2014 NBA draft: Small forward rankings
With the 2014 NBA draft rapidly approaching, SI.com is providing positional rankings for the top prospects in this year’s class. We've already looked at the best point guards and shooting guards. Today, we break down the top 10 small forwards.
1. Jabari Parker (6-foot-8, 241 pounds)
Duke, freshman | Age: 19
2013-14: 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks, 47.3 FG%
Strengths: Parker is the most NBA-ready player in the draft and the most polished scorer, able to make shots from anywhere on the floor. His skillset is incredibly advanced for his age, with ball-handling skills, a well-developed midrange arsenal and a strong understanding of the game. He’s a willing rebounder with a wide lower half that lets him hold his own down low. Though he took a lot of difficult shots at Duke, it was often a byproduct of a stagnant offense. Parker is an unselfish player who enjoys making his teammates better, even if it didn’t translate into assists -- remember that he played out of position a lot of the time last season. He’s a leader with unquestionable character, and has dealt admirably with the heavy spotlight that’s been on his shoulders since high school. A basketball junkie who eats, sleeps and breathes for the game, Parker has the ability to be a perennial all-star and elite scorer. He’s as safe a bet as there is in this draft to have a long NBA career.
Weaknesses: There are questions about what position Parker will be able to guard in the NBA, as he’s a good-not-great athlete and was a liability at times for Duke. He’ll have to commit to improving on the defensive end and build his body in order to stay with guys, whether it’s on the perimeter or in the post. Parker will score enough to stay on the floor, but to really shine at the next level, you’d like to see him make that effort to guard. But defensive development is coachable, and though he might have some athletic limitations sticking the quickest of small forwards, based on Parker’s work ethic it’s easy to see him step up in that area -- he’ll never make an all-defensive team, but he won’t have to to be a star. -- Jeremy Woo
2. Doug McDermott (6-8, 218)
Creighton, senior | Age: 22
2013-14 stats: 26.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.2 steals, 52.6 FG% 44.9 3FG%
Strengths: McDermott was one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history. He dominated in each of his four seasons at Creighton by utilizing a polished mid-range game, post ups and – his best skill – shooting. In McDermott’s senior season, observers took to calling him "McBuckets," a nod to his penchant for, well, getting buckets. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about McDermott’s college career was his ability to balance efficiency with a high usage rate. McDermott probably won’t be asked to carry any team’s offense in the NBA, but his skillset makes him well suited for a secondary scoring role.
Weaknesses: There are questions about McDermott’s ability to defend at the next level. It’s unclear whether he is agile enough to stay in front of ball handlers or strong enough to handle post players. Also, McDermott’s height (6-foot-6 1/4 inches without shoes) and wing span measurements (just over 6-9) won’t do him any favors on draft day. His lack of elite athleticism, coupled with a smaller frame than some expected, could give teams pause. And while he had no trouble scoring against college opponents, there could be an adjustment period against longer, quicker NBA defenders. -- Chris Johnson
3. Rodney Hood (6-8, 208)
Duke, sophomore | Age: 21
2013-14: 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 46.4 FG%, 42 3FG%
Strengths: A big, smooth wing who can score from all over the court, Hood is one of the better scorers in this class. The lanky lefty hit threes at a prolific clip last season and his shooting should translate at the NBA level. He played somewhat in the shadow of Parker at Duke but took advantage of his opportunities, playing under control, limiting turnovers and making smart plays. Hood’s an intriguing piece that should provide some immediate help by spreading the floor with room to grow down the road.
Weaknesses: What Hood boasts in scoring ability, he lacks in an all-around game. His ball-handling leaves something to be desired, which hampers some of what he can do offensively. He likes to hang around on the perimeter, isn’t an outstanding rebounder and didn’t make much of a concerted effort on the glass as one of the tallest regulars on a Duke team that badly needed interior help. He’s not a max-effort defender and some added muscle would help him guard NBA wings as well as improve his own scoring around the rim. Hood has to prove he can at least cut it defensively if he wants to become a regular and maximize his ability at the next level. -- JW
4. K.J. McDaniels (6-6, 196)
Clemson, junior | Age: 21
2013-14 stats: 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.8 blocks, 1.1 steals, 45.9 FG%
Strengths: McDaniels has been regarded as one of the biggest “sleeper” prospects in this draft class. A reel of highlight dunks at Clemson speaks to his athleticism, and his explosiveness and quickness enhances other facets of his skillset. On the other end of the floor, McDaniels is a lockdown defender who can match up with a variety of opponents. He does a good job keeping ball handlers in front of him and thwarting drives into the paint. McDaniels is also a terrific shot blocker for his size and position; he swatted 8.9 percent of opponents’ shot attempts while he was on the floor last season. The boards are another area where McDaniels shines, as he brings good box out skills and a propensity for hunting quality put back attempts.
