Do you need a plug-and-play small forward or do you want a 3/4 hybrid? Do you like certainty or are you infatuated with upside? The top five in this year's draft has a pair of very different forwards available. Toss Up breaks down which one you would want: Anthony Bennett or Otto Porter.
Overall skill set
Porter showed, especially after the Hoyas lost Greg Whittington this season, he could carry the offensive load for a fairly pedestrian major-conference roster. He features a solid shooting stroke, can handle the ball and vastly improved his shot selection as a sophomore. He can also defend his position. He was a very well-rounded player for the Hoyas, showing off a broad range of skills on both ends of the floor.
Bennett drips with offensive potential. For a player his size, he has terrific perimeter skills. He can handle the ball, create his own shot, and has legitimate range to at least the college three-point arc. He's good in transition as well. Bennett, at this point, is not a great offensive player in the post, but that can come with more physical development and work. As is, he will be a tough cover in space for many NBA 4s. His defense is not nearly as solid as Porter's.
Current NBA fit
As noted in his prospect breakdown, Porter may be the surest bet this in year's draft in terms of "avoiding a bust." He has a very solid baseline as a prototype NBA 3, with the ability to defend and shoot spot-up jumpers. He's not an explosive athlete, but if he proves he can score at a consistent level -- he'll need to improve his ability to create his own offense -- he's going to have a very good and lengthy career. The team that drafts him (cough, Washington, cough) can just plug him in. There should be no positional transition or tweener issues.
That can't be said about Bennett, who projects best as an undersized 4 but probably will end up swinging between that and the 3. While he should be able to cause issues when his team has the ball, he could (at this stage) end up having issues on the defensive end against stronger, more experienced pro power forwards. With a wide variety of types and the skill level currently being seen at the position, there will be some learning curve here.
Bennett is the prospect GMs dream about, with numerous evaluators comparing him to a young Larry Johnson (which is applicable to a point, but Johnson spent his junior and senior seasons at UNLV and was much more experienced and physically developed than Bennett). The question in terms of Bennett's upside potential is whether he is closer to the next LJ or the next Derrick Williams, who showed a more dominant but similar type of perimeter prowess at Arizona and hasn't really yet made his mark in the pros (although he improved some in his second season).
Porter? He doesn't have that seductiveness, unless you find solid all-around games sexy. Porter very well may end up as the better NBA player, but he doesn't scream "three-run homer" with this lottery swing of the bat. Maybe that's selling him short -- I love his potential, as he's only 19 and will continue to develop -- but that seems to be the perception.
NBA range of possibilities
Porter is going to be an NBA starter, most likely immediately. He's going to be able to defend and make jump shots, so his future downside is capped at "capable NBA contributor." His upside depends on whether he can effectively impact games at this level despite a lack of overt athleticism.
Bennett's future includes anything from regular All-Star appearances to a one-dimensional scorer off the bench. He's really talented, but positional fit remains a question. He'll need to use his hybrid stature as an offensive advantage and work to eliminate potential disadvantages on the defensive end.
Slight advantage: Porter