Monday, June 15, 2009

Small Forwards

I recognize the need to pick up the pace lest solid arguments arise regarding the rather arbitrary assignation of singular positions to these draft prospects. I don't know if Tyreke Evans will play the majority of his career at the point or at shooting guard. I don't remember why I originally put Danny Green and Josh Shipp with the small forwards rather than the shooting guards and I'm dissatisfied with Jeff Pendergraph being assigned to any positional group. If he succeeds in the NBA it'll be by playing like Jeff Pendergraph not by playing "small forward" or as an "undersized power forward" in the manner of anyone else.

College players only in this post, their 2008-09 stats below. Nine small forwards are under consideration (Chase Budinger, Austin Daye, DeMar DeRozan, Danny Green, Paul Harris, Jeff Pendergraph, DaJuan Summers, Terrence Williams, and Sam Young)

First, shooting and scoring:


Next, assists and turnovers:


Finally, defense and rebounding:


Now, player-by-player opinions. Links on their names go to their DraftExpress profile and the bounty of information (both scouting and statistical) contained therein. Projections (if applicable) are by Jon Nichols at

Chase Budinger (Projection)

It's tempting to give Budinger the benefit of the doubt for some of his apparent passivity at Arizona. It's probably been a pretty miserable place to play the last two years and was certainly not what he signed up for three years ago. Whatever sympathy circumstances beyond his control engenders they can't overcome the very real doubts surrounding who Budinger could conceivably defend in the NBA so ultimately he's just a guy who can shoot and an underrated passer who hasn't been able to translate his athletic gifts into competent defense or above average rebounding.

Austin Daye (Projection)

Austin Daye has the game of a finesse rather than an athletic power forward (Positives: good jump shot, good defensive rebounder, blocks a lot of shots from the help side; Negatives: struggles to finish in traffic, very low steal rate, very low offensive rebounding rate) but he seems years away from filling out into a power forward's body. The scrawny build combined with the (post-knee injury) Raef LaFrentz skill set does not augur immediate success. That doesn't mean Daye should go back to school. Another year at Gonzaga could quell the impression that his above average (but not extraordinary) athleticism and ball-handling are sufficient to overcome his improbable lack of strength.

DeMar DeRozan (Projection)

DeRozan will be drafted because of his potential so looking at the statistical record is admittedly rather beside the point but carry on I shall. Despite the middling record of production during his lone season at USC there are some reasons for optimism. His low scoring rate wasn't due to inefficiency as much as discretion. If shot creation* is a concern, shot selection (despite the 6-36 performance from behind the three-point line) should not be.

*Maybe it shouldn't be a concern. I have an untested hypothesis that true small forwards struggle to adjust to the college game because they're consistently matched up against the opposing team's strongest guard who can bridge some the athletic gap the true small forward would enjoy against similarly sized players while also using what, from one perspective, is a size disadvantage to bedevil a (relatively) high dribbler.

On the other hand, DeRozan's inability to be a factor on either the offensive or defensive glass and his miniscule blocked shot (19th of 20 small forwards in the spreadsheet) and steal (13th of 20) rates tempers one's enthusiasm regarding his athleticism. Long term, I'm more concerned about the rebounding as Tim Floyd's USC teams were famously inconsistent defensively in addition to providing (allegedly) poor value for money.

Danny Green

A team would sacrifice some potential scoring upside (both in terms of volume and versatility) by drafting Danny Green instead of Wayne Ellington but I'm not sure that Green isn't an equally valuable player (with a more specific and certain skill set) who would likely provide a far greater return on the investment of a second-round pick than Ellington will on a first-round pick.

Green will strictly be a catch-and-shoot guy offensively as he mostly was at North Carolina where, despite his limited offensive game, he posted an assist rate (5.4 A/100) high enough that I double-checked my work to rule out data entry error. It makes some sense that a guy without obvious high-level athleticism who breaks the 2.5 per 100 possessions barrier in both block and steals could similarly leverage skill and positioning into an advantage in another area of his game.