Weaknesses: McDaniels’ offensive game needs refinement. While his athleticism and quickness often enable him to get off shots, McDaniels is not always sound mechanically with his jump shot. His three-point percentage dipped in his final season to 30.4. McDaniels could serve to improve his ball handling as well, as he is not able to consistently beat defenders off the dribble and lacks diversity in his drives to the rim. -- CJ
5. Cleanthony Early (6-7, 209)
Wichita State, senior | Age: 23
2013-14 stats: 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 48.6 FG%, 37.5 3FG%
Strengths: For a 39-minute sample of Early’s best basketball, re-watch Wichita State’s loss to Kentucky in the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Early scored 31 points on 12-of-27 shooting against a team stocked with NBA prospects. Early is an excellent athlete with the explosiveness and quickness to blow past defenders, and was one of the top scorers in college basketball last season. He is strong attacking the basket and can finish in traffic. While his jump shot is a work in progress, Early did show improvement on his long-range shooting last season, increasing his three-point percentage to 37.6 from 31.8. Early also shined creating offense in transition, scoring an average of 1.3 points per possession.
Weaknesses: While Early’s athleticism, size, toughness and recent improvement suggest he can develop into an effective player at the next level, his lack of seasoning in several areas could pose issues early in his professional career. Early’s lackluster ballhandling skills have limited his ability to create his own shot off the dribble; Wichita State employed him in isolations only 42 times last season. Early hasn’t shown he can create good looks for his teammates, either, as only 6.1 percent of his team’s possessions while Early was on the floor last season ended in an assist. Whether Early can provide more consistency on defense is another question worth considering. -- CJ
6. Jerami Grant (6-8, 214)
Syracuse, sophomore | Age: 20
2013-14: 12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 49.6 FG%
Strengths: Grant comes from NBA bloodlines: his father Harvey and uncle Horace both had long careers in the league. He’s a big-time eye-test guy, with an enormous 7-2 wingspan, impressive mobility and a quick burst off the floor. As you’d expect given those tools, Grant is at his best attacking the basket and in transition and one of the most physically intriguing prospects in the draft. He also has big-time defensive potential and could conceivably guard multiple positions, though he was hidden in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone for his entire college career. Scouts like his motor, which helps make up for some of his shortcomings in terms of skills. The overall package with Grant makes him an extremely projectable asset.
Weaknesses: There’s not much semblance of an offensive skillset here. Grant can’t shoot from the outside (he missed all five threes he shot last year) and doesn’t have a back to the basket game either—so what’s his position? He’s got a slender frame and will also need to get stronger to bang with NBA athletes. Grant’s immense upside is downgraded by how far behind his offensive game sits and he’ll be a long-term investment. There’s inherent risk in taking him on as a project, but enough reward to make him a legitimate first-rounder. -- JW
7. T.J. Warren (6-8, 220)
North Carolina State, sophomore | Age: 20
2013-14 stats: 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 52.5 FG%
Strengths: Warren shed more than 15 pounds last summer, in preparation for a breakout season as a sophomore. He is a crafty scorer with a soft touch around the basket who devastates opposing defenses with a dizzying arsenal of floaters, runners and other short and mid-range attempts. Few at the college level last season could match Warren’s blend of size and scoring know-how, and the former top-20 recruit delivered by scoring at an efficient clip while using a robust 33.9 percent of the Wolfpack’s possessions and leading his team to an unlikely NCAA Tournament berth. Warren is one of those pure scorers who seems to just find ways to put the ball in the basket.
Weaknesses: For all his scoring talent inside the paint, Warren struggles shooting from the outside. At NC State last season, Warren connected on only 26.7 percent of the 116 long-range attempts he hoisted. There are concerns about his ability to effectively guard NBA power forwards and, if pushed out to the perimeter, his lack of elite athleticism could leave him at the mercy of quicker ball handlers. Warren can also be reluctant to pass up the ball at times, launching contested or off-balance attempts instead of dishing to players in better scoring positions. Though he has a great overall feel for the game, his distribution skills are suspect. -- CJ
8. Kyle Anderson (6-8, 230)
UCLA, sophomore | Age: 20
2013-14 stats: 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 48 FG%
Strengths: It’s hard to predict how Anderson will fare in the NBA because it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a prospect with a similar skill set. Anderson has an excellent feel for the game that really shines through in his passing. At UCLA last season, Anderson posted a 34.3 assist rate, one of the top 25 marks in the country. His nickname – Slo-Mo – is well earned, as Anderson often looks like he’s operating at a leisurely pace. But don’t be fooled: Anderson is able to deftly beat defenders with hesitations and clever dribbles. Anderson also uses his good instincts and positioning to contribute on the defensive glass, where last season he pulled down 25.5 percent of opponents’ misses, a top-30 rate nationally.
