The 2015 Small Forward crop is a top heavy bunch. Where the PFs are a group of 12 prospects that could go either way, the SFs have a wide gulf between the likely stars and the others. After Winslow, Hezonja, Johnson and Oubre the pickings get really slim. I just can’t find more than a few SF prospects outside of the ones we all know about who are even worth mentioning. But the young guys are a very impressive bunch. If players like Anderson, Tokoto and Dekker step up their games in the pros, this could become a pretty strong SF class.
With SFs the benchmarks I look for are 2PP over .500, P40 over 18.0, R40 over 8.0, ASB40 over 5.0 and an ability to hit the 3-pointer. As always freshmen and sophomore get a little more leeway. Because an SF’s duties can differ by situation, if a player excels at one thing like shooting or defense he becomes a better prospect as a role player.
Here are the numbers. Players are listed in order of how I would draft them all other things being equal.
Justise Winslow, Duke: He remains the best non-center prospect in the draft. Drafting Porzingis over Winslow has the potential to be the drafting Milicic over Wade of this decade.
Stanley Johnson, Arizona: When I see Johnson hovering near the back of the lottery in the mocks it kind of reminds me of Paul Pierce being drafted at #10 in ’98. He’s obviously better than that. Everyone knows he’s better than that, but he somehow slipped. Teams shouldn’t make the same mistake with Johnson.
Mario Hezonja, Barcelona
Kelly Oubre, Kansas
Justin Anderson, Virginia: Once you get past the youngsters, the pickins get real slim in the 2015 SF class. Anderson is probably the best of the next group. While his numbers don’t look overly impressive, a year-by-year look suggests he might be a pretty solid pro:
As a freshman he was the do everything type with poor offense. As a soph he added more offense, but was still solid in other areas. As a junior he became a lights out shooter. Because he had two solid ASB40 years, I don’t see it as an issue that he fell below 5.0 as a junior.
My biggest concern is his rebounds are so low. That seems like a red flag for a forward. It also isn’t good that he has never topped .500 on 2PP. He has to prove the .452 on 3-pointers is for real, because this was the first year he looked like a gunner.
While I wouldn’t call the negatives minor quibbles, Justin Anderson has done enough in college to think he can become a pretty solid NBA wing. He brings a low-mistake game with good defense, passing and possibly a deadeye outside shot. If that .452 is real, Justin Anderson is the best 3&D prospect in the 2015 draft.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
JJ Avila, Colorado State: Just because the SF crop gets thin after the top 5 it doesn’t mean I can’t dig up some obscure player, show his stats to the world and insist he’ll be a solid NBA player if just given the chance. That player in 2015 is JJ Avila. To be clear he isn’t perfect. He’s a 5th-year senior, having transferred from Navy to Colorado State and sitting out a year. He’s also an inconsistent scorer, as his yearly stats show:
He can’t seem to put together a good year from both inside and outside the arc. What I love about him though is the consistent 6+ ASB40. That has always been a good benchmark for a prospect to hit and Avila has done it consistently.
Avila is a good 2nd round pick. With his inconsistent offense he obviously isn’t going to be a star. But he does have the potential to become a decent role player. If he can get his offense together he could be a lot more than that.
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker has some nice numbers, but shares a scary one with some recent notorious busts:
The number of course is the low ASB40. As a benchmark I like players to be above 5.0 Dekker is below 3.0 as were these recent top 10 picks who posted otherwise very impressive numbers. It is probably unfair to call McDermott a bust just yet, but he seems to be on that path.
This doesn’t mean his situation is hopeless. He’s a better passer than the others were and his 2PP of .639 is a legitimately dominant number that suggests he could become a very good offensive player. I would like him more as an offensive specialist if he hit more than a third of his 3-pointers, but that’s probably something that can be fixed.
The problem is that 3.2 ASB40 is just a bad omen for his career. Assists, steals and blocks are a good thing for any player to accumulate. When a player collects a lot of them in college I look at it as a sign of NBA-level ability. Dekker hasn’t accomplished that in 3 years. I see his high end as that of an instant offense type off the bench who doesn’t defend well enough to play big minutes. I doubt he’ll have much of an impact and I wouldn’t draft him in round one.
JP Tokoto, North Carolina: Watching him for 3 seasons at North Carolina I kept thinking he was going to bust out as a star, but it never happened. He has a lot of talent, but was never able to put things together. He has had 3 years and his offense remains pretty terrible. But he does other things like passing and defense pretty well.
Tokoto is something like Avila. He hasn’t shown much offensively, but his high ASB40 makes him intriguing to me. His percentages this year were a flip of what he had done the previous couple of years. He had posted a 2PP over .500 both seasons. He hit .375 on 3-pointers, but was only 9 of 47 his first two seasons. Because he was only 12-32 on 3-pointers this year he has a lot of work to do to become a 3&D player.
I like Tokoto as a mid to late 2nd rounder. He definitely has a lot of work to do on his offensive game, but he has shown enough that he could become a useful wing off the bench. Like Hollis-Jefferson, Avila, Dawson and a lot of players, the big question is whether he can consistently knock down the 3-pointer at the next level. If he can he’ll have a long career because his other skills are so strong.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State: Dawson is a player I’ve always liked because he does a lot of things well, but none of the flashy things. It is difficult seeing where he’d fit. He rebounds well, but is too small to play PF. He’s a very good defender, but has shown no ability to hit the 3-pointer so it would be a reach to call him a potential 3&D player. Because of his rebounding and defense, he’s worth a look just to see what sort of NBA role player he might become.
I prefer a SF like prospect Dawson to the likes Anthony Brown and Pat Connaughton who have been rising during the pre-draft process and seem likely to be drafted due to their shooting ability. I would rather go with a player who does defense well and hope he develops some offense than vice-versa.