Paul Harris

On Harris I defer completely to the scouts. He looks like he should become an excellent defender but it's hard to make an informed judgment about that when you've only see him play for Jim Boeheim. Harris will have to earn his minutes defensively because it's hard to make it as an offensive wing with mediocre ball-handling skills and no jump shot. He's at least the player Mike Woodson thinks Mario West is.

Jeff Pendergraph

Pendergraph's range may not extend beyond this sentence and he can't create offense for himself or his teammates with the ball in his hands but his strengths are at least as extreme as his weaknesses and he should provide good value for a team that can afford to use an undersized power forward or a range-deficient small forward off the bench.

What's most impressive about Pendergraph is his understanding of his limitations and his refusal to conform to a traditional role in any way that would increase exposure of his weaknesses. He can't create his own shot off the dribble so he moves without the ball both before and after a shot attempt to get in position to be an offensive threat should he touch the ball. He overcomes his lack of range by never taking a shot outside his range and thus he shot 66% from the floor last season. Beyond taking good shots, he attacks the basket when doing so and gets to the free throw line* a lot. Strong but not especially tall, Pendergraph refrains from taking chances on the ball defensively and uses quickness and positioning to challenge shots and get into good defensive rebounding position.

*That he shot 77.9% from the line last season and over 76% for his career might be reason for optimism regarding expanding his range.

There's no false hustle in Pendergraph's game. He'll earn every bit of fan-favoriteness that comes his way and could challenge Shane Battier for doing the most tangible things per minute that announcers will assure you are intangibles.

DaJuan Summers

DaJuan Summers' appeal is obvious. He's a physical specimen who appears completely proportional (not unlike Joe Johnson). He's capable of scoring inside and out. His demonstrated preference for the latter may be of his own volition or of Georgetown's offense. He should be able to defend more than one position adequately.

DaJuan Summers' limitations are obvious. He's more impressive standing still (which he does too often) than when he is when moving. He's a black hole offensively. He can't create his own shot. He hasn't demonstrated the ability to guard the ball on the perimeter. He isn't a good enough rebounder not to be a defensive liability at the four once a shot goes up.

Summers could blossom off the bench for a coach that defines a role for him while helping him work on his weaknesses. For an impatient coach who fails to settle in his own mind how best to use Summers, DaJuan might consider Julian Wright's experience playing for Byron Scott something to envy.

Terrence Williams (Projection)

Terence Williams isn't an inherently limited offensive player but combining poor shot selection with infrequent trips to the free throw line is a good way to create that impression. If Williams can improve either of those facets of his game it will allow his offensive strengths (excellent passer, above-average ball-handler, above-average shooter when under control) to come to the fore and complement his great defensive potential. Like Daequan Cook and Brandon Rush in the last two draft classes, Williams augments his on-the-ball defense with an unusual and inexplicable proficiency on the defensive glass.

Sam Young

I fully expected Sam Young to be a steal at the end of the first or top of the second round of this draft. His rise up the draft board reminds me of a less extreme version of Shelden Williams' transformation from "good role player" to "lottery pick." I suspect that, like Williams, Young will appear much less of a physical specimen once he's alongside NBA players his own age (24), a suspicion that's encouraged by his pedestrian steal, block, and rebounding rates. Combine that with what could accurately be described as Joey Graham's offensive game* and Young might over-achieve himself into disappointing someone.

*An offensive game which is extremely useful for a first option in college but may not work as successfully for an NBA role player.

1) Terrence Williams
2) DeMar DeRozan
3) DaJuan Williams
4) Sam Young
5) Danny Green
6) Jeff Pendergraph
7) Austin Daye
8) Chase Budinger
9) Paul Harris
10) Robert Dozier
11) Josh Shipp
12) Wesley Matthews

1 comment:

jrauch said...

As much as I loved his free-form popping and locking in the UNC home introductions during his career, Danny Green is destined for the end of the bench or a nice career in Milan.