NBA Draft 2010: Combo Forwards

The job of the combo forward or, more accurately the small PF, is to give his team a different look. The CF usually comes in to play PF when the team needs to go smaller and quicker. But they can also be used at SF, if a team needs to go bigger. The nature of the position almost guarantees that this player is going to come off the bench. Because of that this group is often lacking in star power. That isn’t the case this year, as Aminu, Patterson and Babbitt all appear to be on the rise as the draft approaches.

  • Offensive skills are a given just like for every position. The player must approach 20 P40 with good efficiency. It’s also important to have a varied offensive game, meaning a decent outside shot. Part of the appeal of such players is the outside shot that can pull the opposing PF to the perimeter and clear space underneath.
  • Rebounding and defense. The prospect has to be at least adequate here and the better he is, obviously the better prospect he becomes. I think the important thing here is that opposing PFs won’t kill this guy on the boards or offensively when he comes in. For the purpose of this I’ll say the closer he is to 10.0 R40 and 2.5 SB40, the better. As always, the higher the number, so much the better.
  • As far as passing and turnovers, the main thing is not to be terrible. Since this is typically a bench position, being a low-mistake player is pretty important. It’s not necessary to be a great passer, but the prospect should show he’s both willing and somewhat able to pass the ball. As with every position, a high rate of turnovers or a low A/TO is a very bad sign.
Player 2 pt pct 3 pt pct P40 R40 SB40 A/TO
Al-Farouq Aminu .484 .273 19.2 13.0 3.5 0.4
Luke Babbitt .521 .416 23.4 9.5 2.2 1.0
Trevor Booker .547 .265 19.4 10.7 3.5 1.3
Craig Brackins .446 .310 18.4 9.5 2.2 1.0
Charles Garcia .500 .277 25.9 11.4 1.7 0.3
Damian James .535 .383 22.1 12.7 3.5 0.5
Patrick Patterson .626 .348 16.5 8.6 2.4 0.9

I ended up going with James as the top guy, but I could see buying into the potential of Aminu. I just see James as more of a sure thing and I doubt the high end payoff Aminu offers is worth the gamble.

Damion James, Texas: James is listed as a G-F, is the size of a SF, but has the numbers most like a PF. While he scored more this year, his greatest strength has been rebounding. What I wanted to look at was the best rebounding SFs and SGs in recent years and see if James is in their class. Here are players who averaged at least 11.0 R40 while attempting at least 50 3-pointers:

Player

2 pt pct

3 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Shawn Marion

.573

.299

22.8

11.3

5.3

0.9

Danny Granger

.563

.433

25.1

11.8

5.5

0.9

Glenn Robinson

.522

.380

35.6

11.9

3.0

0.5

Josh Howard

.558

.329

20.3

11.3

3.7

1.0

Billy Owens

.545

.390

24.5

12.2

3.8

1.0

James Posey

.624

.322

21.3

11.7

3.7

0.6

Cedric Ceballos

.526

.316

25.0

13.5

2.3

0.6

Chris Morris

.515

.340

24.4

11.6

3.6

1.2

Quentin Richardson

.534

.346

22.5

12.6

1.2

0.5

Lionel Simmons

.517

.477

27.8

11.7

4.3

1.3

Jumaine Jones

.489

.348

21.9

11.0

2.1

0.5

Kirk Haston

.483

.377

24.6

11.3

3.0

0.5

Terrence Morris

.478

.289

17.7

11.2

4.5

1.1

Mark Sanford

.498

.242

21.3

12.2

2.5

0.7

BB Walden

.591

.314

16.3

11.8

3.3

0.9

Damion James

.535

.383

22.1

12.7

3.5

0.5

My biggest concern with James this year had been his TOs. His A/TO dropped this year when he started scoring more and that is often a problem. Looking at this chart, I’m not sure if that’s such a big concern. A low A/TO didn’t stop the likes of Big Dog, Posey, Ceballos and Richardson from forging decent NBA careers. Plus, James A/TO number is due more to low assists than high TOs. If any thing the two big factors seem to be scoring and defense. All the successful players were well over 20 P40 and .500 2-point pct. Players who fell below that mark in either or both of the statistics didn’t have anywhere near the careers the others had. Defense seems to be important also, as the two top players on this list, Marion and Granger, were by far the top SB40 players.

