 3rd leading scorer on a team that missed the tournament. His non-scoring numbers were solid, but unspectacular. This general mediocrity didn’t stop him from being ushered into the late lottery for a long time this year in the mocks around the WWW. He still is hanging around as a bubble first rounder in most lists, meaning some teams are likely considering using their top pick on Robinson. I find this completely baffling. I’m not mocking the mocks here, or Stanley Robinson. They just report what they’re hearing and he basically is what he is. I just don’t understand how such a mediocre NCAA senior could be so highly thought of by the league’s experts, especially considering how crowded the field of SFs is this year.

Looking back through recent history, the only SF who scored less than 17.0 P40 as a senior and made a noticeable impact on the league was Bryon Russell. The only SFs who made a noticeable impact averaging below 4.0 ASB40 as seniors were Chuck Person, Jason Kapono, Hakim Warrick, Johnny Newman and Tony Campbell. The only SFs with a A/TO below 0.5 as a senior were Person, Newman and Campbell. Robinson falls below these numbers in all 3 categories.

In four seasons at UConn, Stanley Robinson has never looked like a serious NBA prospect. He has yet to show he can score, pass or defend well enough to be effective at the next level. If this were someone like Devin Ebanks, who is younger, I might be able to buy into him as a 2nd-rounder. Robinson is a senior who has had every opportunity to shine, but just hasn’t gotten it done. Any team drafting Stanley Robinson in round one would be making a serious mistake.

4 comments for “NBA Draft 2010: Small Forwards Part 2

  1. Ebomb
    June 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Ed, when Looking at Johnson’s monthly splits this season, it looks apparent to me that February looks to be an outlier, whereas you seem to characterize November and December as the outlier against “weak competition.” He average 13.0 Points on .369 shooting and clearly looked to pass more as his A/TO ratio doubled during that month. During that month was when he suffered from a hand injury, making it difficult for him to shoot.

    If we take out February when his hand was injured and he passed more, he scored 20.2 PTS/40 for the season. With his solid rebounding, shooting, and ASB40 Numbers, doesn’t that place him among company that is more than just role players?

    How much would this adjustment change your evaluation?

  2. J-Stew
    June 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Perhaps I missed it, but where is Evan Turner?

  3. pad300
    June 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    How about Dasean Butler? Yeah, he blew an ACL in the tournament, but he was a first round prospect before that…

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