NBA Draft: The Small Forwards

This year’s SF class is on the thin side. There are a couple of freshmen at the top. Ingram looks like a solid prospect. Brown has a few more question marks, but also has all-star potential. After that the field gets kind of shaky. There are some who look like good role players, but they come with red flags as well. For such players the key will be finding the right situation. Here are the numbers:

Small Forwards 2PP 3PP P40 R40 ASB40 A/TO
Brandon Ingram 464 410 19.8 7.8 5.1 1.0
Jaylen Brown 482 294 21.4 7.8 5.0 0.6
DeAndre Bembry 553 266 18.7 8.3 7.2 2.1
Troy Williams 564 347 20.3 8.9 6.0 0.8
Timothe Luwawu 438 358 19.2 6.1 6.3 1.0
Georges Niang 605 392 24.0 7.3 5.7 1.3
Jarrod Uthoff 484 382 23.5 7.9 5.8 1.0
Taurean Prince 469 361 21.0 8.0 5.6 0.9
Ben Bentil 517 329 24.2 8.8 3.5 0.6
Paul Zipser 550 420 15.5 8.0 4.9 1.4
Dorian Finney-Smith 505 368 18.0 10.2 4.7 1.1

Prospects are listed in order of how I would draft them all other things like team needs, psychological profiles and other non-statistical factors being equal.

Brandon Ingram, Duke

Jaylen Brown, California: Brown is the consolation prize for any team looking for a young SF with all-star potential and isn’t drafting in the top 2. That isn’t a negative either. Brown was an impressive prospect as a freshman and should have a pretty strong career. Here are his freshman numbers by month:

Jaylen Brown 2PP 3PP P40 R40 A40 S40 B40 T40
November 600 190 27.6 9.8 2.2 0.8 0.3 4.2
December 426 333 19.1 8.0 2.4 0.9 0.9 5.2
January 604 316 21.6 8.0 3.7 1.2 1.4 4.3
February 482 375 23.8 7.9 2.7 0.9 1.3 3.9
March 222 167 12.5 5.1 3.5 2.6 0.3 5.8

Brown was all over the place statistically before a terrible March put a damper on what was until then an impressive freshman season. March was just 126 minutes, but he was terrible when the team needed him to be good. The thing I like about his season is the trend was improvement through February. His passing and defense both improved a lot during the year. His 3-point shooting went from weakness to strength. He had some dominating stretches.

The negatives are the high turnovers and the collapse of his offense in March. On the turnovers, the trend was positive throughout the year, but they were still too high at the end. With a talented young player the assumption is he’ll get this fixed. The March collapse is bad, but is a small part of his season. The rest is pretty solid and the big picture on Jaylen Brown is that he’s a potential all-star at SF.

Brown is solidly in with the tier of players behind Simmons and Ingram. If the need is SF he’s a perfectly reasonable selection in picks 3-8. He will require some patience, as he is a young player and such players take time to develop. His numbers say he has all-star potential though and that makes him a legit top 7-8 pick.

DeAndre Bembry, St Josephs: Bembry is the next best SF prospect after the two freshmen. The main negative is his .266 on treys. He has been at .346 and .327 his 2 previous seasons so he’s better than that, but that area of his game obviously needs work. Other than that Bembry’s game looks pretty strong.

The 7.2 ASB40 is a very strong number for a SF prospect to bring. Such players have historically gone on to solid NBA careers. It says Bembry is a player with a lot of skills that will translate well to the NBA. He is one of the best passing SFs in the nation. His defense is solid, particularly his ball hawking skills.  He’s a good rebounder for his size. As a scorer he was more efficient inside this year, but has never been a high volume scorer.

Bembry’s high end is that of a super role player. I could see him becoming the type of player who does a lot of little things that make a difference while not scoring. If he can develop an effective 3-pointer to go with the rest of his game, Bembry could become a pretty solid NBA player. Good value pick after the lottery.

Troy Williams, Indiana: I don’t want to use the term “Boom or Bust” with Williams, because I don’t think his ceiling is quite at the “boom” level and I don’t like to call any player drafted out of the top 10 a “bust”, because expectations shouldn’t be so high for such players. But Williams does have the potential to become an effective player if he can cut down on the negatives.

His main issue is turnovers. He commits too many of them. He’s a junior and this problem hasn’t improved. This is different than if a freshman like Brown has a turnover problem. With freshmen the assumption is the problem will be worked on and fixed. When it has been festering for 3 seasons, you doubt it can be fixed.

Looking at the rest of Williams’ game, he brings some impressive numbers. His 2PP has been consistently around .550, which is very impressive. He’s a strong rebounder and has solid defensive numbers. His assists have gone up, so he appears to be working on his passing game. He flashed some 3-point ability for the first time this year, hitting .347 on 75 attempts.

Because Williams has a high upside I see him as a better option than the other SFs out there who look like no more than replacement level role players. I realize he has a long way to go, but drafting for upside, especially in round 2 is the best strategy.

Timothe Luwawu, Mega Leks: Other than a very low, .438, 2PP Luwawu looks like a decent enough prospect. His passing/defensive numbers look solid and he can play either wing position. I don’t see him as a mid-first round player which is where he’s placing in the mocks now. He looks more like a 2nd rounder to me.

Georges Niang, Iowa State: The Hawkeye state has a couple of 5th-year senior SFs who look like potential solid role players. Niang is the offense/passing prospect to Uthoff’s defense/shooting. Niang looks like a PF, but his skills say he’s more of an SF. As a scorer he has been very efficient from inside and out, with the exception of his junior year. He’s one of the best passing forward in the nation. Defensively he’s weak and that make him nothing more than an NBA role player. But his offense is pretty impressive and should get him a role on some team.

Jared Uthoff, Iowa: I like Uthoff a lot, despite a couple of big negatives. He’s a 5th-year senior who hasn’t been much of a prospect until now. He’s never been above .500 on 2-pointers. Those are both big negatives that will probably keep Uthoff from being drafted. What Uthoff does is play strong defense, hits the 3-pointer and has a very low turnover rate. He has a high rate of steals and blocks. That is the profile of an effective NBA 3/D role player which should make him a hotter item than he has been in the mocks.

Taurean Prince, Baylor: Prince was better as a junior. This year his efficiency fell off a lot. He’s a good defender and he can hit a 3-pointer. He isn’t a great passer and has had turnover issues. He’s a young senior at 21. He’s a potential 3/D guy and that will likely get him a look.

Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil’s stat profile of a great college scorer who is weak in all other areas of his game has rarely translated into a long NBA career. He is a good scorer though and if he can work on the rest of his game he’ll find a spot.

Paul Zipser, Bayern Muenchen: Zipser is a decent foreign prospect. His strength is scoring efficiency. He’s been a strong inside scorer for most of his career. Outside the arc he’s been a little more spotty but has shown some potential. His defense looks kind of soft. He’s 22, the age of most seniors so his upside is limited.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith had a nice 5th-year senior season and barely makes the list as the last draftable SF worth a mention. Fifth-year seniors are always risky, but Finney-Smith showed enough that he could catch on as a reserve. He’s a better rebounder than most and he can hit a 3-pointer, so he’s a potential stretch 4 in addition to being a passable SF.

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