This chart is good news for Damion James. He fits in well with the successful players. James looks like the type of player who can make a successful transition to the wing. He has all the traits of a player like Posey, Howard or Richardson. He’s a very good rebounder for his size, scores often and efficiently from inside and out, and has put up strong defensive numbers. The low A/TO is in the back of my mind as a concern when I write this, but I feel Damion James is in for a good, long run as an NBA forward. I doubt he’s all-star level, but he certainly looks like a solid starter.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest: Has been a different player as a freshman and sophomore. The difference was likely in the situation. As a freshman he was the 3rd option behind Jeff Teague and James Johnson who both were drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft. As a sophomore, he was asked to lead the team. Here are the numbers:

Al-Farouq Aminu

2 pt pct

3 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Freshman

.570

.179

16.6

10.5

2.8

0.6

Sophomore

.484

.273

19.2

13.0

3.5

0.4

Being the third option is much easier than being the first. Aminu went from a pretty decent prospect to one who struggled with both efficiency and TOs. On the positive side he improved his rebounding and defense to the level only the best prospects typically reach. So that gives us two angles to look at Aminu. Is he the inefficient scorer who struggles with TOs, or the monster rebounder/defender? I’ll throw a couple of tables out there and try to figure that one out. The first is the negative. Here are college sophomores who, like Aminu, finished with a 2-point pct below .500 and an A/TO below 0.5, and had an NBA career:

Player

2 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Monty Williams

.490

21.2

10.7

2.1

0.45

Dickey Simpkins

.497

13.6

8.8

2.1

0.44

Tony Campbell

.424

16.1

6.3

1.7

0.43

Jumaine Jones

.489

21.9

11.0

2.1

0.46

Chris Crawford

.466

13.4

5.8

1.4

0.34

John Thomas

.467

14.7

9.3

2.0

0.37

Alec Kessler

.492

16.4

7.3

1.5

0.37

Tim James

.424

16.1

6.3

1.7

0.43

Al-Farouq Aminu

.484

19.2

13.0

3.5

0.44

I included both small and power forwards, because at this point I’m not sure which position he’ll play. I doubt this list is that telling, because Aminu is a much better rebounder and defender than at this point than any player on this list. He also posted a .570 as a freshman while scoring more points than the majority of players on this list. I think it is a safe bet to say he’ll have a better career than any of these players. But this shows how poor his scoring efficiency and passing were this year and how far he has to go offensively to justify the top 10 draft pick expected to be used to acquire his services. Next I’ll take a more positive angle. Here are NCAA sophomore forwards who topped 13.0 R40 and 3.5 SB40 as Aminu (barely) did this past season:

Player

2 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Charles Barkley

.644

20.7

13.6

3.7

0.6

Elton Brand

.620

24.2

13.4

4.7

0.6

Antonio McDyess

.514

21.2

15.6

4.4

0.3

Emeka Okafor

.580

19.3

13.6

6.8

0.2

Derrick Coleman

.595

16.7

13.6

3.6

0.6

Larry Johnson

.648

26.1

14.5

3.8

0.8

PJ Brown

.457

14.2

13.7

3.6

0.6

Joe Smith

.586

25.5

13.0

5.4

0.6

Shelden Williams

.589

19.4

13.0

6.1

0.4

Sean May

.468

21.0

13.6

3.7

0.6

Alan Henderson

.494

18.1

13.2

4.2

1.0

Joey Dorsey

.631

13.0

14.2

5.6

0.7

DeJuan Blair

.593

22.8

17.9

3.7

1.0

Al-Farouq Aminu

.484

19.2

13.0

3.5

0.4

This is a much better bunch to be grouped with. There are some all-stars here and at least one HOFer. The problem is there are also some journeymen and Aminu’s stats are more in line with theirs than the all-stars, especially when looking at FG pct. Plus he’s on the low end in both rebounds and blocks. Even though there are some excellent players on this list, it is hard to project Aminu as an all-star based on this.

From looking at this I think the one thing that stands out is Aminu looks much more like a PF than a SF at this point. He’s more SF size and has had some limited success, developing an outside shot. The problem is his A/TO rate is very low for a SF. Historically the only SFs with low A/TOs who made an impact were the ones who could shoot the lights out, so getting that shot to fall will be huge. The fact that his strengths are rebounding and defense also say he’s a PF. He’s on the small side, but is about a year younger than most sophs and he should be able to bulk up. He also has a 7’3” wingspan that will definitely help him on the inside.

