Siegel's Take: 2008 Small Forward Analysis

May 19th, 2008
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This is the third of five Siegel's Take articles analyzing the 2008 NBA Draft prospects. Today's focus is the always deep group of small forwards.

As I say every year, 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) Danilo Gallinari  - Armani Milano - As always with International stars, I begin with the disclaimer that I'm a college basketball guy.. so I'm mostly going on what others have to say. With that said, if I had to rate players according to YouTube clips.. Gallinari might be 3rd or 4th pick in the Draft. He just looks like a legit talent.

2) Anthony Randolph  - LSU - Along with the International prospects, Randolph is the ultimate risk/reward guy. The youngest kid in the Draft has supreme length and athleticism. He can run the floor, block shots, and is more skilled offensively than you'd imagine. Because he's a lefty, comparisons to Chris Bosh make sense.. and you could see him developing along the same arc. Compared to Bosh at the same point, he's probably slightly weaker, his shot isn't as pure from distance, and his desire and character is somewhat more unknown.

3) Nicolas Batum - Le Mans - Considering the lack of stars outside of the Top 5 or so, there's no reason the physically gifted Batum shouldn't go in the Top 10.

4) Joe Alexander  - West Virginia - In the middle of February, most (including NBA front offices) had little clue who Alexander was. But his Draft stock ballooned with a ridiculous run from March 1st into the NCAA Tournament.. Once thought of as a raw athletic talent, Alexander started flashing a reliable mid-range jumper and the ability to either face up or back you down in the post. Even though he's a junior, Alexander hasn't been playing ball for that long and his improvement has been swift and substantial. It also helps that he has the rep of being a good kid with a strong desire to succeed & win.

5) Chase Budinger - Arizona - Towards the end of his prep career, the high-flying Budinger seemed destined for stardom.. but he hasn't really improved since then. Part of the Wildcats struggles have to fall on his shoulders, as he failed to create shots for himself, tended to fade in the 2nd half, and rarely came up in the clutch. His long-range shots have good form, but the percentages have always been a bit disappointing. I've long jumped off the Budinger bandwagon, and now feel he's just an NBA backup.

6) Donte Greene  - Syracuse - A lot of the other "experts" seem to love Greene.. but I'm not a believer. To me, Greene was one of the most painful college basketball players to watch in the last decade, as his shot selection went from bad to horrendous in just 4 months. It boggles my mind that a 6'11", 225 lb kid only managed to shoot 41.8% from the floor. Once a month, he'd get hot and hit a handful of threes, but ultimately he hurt the Cuse's chances of winning. Oddly enough, despite the infatuation with threes, its not even like the form on his shot is particularly great. Its misleading to label him a freshman, because he's older than most sophomores and only a couple months younger than some juniors. Despite these flaws, Greene still has a great body.. and you figure he'll improve with experience.

7) Bill Walker - Kansas State - Back in high school, when he was teamed with OJ Mayo and flashing the athleticism of Vince Carter.. Walker seemed like a sure-fire one and done NBA player. But injuries have slowed his progress, and he might not even squeak into the First Round. Still, he's got the physique of a pro, an improving jump shot, and he's younger than people realize. Donte Greene is only 4 months older.

8) Davon Jefferson - USC - Jefferson had his moments last year, but he also tended to disappear from the action. For a guy with such freak physical tools, his actual skill set is completely mediocre. Its also troublesome that he tended to foul out (or come close) in just about every game in February and March. Like Greene above (and even moreso), its completely misleading to label him a freshman.. as he should have been a junior by now. College veteran Richard Hendrix is exactly the same age.

9) Omri Casspi - Macabbi Tel Aviv - Not sure what to make of this kid.. most clips I've seen are of him dunking, which isn't terribly noteworthy for a 6'8" guy. But he's been getting some good buzz in the international press, as well as among Draft analysts. So I'll take their word.

10) Malik Hairston - Oregon - Like Walker & Budinger above, Hairston was also once a big-time stud prospect.. now he's just trying to get drafted. Even though it seems like he's been around forever, Hairston is younger than Joe Alexander and only 12 months older than Donte Greene. Questions persist about his desire and work-ethic, though there have been sublte improvements over the year. His 3pt % has improved every year, as has his shot selection and tendency to turn the ball over. Once highly overrated, Hairston might now be a little underrated.

Summary: There's really no lock superstar in this group, as the top talents like Gallinari, Randolph, and Batum are all big risk/reward guys. Those three have All-Star potential.. but each will go through serious growing pains. Even Alexander could put up big time NBA numbers as well. But despite being probably First Round picks, the likes of Budinger, Greene, and Jefferson should never be more than pro reserves.

Last Year's Siegel's Take - SF Ranking
1) Kevin Durant
2) Julian Wright
3) Al Thornton
4) Thaddeus Young
5) Jeff Green
6) Alando Tucker
7) Marcus Williams
8) Derrick Byars
9) Jared Dudley
10) Wilson Chandler