Friday, June 22, 2007

Lottery Small Forwards

Previously: Oden v. Durant, First-Round Point Guards, Second-Round Point Guards, First-Round Shooting Guards

In alphabetical order, the 2006-07 seasons of Corey Brewer, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Julian Wright:

Points, assists, turnovers, blocks, and steals listed per 100 individual possessions

J Wright68.355.361.31.1425.

Unlike the guards I've discussed earlier this week, each of these guys should be able to contribute immediately and the key question about their peaks is "all-star or not?" rather than "can he start on a good team?"

Kevin Durant is both the youngest and best player in the group and will almost certainly be taken with the second pick of the draft.

It would be perfectly reasonable for a team to take either Brewer or Green with a top five pick. Brewer should have the easier transition to the NBA as he played exclusively on the perimeter at Florida. Though I think Brewer was somewhat overrated as a defender in college that was do more to him relying (at times) on his superior athleticism instead of always utilizing his excellent defensive technique. He should respond well to the challenge of guarding NBA players on nightly basis.

I don't expect Green's transition to becoming a predominantly perimeter player to be any more difficult than, say, Luol Deng's but there will likely be an adjustment period. Green's three-point range should alleviate whatever amount of rebounding and shot blocking value he loses by playing further away from the basket.

Green is likely the better offensive player of the two, but if someone wanted to deflate his 06-07 offensive numbers because of the general excellence and efficiency of Georgetown's offense, I think that would be fair, but I suspect there are elements of his offensive game that will reveal themselves more fully in the NBA game.

I see both Julian Wright and Al Thornton as a cut below Green and Brewer but still above almost everybody else in the draft. Thornton is a little more one-dimensional than the other four players considered here but his production is skewed toward the most valuable contribution one can make to a basketball team: scoring.

Thornton showed tremendous improvement over his four years at Florida State:


He won't be the focus of an NBA offense to the degree he was at Florida State but I think he has the ability to contribute enough on the glass and defensively (not to mention that he was an efficient scorer at FSU) to be a very good supporting player.

Julian Wright is the hardest player of the five to project as he has yet to harness his talents. There are Kansas fans that attacked Wright for turning pro, and in doing so attempted to deny the selfishness of their motives by claiming he hadn't improved between his freshman and sophomore seasons. That claim is patently false:


Had Wright simply maintained his rate stats while playing that many more minutes in his sophomore season he would have been a better player. By reducing his turnovers and increasing his rebounding Wright was a key contributor to Kansas's improvement over the 05-06 season. It should not be dismissed that the last two Kansas teams have been outstanding defensively due, in no small part, to Wright's ability to both block shots and be active in the passing lanes.

Having seen nearly all of Wright's games at Kansas (and here's his game log should anyone be interested), it's my opinion that there are two things limiting Wright's production at this point. The first is a consistent jump shot. He improved that facet of his game during his time at Kansas but still has significant room for further improvement. Secondly, many of Wright's turnovers occur after he has put the defense in a disadvantageous position. There are a lot of things Wright can do on the basketball court but he does not yet grasp how and when to use his various skills. Should Wright either simplify his game or learn how to make use of all of his talents he will become a more effective passer and ball-handler.

Even with his existing weaknesses, Wright is a useful, if frustrating, player. He's young and the glimpses of greatness outnumbered the moments of indecision and confusion last season.

Small forward rankings:

1. Kevin Durant
2. Corey Brewer
3. Jeff Green
4. Julian Wright
5. Al Thornton

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