As an early first round pick I feel he remains a huge gamble. As a PF he would need to become a better inside scorer to justify the pick. As a SF, he would need to become a better passer and shooter. That’s a lot of work to be done either way. There is also the question of how good will he become at the high end? Can he become an all-star in the mold of Nowitzki, Granger or Marion? Or will his high end be that of a very good role player like Derrick McKey or Chris Morris? At this point I would have to go with the latter. Great players usually show at least some signs of greatness from the start. The only number Aminu can point to right now is his 13.0R40. As the 2nd list shows, this in itself is far from a sure ticket to greatness. Drafting this guy in the top 10 bring a lot of bust potential.

Luke Babbitt, Nevada: The strength of Babbitt this year was his ability to score. He is a terrific shooter, hitting .416 on treys and over 90% of his FTs. On 2-pointers he was at .521, which is a low for a traditional PF, but is probably OK for a combo. Here are the NCAA sophs who scored over 20.0 P40 and .400 3-pointers with at least 50 attempts, as Babbitt did this past season:

Player

2 pt pct

3 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Paul Pierce

.492

.465

23.2

9.6

3.5

0.7

Jamal Mashburn

.614

.439

26.1

9.6

3.0

0.7

Stacey Augmon

.550

.418

20.8

10.1

3.2

1.1

Calbert Cheaney

.624

.473

28.5

7.3

1.4

0.6

Matt Harpring

.551

.429

20.1

8.8

2.1

0.9

Todd Day

.541

.403

27.1

7.5

4.8

1.1

Ledell Eackles

.480

.407

28.0

5.0

1.4

0.6

Josh Grant

.548

.400

22.5

9.5

3.3

1.4

Michael Smith

.513

.486

26.1

11.2

0.8

0.9

Sean Higgins

.530

.464

21.5

5.5

1.1

0.9

Luke Jackson

.498

.411

21.6

6.9

2.1

1.9

Scott Thurman

.502

.429

21.8

6.2

2.3

2.0

Dwayne Morton

.531

.531

20.6

6.0

3.0

0.9

Sasa Cuic

.489

.493

20.7

6.9

1.3

0.6

Luke Babbitt

.521

.416

23.4

9.5

2.0

0.9

Most of these guys were SFs. I think Grant and Smith are the only PFs in the bunch. Grant was 22 at the time, so I doubt he’s a fair comp. The more successful players generally had a higher 2-point pct and SB40. Just looking at the SFs, the successful ones also rebounded much better. As for Babbitt, he rebounds well, but his low 2-point pct suggests he’s something short of both a star and a starter.

I do like Babbit though. The reason is he can score often and efficiently. He looks like a guy who can become a good enough shooter that he can make the defense adjust with his shooting ability. The flip side of such a player is usually how bad he gets killed on the other end and on the boards. Babbitt brings rebounding numbers that are slightly below what is typically needed for a PF and defensive numbers that would have to be considered poor. While I feel he could be adequate defensively in some cases, there will be some players who absolutely kill him. Of course if your idea of defense is outscoring your guy, Babbitt can probably do that on most nights. Babbitt is a player who can help out on offense and will have moments where he really lights it up. In that sense he’ll have some value. But he’ll be a liability on defense to the point that his role will be limited.

Trevor Booker, Clemson: Any team looking for a player in round two who might provide something in the way of immediate help should take a long look at Booker. He isn’t much of a scorer, but he has good defensive numbers and his role in Clemson’s full court press suggests his defensive abilities extend to the perimeter. The latter part of that is something that would be vital for Booker, because he’s SF size with PF numbers. Here is what his career looks like:

Trevor Booker

2 pt pct

3 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Freshman

.598

.000

16.0

9.9

4.8

0.5

Sophomore

.568

.333

16.5

11.0

4.0

0.8

Junior

.583

.409

19.4

12.3

4.3

0.9

Senior

.547

.265

19.4

10.7

3.5

1.3

Not great, but he does show a decent skill set. The scoring is low in both efficiency and frequency, but it isn’t terrible. The rebounding is adequate and the defense is strong. He’s probably about where Patterson and Aminu are as a 3-point shooter in that he’s shown some promise, but with limited attempts we really don’t know how good he is. I’ll just say that like the ability to defend the perimeter, getting his outside shot to fall will be a key for Booker.