Weaknesses: One of Anderson’s biggest assets in college – his size, relative to other players at his position – won’t be as helpful in the NBA, where quicker, stronger defenders could neutralize him. A lack of top-end athleticism will hurt Anderson on both ends of the floor. The range of crafty moves he used to break down college defenders may not work as well and he could wind up being a liability on the defensive end. With Anderson seemingly too slow to match up with opposing point guards and too weak to bang with opposing big men, how will he be deployed defensively? -- CJ
9. Glenn Robinson III (6-7, 211)
Michigan, sophomore | Age: 20
2013-14 stats: 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 48.8 FG%
Strengths: After a promising freshman season at Michigan in which he averaged 11 points and shot 57 percent from the field, Robinson didn’t make the sophomore “leap” some were expecting. Still, Robinson occasionally flashed the type of athleticism and scoring ability that project well in the NBA. Robinson’s learning curve will be eased by his physical gifts. He is one of the best athletes in this class, as evidenced by the 41.5-inch vertical he recorded at the pre draft combine. His combination of size and athleticism provide the framework for defensive success, provided he is consistently putting forth a strong effort.
Weaknesses: The biggest reasons many scouts are optimistic Robinson can become a valuable piece at the next level is his combination of size and athleticism. Yet during his two college seasons, he didn’t come close to maximizing those tools. Creating off the dribble can be a struggle for Robinson and he needs to tighten up his ball handling. Robinson is also a poor rebounder for his size and his perimeter skills are still developing. Teams thinking about taking him may need to wait a couple of seasons before he makes a big impact. -- CJ
10. Damien Inglis (6-9, 240)
Chorale Roanne Basket (France) | Country: France | Age: 19
2013-14 (French League): 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1 assist
Strengths: Inglis started for the International team at the Nike Hoop Summit and has top-flight defensive potential. He passes the eye test with an NBA-ready body and 7-3 wingspan, and he just turned 19 in May. Inglis can guard multiple positions and has a chance to become a shutdown defender -- he averaged only 15.3 minutes in the French league but has also shown offensive ability in flashes. Inglis is an intelligent player with a developing offensive skill set, flourishing in transition and able to make plays for teammates. He’s a compelling second-round prospect.
Weaknesses: He's not a good shooter and will need to land in the right situation with a patient team, but Inglis warrants a selection based on his defensive ability alone. He can get turnover-prone, but that’s also a product of his youth. Having barely played any high-level basketball, he won't be ready to contribute for a few years but could make for a nice option later in the draft with an eye toward the future. -- JW
Just missed the cut ...
C.J. Fair (6-8, 212)
Syracuse, senior | Age: 22
2013-14: 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 42.9 FG%
Strengths: A good athlete with length, Fair was leaned on by Syracuse as a senior and showed improvement. He’s a lefty who shoots it a little better than his 27.6 percent three-point rate would indicate. Active on the glass, Fair manned both forward spots and scored effectively on the inside as a slasher.
Weaknesses: He’s a tweener at the next level, since he’s not as good off the dribble as you’d like a three-man to be and still an inconsistent shooter from deep. His scoring may not translate as much to the NBA level, with quicker defenders and bigger rim protectors impeding his way to the basket. As with all the Syracuse guys, there’s doubt about Fair’s man-to-man defense after playing in the zone for four years. He’s talented enough to catch on somewhere, but there are a lot of concerns. -- JW
DeAndre Daniels (6-8, 196)
UConn, junior | Age: 22
2013-14: 13.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 46.9 FG%, 41.7 3FG%
Strengths: Daniels played a big role in UConn’s title run, which did a ton for his draft stock, emerging from the fringes into an NBA prospect. He’s a lanky athlete and good shooter who can be exciting to watch when he’s on and playing above the rim on both ends. He’s got talent, and some promise if he lands in the right situation.
Weaknesses: The way Daniels came on in the tournament was a bit of a surprise, as his play had been up and down all season. His effort wavers on a game-to-game basis and he can be frustratingly passive on the court. Daniels needs to add strength to compete in the league and even then it’s not clear if he has a true position, as he’s not great off the dribble as a wing and not built to play as a stretch-four yet. It’s hard to know which player you’re getting if you draft him—the high-flying offensive weapon or the tweener forward that drifts in and out of games. -- JW
Melvin Ejim (6-7, 219)
Iowa State, senior | Age: 23
2013-14: 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 50.5 FG%
Strengths: As many predicted, the Big 12 Player of the Year award went to a Canadian -- just not the one playing for Kansas. A strong, tough wing, Toronto native Ejim likes to battle down low, finishing through contact and working hard on the glass. He’s a decent shooter but prefers to attack the basket, able to finish lobs and play above the rim with a 6-10 wingspan. He turned in a remarkable 48 points (a Big 12 record) and 18 rebounds against TCU last season, a game where he shot 20-of-24 from the field. Ejim has a high motor and nose for the ball that could help him become a useful role player.
Weaknesses: Ejim lacks a traditional position -- he’s not good enough as a ball-handler or from distance to man the three and not quite big enough and without the post game to play a four. Because of his lack of height for his spot, it’s unclear how well his rebounding will translate to the NBA level. -- JW