We conclude our look at the Early Entries with arguably the deepest group in this draft – the Small Forwards.
Al- Farouq Aminu - Wake Forest – (6’9, 215) – Sophomore – Aminu, a potential lottery pick last year, showed this year why he has the makings of a NBA player. He has a long, lean body, good athleticism and good leaping ability. On offense, he has the ability to play in the post and on the perimeter, though his perimeter shot needs to become more consistent. He has a quick first step in both the post and on his penetration and he goes to the basket strong, picking up a good amount of fouls. He should be more physical on both ends of the court, especially in establishing position. He does a good job, blocking and altering shots, and is a strong rebounder. His lateral movement needs improvement, as he is often beat when guarding on the perimeter. Once he toughens up, he can be a potential All-Star. Top 10 pick.
Devin Ebanks - West Virginia – (6’9, 215) – Sophomore – Ebanks is a top-notch athlete who has the developing skills that make him an appealing NBA prospect. On offense, he has the size and speed that teams covet at the small forward position, but he still has some development to do. He does a large part of his scoring off of offensive rebounds or broken plays. A more consistent jump shot would go a long way to making him more of a threat, as well as getting physically stronger. Defensively, Ebanks has the potential to be a disruptive force, using his long arms and jumping ability to force offensive players into bad shots. He does need to make a more a consistent effort to round out his defensive game. While another year of college would be ideal, he should get some playing time right away for the right team. Late Lottery – Mid-First Round, 12-20.
Paul George - Fresno State – (6’8, 210) – Sophomore - George is a good athlete, finds ways to get to the rim and has improved his consistency from the perimeter (though he still needs to improve his shot selection and getting a clean look at the basket.) He is a good free throw shooter, but needs to get to the line more often. Defensively, he often seems a step slow guarding a man one on one. He does a solid job rebounding, though he relies more on athleticism than boxing out to grab the boards. With a consistent season next year, he could have been a first round pick, but in a deep draft, he is going to be a good bargain in the second round. Early to Mid-Second Round, 30-40.
Gordon Hayward - Butler – (6’9, 207) – Sophomore – Hayward, fresh off a NCAA Championship Game appearance, is taking advantage of the increased notoriety to test the NBA draft waters. He is a smooth athlete, much tougher than he looks, and seems to play his best at the end of games. He has great size, good range on his jumper, and does a good job taking what the defense gives him. He has good court vision and is a good passer. His perimeter shot needs to become more consistent, though he does a good job hitting open shots. Defensively, he needs to improve his lateral movement, and as his body develops, he should be more effective guarding players in the post if needed. While Hayward will improve, I don’t think his stock will improve with another year in school – good decision to come out. Mid-First round, 16-23.
Wesley Johnson - Syracuse - (6’7, 205) – Junior – Johnson is one of the top athletes in the draft and by the end of the season had become a go-to scorer. His jump shot has become more consistent and he has the ability to rise over everyone else on the way to the basket. He is an excellent rebounder on both ends of the court, having a knack for squeezing in among the bigger bodies. He needs to become more assertive on the offensive end, often passing up good shots to find his teammates. Defensively, he is a good shot blocker and a decent help defender. It is tough to see how good a defender he is, being an anchor in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, though I suspect he is a good enough athlete to be an above average defender. Another year of school was not going to make him a more attractive prospect, so a no-brainer leaving school. Top 5 pick.
Chris Wright - Dayton – (6’8, 226) – Junior – Wright has improved his steady play over his first two years at Dayton. While he had been a more effective post player, he has expanded his offensive game to become a threat from both the perimeter and inside. While he is still working on becoming a more consistent outside shooter, he has done a good job of not forcing shots, though often erring towards not shooting enough. He also needs to learn how to create his own shot more consistently, instead of relying off of screens to get open. Defensively, Wright does a good job using his body to defend post players and he is an above average perimeter defender. He does need to work on his rebound positioning and becoming a more physical rebounder. Wright has a lot of skills that NBA teams are looking for and he has work ethic to help him improve his weaknesses. I seem to be much higher on his potential right now and I think he could be an effective role player next season in the NBA. I think he could be a good value in the Mid-Second round, though he can just as easily be undrafted. Mid-Second Round – Undrafted, 48-60.
Charles Garcia - Seattle – (6’10, 220) - Junior – Naturally talented, but a high-risk personality, I will reserve judgement on his game and prospects until I can see more film on him. In the one game I did see him, I can tell that he seemed to be playing on instinct, and I would be interested in seeing how he fits into a complex system.
Tomorrow will be the last post in the Early Entry series, looking any major players who I missed or who have declared since this started, and on Wednesday we will start looking at the rankings by position and by class.