This is the fourth of five
Siegel's Take articles analyzing the 2008 NBA Draft prospects. Today's focus
is the risky group of power forwards.
As I say every year in every article, its important to note that I'm not as kind as most Draft analysts out there. The reality of the NBA Draft is that only a few guys will be stars, a handful more will be starters, a dozen guys will be career reserves, and the rest will all fizzle into nothingness within a couple of seasons.
On with the fun. Players are ranked by their NBA potential:
1) Michael Beasley - Kansas State - While Derrick Rose is the media darling, I'm fully on board Beasley's bandwagon. At some level, numbers simply don't lie.. and 26 ppg and 12 rpg in just 31 mpg is all you need to know. While Rose is a lock to be a solid NBA point guard, Beasley is a basketball freak who has a chance to be an elite All-NBA type player. The perception that he lacks focus and desire rightly deserves attention, but here the potential reward greatly surpasses the risk.
2) JaVale McGee - Nevada - McGee is the type of risk/reward prospect that can make a GM look like a genius or a fool. In fact, on this list I wavered forever trying to slot him into the ranking. Basically, he's the anti-Ryan Anderson, a physical freak with tremendous upside that doesn't really know how to play basketball. Also, despite being an unknown to most observers, he's only 12 months younger than a veteran like Roy Hibbert. Some see McGee as a late-bloomer ready to explode, others see him as a bust along the lines of Patrick O'Bryant.
3) Alexis Ajinca - HTV - This 20 year old has the height of a center (7'1"), but the body and makeup of a power forward. Scouting Europeans isn't my thing, but from listening to and reading others opinions in recent weeks, I get the sense there's some good momentum building here.
4) JJ Hickson - NC State - After starting his freshman season with a couple big time games, Hickson finished with solid averages of 15 and 9 per game. When you consider Arthur below, who averaged only 12 and 9 in his sophomore season and is 13 months older, you have to wonder why Arthur is the more highly rated talent. The main reason is that Hickson is one of the rawer talents out there, with a small skill set that mostly involves dunking and small post shots. Still, I prefer Hickson because he's thicker, stronger and more explosive in the paint.
5) Darrell Arthur - Kansas - I'm not a big Arthur fan, and he falls into this slot mostly by default. Arthur would show scattered 20 minute stretches of dominance, but follow it up with a two week disappearing act. To me, this inconsistency wasn't due to a lack of effort or passion, but simply gaping holes in his skill set. Despite a decent post game, Arthur is a surprisingly weak finisher and he doesn't project to be a plus jump-shooter. He only got to the FT line once or twice a game last year, unacceptable for a 6'9" kid. There's potential here, but he'll most likely go higher in the Draft than he should.
6) Serge Ibaka - PF - Lhospitalet - Not going to say much here, because like most other prospects, Ibaka looks great on YouTube highlights. Still, I suggest digging up some clips on this guy because his length and athleticism are pretty darn impressive. Basically a big X factor.
7) Ryan Anderson - California - Some of the other writers on CHN are much higher on Anderson than I am. Though the numbers he put up in two season are unparalleled (outside of Beasley), he doesn't pass the "eye test". My real worry here is on defense, where he's not athletic enough to guard wings and not strong or long enough to guard bigs in the post. Also, though he's a great collegiate outside shooter, I'm not certain this will equate to the NBA three-point line. Still, Anderson definitely has value as a pro reserve.
Richard Hendrix - PF - Alabama - Back in the day, Hendrix was once
thought to be a straight H.S. to NBA prospect. But three years later and
Hendrix is trying to prove his worth at the Pre-Draft camp. He's somewhat
underrated in my opinion, barely any worse than potential lottery picks like
Arthur and Hickson. A lack of "wow" athleticism really holds him back,
especially when you consider he has virtually no perimeter game. But Hendrix
has always been a consistently solid performer who grabs boards, understands
the game, and tends to be a team player.
9) Jason Thompson - Rider - Some sites, mainly NBADraft.net, have Thompson as a first round pick, though I'm not buying that. Its usually easier to gauge the skill of mid-major guards as opposed to mid-major bigs, because someone like Thompson had no physical equal in the MAAC. At 6'11", 250 lbs or so, he dominated on the offensive end, though defensively he wasn't nearly as dominant. The real issue for Thompson though is that his size is no longer a plus against NBA centers, so power forward is his more likely position. But against pro fours, Thompson will have a serious disadvantage on the defensive end. Its hard to imagine him being anything but a bit player in the big leagues.
10) DJ White - Indiana- After a weak junior season, I though White had no chance at a pro career. But he made huge strides last year, especially on the offensive end where he became the Hoosiers go-to player (and a consistent 20 & 10 threat) once Eric Gordon slumped. Even though it seems like White's been around forever, he's only 13 months older than Darrell Arthur, so you have to really consider him to be a junior. Similar to Hendrix above, White just doesn't have that extra boost of athleticism. Still, though it seems like he doesn't have much of an upside, I thought the same thing last year and he proved me wrong.
Summary: While Beasley has All-NBA potential, the rest of this list doesn't excite me. In fact, its conceivable that no one else even pans out as a full-time starter. McGee and Ajinka come in 2 and 3 because of upside.. but both have serious flop potential. Anderson and Hendrix are less risky.. but if you're afraid of taking a chance you shouldn't be an NBA GM. At the end of the list, Thompson and White will just be hoping to avoid the D-League.
Last Year's Siegel's Take - PF Ranking
1) Brandan Wright
2) Al Horford
3) Yi Jianlian
4) Joakim Noah
5) Josh McRoberts
6) Glen Davis
7) Nick Fazekas
8) Jason Smith
9) Herbert Hill
10) Jermareo Davidson