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NBA Draft Preview Part III: Small Forwards

Taking a look at the top small forward prospects available in the upcoming draft

The NBA Draft is right around the corner so the time has come to take an in-depth look at the players hoping to hear their names called out by Commissioner David Stern on the night of June 28. To help with the process, Rockets.com is once again enlisting the help of NBA draft expert Jim Clibanoff.

The formula is simple: our man Clibs will team up with our own Jason Friedman to break down the draft position by position, offering his thoughts on the top prospects, while sprinkling in a few feelings on some lesser known players who might be worth a closer look in the draft’s later stages.

Today’s feature focuses on the small forward position. Click here to check out Part 1 of the series in which we examined the players available at the center position, and click here for Part 2 and a look at the top power forwards. One final note: players' height (with shoes) and weight are taken, when possible, from the NBA’s combine measurements.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Fr., Kentucky

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 7.5'', Weight: 232.8, Wingspan: 7' 0'', Standing Reach: 8' 8.5''

Basic stats: 11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, .491 FG%, .745 FT%, .255 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Transition: 1.163 points per possession (67th percentile), Spot-ups: .692 ppp (23rd percentile), Cuts: 1.188 ppp (61st percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .928 ppp (48th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .446 ppp (91st percentile), Isolation: .61 ppp (71st percentile), Off screens: .787 ppp (63rd)

Clib’s take: I think he’ll be a star complementary player. He’s not going to be a guy who comes right in and gets you 20 points a game. I think he’s someone, because of his defense and motor, who will get into games and command major rookie minutes. Then you’re going to see incremental growth since he’s one of those guys who’s going to increase his productivity across the board each of his first several years in the league.

He’s the kind of guy who will progressively figure out how to apply his gifts on an all-around basis. Because he has such a good motor, whatever deficiencies that he has, history shows that players with that kind of work ethic will work to resolve those issues over time. So you’re looking at a snapshot of a 19-year-old who plays his butt off. He’s not a really good shooter right now and doesn’t have great form on his shot, but when he’s 23-years-old he’s going to be a much different player than what he is now. And even if his offense never quite comes around or translates, his defense and motor will make him a necessity to have on the floor.

You watch how Shane Battier, even in the later stages of his career, is so valuable to that Heat team, and within a year I think Kidd-Gilchrist can be that kind of valuable, versatile defender at the very least.

Harrison Barnes, Soph., North Carolina

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 8'', Weight: 227.8, Wingspan: 6' 11.25'', Standing Reach: 8' 6''

Basic stats: 17.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.1 spg, .440 FG%, .723 FT%, .358 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Transition: 1.202 ppp (73rd percentile), Isolation: .821 ppp (64th percentile), Spot-ups: .838 ppp (42nd percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .828 ppp (64th pecentile), Cuts: 1.077 ppp (41st percentile), Off screens: .98 ppp (60th percentile), Post-ups: .872 ppp (65th percentile) 

Defense: Spot-ups: .842 ppp (64th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .585 ppp (77th percentile), Isolations: .778 ppp (42nd percentile)

Jason’s take: Clibs compared Barnes to former Spurs great Sean Elliott and though that might not be the player some hoped Barnes would become when he was a senior in high school, let's be honest, plenty of teams would love to add the next Sean Elliott to their roster. Something else to consider: Barnes plays a position that has a dearth of top talent at the NBA level right now, so plugging in a prospect with such potential figures to give that team an edge most nights at that position -- assuming, of course, that Barnes does indeed take full advantage of his promise. 

Regarding the latter point, there seems little reason for concern or doubts about the North Carolina product making the most of his talent. In fact, Barnes ranks as one of the safer selections in this draft. He is polished both on and off the court, having drawn raves during the interview process thanks to his exceptionally professional demeanor. Barnes also blew everyone away during the athletic testing at the combine, posting numbers during the drills that showed him to be an even better athlete than many had considered him to be. 

Of course, it's one thing to dominate wind sprints and vertical leaps; quite another to apply that sort of freakish athleticism on the basketball court. When watching footage of Barnes during his Carolina career, he looks like a good athlete not a great one -- you don't see him blow by defenders or explode to the rim too terribly often, for example --  so it will be interesting to see if the same holds true once he reaches the NBA. Perhaps it's just a matter of growing more comfortable, and then once that happens Barnes' considerable physical gifts will increasingly reveal themselves.

Either way, the 20-year-old is still an excellent prospect, projecting to be a strong, smart shooter and plus defender at the very least. And if Barnes can also improve his ball handling and playmaking skills, an All-Star berth or two may just be in his future as well.

