Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Small forwards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Annually, we dive into the players to watch in the NCAA Tournament from an NBA scouting perspective. We start with the batch of small forwards...

The present landscape of NBA small forwards is top heavy with talent. There are at least a half-dozen really good to GREAT wing players. We are talking about future Hall of Fame players in Kevin Durant, and LeBron James when we use the word "GREAT". Kawhi Leonard heads the list of "really good" small forwards, joined by the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, and Gordon Hayward, You could say Kyle Korver is in there too, although he often plays more at the TWO spot. Likewise, Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic is making big strides toward being a top-tier NBA wing.

However, after those mentioned above, the landscape becomes pretty average to below average looking. Think of an aging Paul Pierce, an inconsistent yet talented Gerald Green, an overpaid Chandler Parsons. Digging deeper we find players like Alonzo Gee, Jared Dudley, and Rasual Butler cracking the top-30 in the most recent, NBA stat audit, small forward rankings.

Armed with this knowledge it is easy to see why there are opportunities for many of the NCAA Tournament small forwards to be considered as NBA prospects.

Kelly Oubre - Kansas 6'7" 200 lbs. - freshman. ...Oubre has the length and athleticism required to be an NBA wing (his wingspan is 7'2"). He is already a disruptive defender and his 36% 3-pt shooting as a Kansas freshman should translate to being solid in the NBA. As a bonus, he hits the glass too, averaging five rebounds per game in just 21 minutes of playing time per contest.

James Webb - Boise St. 6'9" 202 lbs. - sophomore. ...Not too many scouts are talking about James Webb III. He is an outstanding defender (defensive rating is 88.7), and terrific rebounding wing player. Webb is a superior athlete that lettered in high school tennis, track & field (cross-country), soccer, and baseball.

Stanley Johnson - Arizona 6'7" 245 lbs. - freshman. ...Johnson has the best defensive rating of any small forward in the NCAA Tournament (85.4). Offensively, he overpowers other small forwards with his tremendous frame but he is also skilled enough to knock down 36% of his three-point attempts. Most importantly, Johnson is a winner. His high school teams won four consecutive CIF state basketball championships.

Seth Tuttle - Northern Iowa 6'8" 240 lbs. - Senior. ...The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year is an efficient forward that actually plays more at the FOUR in college. While his defensive rating is nothing to brag about, Tuttle has shown that his offensive game is too strong to leave off the floor. Tuttle is averaging 15 points (61% FG, 42% 3-pt.), 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.

Kevon Looney - UCLA 6'9" 220 lbs. - freshman. ...Looney is an NBA athlete that also has shown he has the finesse to make NBA money. He shoots 45% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers. NBA scouts love a player with a "high ceiling". Looney certainly fits that bill.

Jarrod Uthoff - Iowa 6'9" 210 lbs. - junior. ...Uthoff is largely ignored by scouts but he may be able to crack an NBA roster someday due to his strong skill set. The former Iowa high school "Mr. Basketball" can really shoot it.

Prince is a super sixth-man!
Taurean Prince - Baylor 6'7" 215 lbs. - junior. ...Prince comes off the Baylor bench but plays starters minutes (26 mins. per game). He leads Baylor in scoring at 14 points per game.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - Arizona 6'7" 215 lbs. sophomore. ...Hollis-Jefferson rates second among all Tourney small forwards in defensive rating. He is a freakish athlete that does not shoot the three-ball well but he does have more assists than turnovers.

Troy Williams - Indiana 6'7" 206 lbs. - sophomore. ...Williams has a ways to go with his shooting and decision making but his NBA athleticism and quickness are undeniable. He is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game.

Georges Niang - Iowa St. 6'8" 230 lbs. - junior. ...Niang can play either forward position. He shoots 39% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers.

Nigel Hayes - Wisconsin 6'7" 250 lbs. - sophomore. ...Hayes is a two-way player that has helped Wisconsin to the heights they have achieved this season.

Dwayne Benjamin - Oregon 6'7" 200 lbs. - junior. ...Benjamin comes off the Ducks' bench and provides instant energy and offense.

Sam Dekker - Wisconsin 6'7" 220 lbs. - junior. ...Dekker has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and shoots 39% from deep.

William Lee - Alabama-Birmingham 6'9" 210 sophomore. ...Lee is a sleeper to keep an eye on.

Power forwards to watch.

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