Not a great prospect, but Trevor Booker has shown enough that I’d use a 2nd round draft pick on him. He looks like a player who could give a team some minutes immediately as a defensive specialist and could develop into a Bowen-type of player if he can consistently hit the outside shot.

Patrick Patterson, Kentucky: The thing that strikes me about Patrick Patterson is how highly he is thought of, despite being a player who has been around for 3 seasons and has never been the leading scorer on his team. I know circumstances were different at Kentucky, but in general players who are going to make a big impact at the next level aren’t deferring to the likes of Jodie Meeks or politely stepping aside when a couple of hot freshmen join the team. Here are Patterson’s numbers for his 3 seasons:

Patrick Patterson

2 pt pct

3 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Freshman

.581

.000

18.8

8.8

2.4

0.8

Sophomore

.605

.000

20.8

10.8

3.1

1.0

Junior

.626

.348

16.5

8.6

2.4

0.9

The best thing about him is his efficiency. Being over .600 the past two seasons is good. It is more impressive than a lot of players who have accomplished this, because he is more than just a putback/easy layup guy. While it is a good thing to be over .600, it isn’t a ticket to the NBA by itself. The best PFs have typically been well over 20.0 P40, were around 12.0 R40 and over 3.0 SB40 by their junior years. Patterson’s numbers in rebounding and defense are similar to the likes of Marcus Fizer, Mario Boggan, Ike Diogu and John Wallace. Something those four players had in common with Patterson is the high 2-point pct. and a 3-point percentage that was promising enough in small usage it would have been considered an asset at the time. To be fair, I can also offer up Otis Thorpe and AC Green as a couple of players who posted rebounding and defensive numbers that were less impressive than Patterson’s. Because those two played before the shot clock came to college basketball, I wonder some about their numbers.

The most important thing Patterson did this year is start hitting the 3-pointer. While he’s hardly a proven gunner like Babbitt or James, showing he has some skill is important. It is actually very important, because he comes up way short as a PF prospect. Over the course of his college career, Patterson hasn’t put up numbers in points, rebounds, steals or blocks that would put him with successful PFs. He hasn’t been an aggressive player, preferring to let teammates take the lead. I just can’t see him having much of an NBA career. If he gets that shot going, he might stick around as a role player, but he isn’t going to make it solely as a PF. While there are some things to like about his game, this group of forwards is way too deep to be taking a chance by drafting Patrick Patterson in round one.

Craig Brackins, Iowa State: The poster boy for the “Get out of school and start making money ASAP” crowd. Brackins fell apart as a junior after a sophomore season that had him a possible first rounder. Here are the numbers:

Craig Brackins

2 pt pct

3 pt pct

P40

R40

SB40

A/TO

Sophomore

.507

.284

26.0

12.2

1.9

0.6

Junior

.446

.310

18.4

9.5

2.2

1.0

About the only good thing I can say is that improved passing, defense and 3-point shooting made him slightly more diverse as a player. But he fell so much in the other parts of his game that I couldn’t imagine using a draft pick on him. The thing to point out here is he wasn’t great shakes as a prospect after his sophomore season either. He probably would have been drafted in round one, thanks to a weak crop of big guys. But his numbers look a lot like those of Luke Harangody, who I’ll cover with the PFs. Lots of points, good rebounding, but poor efficiency and defense make him a shaky prospect.

I doubt Brackins will make it. He has the nice soph season to his credit, but even that was subpar as future NBA players go. He needs to get back to that level and then some before he can make the next step.

Charles Garcia, Seattle: Since he’s getting some buzz, I’ll weigh in on him quickly. He looks like he’s way too erratic to make it. There are some obvious skills here, but the numbers he put up just aren’t all that impressive, considered he did it at a small college. He’s low in efficiency and defensive numbers, but way too high in TOs. Long, athletic types are always worth a look-see, but in Garcia’s case best to go the UFA route and use the draft picks on players who have shown more promise.

3 comments for “NBA Draft 2010: Combo Forwards

  1. Trev
    June 20, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    If you looked at Aminu as if he’d come out after his freshman year, what do his comparables look like? Who are the freshman who hit 55% 2s, 15 P40, 10 R40?

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