2012 NBA Draft: Ranking The Small Forwards
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
Follow @Yannis KoutroupisYannis Koutroupis
The 2012 NBA Draft is less than two weeks away. The mass amounts of workouts being done have helped us get a better feel for where guys rank with the other players at their position. In our continuing series of ranking each position, we take a look at the top five small forwards along with the rest of the field. The three spot is one of the deepest in the draft. The top two players are in the running for the second overall selection and as many as nine are garnering first round consideration.
The Top Five
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky, Fr.) – 6’7, 233 lbs.
It’s not very often that we see a player of Kidd-Gilchrist’s skill level who competes the way he does at such a young age. Even in high school he was as fiery and engaged as he was at Kentucky while competing for a national championship. He’s wired with the same hatred for losing that some of the NBA’s all-time greats were.
Not without fault, Kidd-Gilchrist is amongst the worst three-point shooters in the draft regardless of position. It’s a major weakness of his, but perhaps the only one as well. Given his work ethic and passion for the game, it’s not a stretch to think that he could be a very serviceable shooter down the line.
If he does add a reliable long-range jumper, we’re talking about an All-Star. Kidd-Gilchrist will be able to defend multiple positions throughout his career, be a terror to contain in transition and virtually impossible to stay in front of. There’s a big argument to be made for him being the second best player in this draft class. He will be instrumental in changing the culture to a winning one wherever he gets drafted.
Harrison Barnes (North Carolina, So.) – 6’8, 228 lbs.
These past two years have been a roller coaster ride for Barnes, but luckily for him it seems like it’s going to end on a high note. After a disappointing end to his collegiate career, Barnes is right back in the mix for the second overall pick after the way that he performed at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
One of the biggest knocks on him has always been that he’s just an average athlete. While the footage at North Carolina did little to change that notion, his 38” standing vertical at the Combine erased it completely.
Typically extremely-athletic players are hesitant to rely on their jump shot. Barnes is the opposite, which is quite rare. Knowing that he has that kind of athletic ability creates a lot of optimism over what he could be down the line. He was never able to fulfill his expectations from college, but he may just end up exceeding them as a pro.
Jeff Taylor (Vanderbilt, Sr.) – 6’7, 213 lbs.
In terms of being NBA ready, Taylor may be second only to Barnes at the small forward position. There’s a lot to like about the athletic and versatile senior who steadily improved throughout his career at Vanderbilt.
Taylor can play either position out on the perimeter and most importantly hold his own defensively. He’s made serious strides as a shooter from long range; he makes defenses pay when they don’t give him the attention he deserves.
Taylor’s stock is in the 17-25 range despite the fact that he is ready to help teams now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. If selected in that range he’ll likely end up with a playoff team, where he can play to his strengths and not be asked to do more than he’s capable of. If the Boston Celtics keep their two picks one of them will likely be used on Taylor.
Quincy Miller (Baylor, Fr.) – 6’10, 219 lbs.
This has to be a tense moment for the Miller camp because just a couple of months ago he was set to stay at Baylor and projected as a top eight pick in the 2013 draft. Then, surprisingly, he changed his mind prior to the NBA’s underclassmen declaration deadline and decided to go pro.
At the beginning of the year Miller got off to an impressive start. He looked like he was fully recovered from the ACL tear that robbed him of his senior year in high school. But as the year wore on he faded and now he’s reportedly struggling in workouts as well.
The reviews from Chicago on Miller were not overly positive. He’s sliding right now and there’s a long way to go down from his previous spot in the lottery. He really has to have some strong showings prior to the 28th, otherwise he could end up really regretting changing his mind.
Still, he will be drafted and there is a lot of promise there. He just has to get his knee right first and be prepared to work his way up from the bottom.
Moe Harkless (St. John’s, Fr.) – 6’9, 207 lbs.
Even though he’s tired of hearing this, few players in this draft have the kind of potential that Harkless has. Odds are he won’t be one of the best players immediately, but a few years down the line he very well could be one of the stars of this draft class.
Harkless played out of position at St. John’s this past season. Being used primarily as a power forward put him on the radar and helped the Red Storm a great deal, but it wasn’t the best thing for his pro career. Now Harkless is having to endure a crash course on playing small forward, which is undoubtedly where he’s best suited at the next level.
Unlike Andre Drummond or Meyers Leonard, the other two players most associated with the term potential, Harkless doesn’t appear to be multiple years away. He could end up just needing one season to find his comfort zone as a three. And, when that happens, we could be looking at the Paul George of this class.
Rest of the Field
Evan Fournier (France) – 6’7, 204 lbs.: A skilled swingman with great instincts on the offensive end. Possesses good shooting mechanics. Unproven defensively.
Darius Miller (Kentucky, Sr.) – 6’7, 233 lbs.: Unselfish glue guy who is very familiar with the role he will be playing in the NBA. Capable of providing instant offense and scoring in a variety of ways.
Draymond Green (Michigan State, Sr.) – 6’7, 236 lbs.: As tough and versatile as they come. Doesn’t have the prototypical game of a small forward, but will make plays when given the opportunity. A winner.
Jae Crowder (Marquette, Sr.) – 6’6, 241 lbs.: One of the best defenders in the class with an underrated offensive game. Very strong with the ability to defend multiple positions. Has to get re-acclimated to playing on the perimeter again full time.
Kostas Popanikolaou (Greece) – 6’8, 230 lbs.: A dedicated defender who has improved as a spot-up shooter. Likely going to stay overseas for at least another season.
Kris Joseph (Syracuse, Sr.) – 6’7, 215 lbs.: A solid scorer who can keep defenses honest with his three-point shot. Unselfish and capable of getting his points within the system. Transitioning from playing nothing but zone defense.
Hollis Thompson (Georgetown, Jr.) – 6’8, 206 lbs.: As pure of a shooter as this class has to offer. Knows how to play off the ball and set himself up for shots.
Khris Middleton (Texas A&M, Jr.) – 6’8, 216 lbs.: Smooth and effective. Coming off of an injury-riddled season. Does the majority of his work offensively inside the three-point line.
Alex Young (IUPUI, Sr.) – 6’6, 215 lbs.: A threat to score from all over the floor. Also a very good rebounder. Can play shooting guard as well.
Tony Mitchell (Alabama, Jr.) – 6’6, 216 lbs.: Athletic with the ability to really standout defensively. Questions about character somewhat exaggerated. Strong rebounder.
Rakim Sanders (Fairfield, Sr.) – 6’5, 234 lbs.: NBA ready in terms of strength. Can play either wing position. An aggressive rebounder who can knock down open shots.
Wesley Witherspoon (Memphis, Sr.) – 6’9, 212 lbs.: A big small forward who can step out and hit the occasional three. Has a nice all-around game. Still on the thin side.