This year’s crop of PFs looks like the strongest position in the draft. The PGs seem to be the most talked about group, but they look like a wildly overrated bunch to me. While there is no single great player here, there are some solid players and promising raw talent. The benchmarks I look for in PFs:
- Two point FG pct. at least .570 and preferable higher. This tells us that the player can handle inside scoring.
- Scores at least 18 P40 and preferably more.
- Rebounds at the rate of at least 10 R40. Again the higher the better. Ten is a bare minimum though. Something closer to 12 is much better.
- Combined steals and blocks of at least 3.5 per 40 minutes. Generally blocked shots are better, but including both is a good thing. It shows a player can handle the defense required. As always, the higher the number, the better the prospect.
- Passing is nice, but not required. Just don’t let the A/TO get too far below 0.4.
This group is heavy on stretch-the-defense types. That being players whose biggest strength is an outside shot. There are also a couple of legitimately good prospects in Markieff Morris and Tristan Thompson and a good energy guy in Faried. This is pretty much the lone bright spot in a very weak draft.
Tristan Thompson, Texas: After some waffling I decided that Tristan Thompson is the best PF available and the #2 prospect in this draft behind Irving. Thompson is a solid defender, doesn’t have the negatives Morris does. His other numbers are promising enough. The most impressive thing here is the fact that Thompson improved during the season. He posted his highest R40 and B40 numbers in March. His 2-point FG pct improved every month. After posting a .495 in Nov-Dec, he followed with months of .558, .562 and .612. Improvement during the season is not the norm, especially for freshmen PFs. Most PFs pile up their best numbers early against weaker competition. That Thompson improved during the season suggest he’s a more impressive prospect than his overall numbers would have me believe. It also fits in with all the positive reports that have come out regarding his attitude and work ethic.
I’m still not sure what his high end is though. For all the talk about work ethic and attitude, there aren’t many signs of the dominance in his numbers that project him as anything other than a solid contributor. I would call him a safe pick at this point. Everything about him says he’ll be better than his stats and that projects him as a long time solid NBA PF. That’s a valuable player and for that reason I have to place at the top of this group, ahead of a player like Morris.Markieff Morris, Kansas: He’s been slow to appear on the radar, but his offensive and rebounding numbers are pretty terrific. Also impressive about him is most of his per minute numbers have always been strong, even when he played low minutes. This year he hit .625 on 2 pointers and .424 on 59 3-pointers while scoring 21.9 P40. That’s a very impressive offensive player. He’s also one of the best rebounding PFs in the draft, at 12.6 R40. Defensively he’s on the lower end, but not enough so that it would doom him as a pro. Players like Dale Davis, Tom Gugliotta, Keith Van Horn, Glen Davis, Udonis Haslem and Grant Long all carved out long careers, or appear to be in the process of doing so, with similar or lower SB40 numbers and offensive/rebounding numbers that weren’t on the level of what Morris has done this year. So while his soft defensive numbers drop him down a notch as a prospect, they hardly doom Morris.
The big problem is he’s very foul prone, averaging 4.7 per 40 minutes. That means at least at the start of his career he’ll probably be relegated to a part-time role. But it should be a very productive part time role. He has all the offensive numbers to think he can become a force as a scorer from both inside and out. His rebounding is strong. Defensively, he’s below-average, but not so much that he’s going to get killed and certainly not so much to pass on a player with this much offensive potential. He’s one of the few players available who looks like he can step right in and be a productive NBA player. Even if it is only as a part-timer, that makes Markieff Morris worthy of a top 5 pick in 2011. Morris does have more upside than Thompson, but I put Thompson on top, because he seems like a lock to become a solid, productive NBA PF. That’s too valuable a player to pass on for someone like Morris who very well could spend his entire career as a part-timer.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Looks like a very promising energy player who could even become a valuable starter in the right situation. He has been one of the nation’s top rebounders for four consecutive seasons now, averaging an amazing 17 R40 for his career. He has also been a lock down defender, averaging over 2.4 steals per 40 minutes and 2.6 blocks. Offensively he isn’t as promising. His .623 2-point pct. this season was by far his best and he has yet to show much in the way of range. But to me the offense is a minor concern when his defense and rebounding are this strong. Faried is a player in the mold of Rodman or Ben Wallace. While it is way premature to put him on a level attained by those two, he plays the same type of game. He’ll dominate the boards and bring some great energy and effectiveness on defense.
The biggest downside is, like Markieff Morris, he’s foul-prone. That will keep him as a part-time player to start and possibly his entire career if he can’t get it figured out. But he’s still going to be a very valuable bench player even if all he can give is 15-20 minutes a night.
Nikola Vucevic, USC: The best of the stretch-the-defense bigs. The reason for that is unlike the others he looks like he can actually rebound at the NBA level. The rest of his numbers are soft. He isn’t much of an inside scorer and his defensive numbers are downright embarrassing for someone with a 7’4” wingspan. He is a good passer for a big man and has the size to play center.
Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid: The appeal with Mirotic is he appears to be stuck in Europe for at least a season and possibly longer. This can be good or bad, but any team not looking for immediate help, or that wants to save some cap space in the short term would do well to invest a mid-first round pick in this guy. He isn’t much more than a versatile player and his poor rebounding numbers tell me he’ll never be more than a bench player. But he’s worth stashing for a few seasons.
Justin Harper, Richmond: The next best of the stretch-the-defense bigs, because of his ability to score both inside and out. His downside is he’s a poor rebounder and a weak defender.
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin: He isn’t quite on the level of Vucevic and Harper as an all-around player, but he can hit a jumper and boards well enough that he belongs. Defense is weak, passing is solid.
Rick Jackson, Syracuse: Reminds me some of Taj Gibson from a couple of years ago. The situations and players are similar. His strength is defense and he doesn’t score much on a roster dominated by talented perimeter players, but hits a high percentage of his shots. Gibson appears to be on his way to a solid journeyman career and Jackson could do the same if given the opportunity.
Jajuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson has never grabbed over 10 R40 and hits around 51% of his 2-pointers. That makes him a marginal prospect going in. Defensively he’s OK, but hardly dominant. He added a so-so outside shot as a senior and that will help, but probably not enough in this deep group of jump shooting bigs.
Donatas Montiejunas, Benetton Treviso: He was a pretty hot item a couple of years ago, but just hasn’t developed. The fact that he added an outside shot is a great thing for his prospects. His defensive and rebounding numbers are so weak though that he isn’t much of a prospect. He also has a problem with turnovers.
Thomas Coleman, North Carolina A&T: I can’t find much about this guy, but his PF numbers are pretty strong. As a senior he posted a .621 2-point pct., 20.6 P40, 12.7 R40 and 4.6 SB40. He played in a small conference against weaker competition and his numbers aren’t wildly impressive with that in mind. He did perform OK when the Aggies stepped up in competition. On the strength of his numbers, I’d burn a 2nd rounder on this guy. He looks like he might have what it takes to become a usable big body on the bench.