Moe Harkless, Fr., St. John’s

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 8.75'', Weight: 206.6, Wingspan: 7' 0'', Standing Reach: 8' 7.5''

Basic stats: 15.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.4 bpg, 1.6 spg, .445 FG%, .678 FT%, .202 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Spot-ups: .577 points per possession (12th percentile), Isolations: .784 ppp (58th percentile), Cuts: 1.0 ppp (28th percentile), Transition: 1.034 ppp (47th percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .923 ppp (49th percentile), Post-ups: .882 ppp (36th percentile)

Jason’s take: Moe Harkless looks the part of an NBA small forward, of that there is no doubt. He is a long, explosive athlete who can rebound, run like a gazelle and, should he commit himself to the task, possesses the potential to be an extremely disruptive and versatile defender. Offensively, he showed he can score during his one and only season at St. John's, but was not particularly efficient in doing so. His shooting stroke needs work and plenty of polish must be added to his game on both sides of the ball before he's anywhere close to a finished product (though what 19-year-old would you not say that about?), but all the raw materials one could ever wish for are here to take advantage of for a team with a strong developmental plan in place and the ability and patience with which to execute it. 

Royce White, So., Iowa State

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 8'', Weight: 260.6, Wingspan: 7' 0'', Standing Reach: 8' 8.5''

Basic stats: 13.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.2 spg, .534 FG%, .498 FT%, .333 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Isolation: .699 ppp (43rd percentile), Post-ups: .829 ppp (56th percentile), Cuts: 1.207 points per possession (64th percentile), Transition: 1.059 ppp (51st percentile)

Defense: Post-ups: .75 ppp (60th percentile),  Spot-ups: .857 ppp (61st percentile), Isolations: .586 ppp (75th percentile)

Clib’s take: I actually have him as a power forward. He’s probably the most unique player in this draft. His ability to fill up the stat sheet and essentially play as a point guard or a point power forward –- you just don’t really see that profile anywhere.

His basketball IQ is just so high. If a coach can look outside the traditional box, you can really find quite an asset with White. I think a guy like Don Nelson when he was in the height of his very progressive, forward thinking use of players would really have had a field day with a guy like Royce White.

He’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea –- he’s a little bit undersized for the four spot –- but where he might have a disadvantage because of his lack of size, he’s going to be a major mismatch for other players, too. You can put him out on the perimeter against a big where he can pass and put the ball on the floor. If you put a three man on him he’s going to abuse him; he can work down low where he can take advantage of his strength and huge hands.

I’ve even heard someone suggest to me where you could use him like a Chuck Hayes, a really undersized post player who can hold his own because he’s such a big, strong dude and because he has such a unique skill set.

Quincy Miller, Fr., Baylor

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 10'', Weight: 218.7, Wingspan: 7' 1.25'', Standing Reach: 9' 1''

Basic stats: 11.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, .447 FG%, .816 FT%, .348 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Isolations: .783 ppp (57th percentile), Cuts: 1.242 ppp (69th percentile), Post-ups: .967 ppp (80th percentile), Spot-ups: .925 ppp (55th percentile), Transition: 1.044 ppp (48th percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .694 ppp (84th percentile)

Clib’s take: There’s going to be concern about his knee injury from the past and how he can recover from that. It’s too soon to know if he’ll ever be as athletic and explosive as he was (before he tore his ACL during his senior year of high school). But compensating for that he’s got, especially for a 19-year-old, some pretty good savvy and an all-around game that’s going to fit in.

As one of these long, multi-position guys, I think there will be a spot for him. I think some time in the D-League would really help him refine and define his game for the next level. So the team that selects him will need a plan in place, a vigilant plan, which will make sure he experiences this incremental growth he's capable of.

He’s got good ball handling skills; he can pass; he can shoot over the defense. He's got a high basketball IQ. He needs to get stronger obviously, but with his length, versatility and savvy he's got the chance to be a player we look back on a few years down the line as one of the real steals of this draft.

Draymond Green, Sr., Michigan State

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 7.5'', Weight: 235.6, Wingspan: 7' 1.25'', Standing Reach: 8' 10''

Basic stats: 16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg, .449 FG%, .723 FT%, .388 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Post-ups: .967 points per possession (80th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.063 ppp (75th percentile), Cuts: 1.02 points per possession (34th percentile), Transition: 1.047 ppp (49th percentile), Isolation: .932 ppp (80th percentile)

Defense: Post-ups: .754 ppp (59th percentile), Spot-ups: .895 ppp (59th percentile), Isolations: .553 ppp (79th percentile)

Clib’s take: If Royce White is one of the most unique players in this draft then Draymond Green is probably the second most unique. He does a little bit of everything; he’s a really good passer with a really good basketball IQ. On the defensive end he could struggle early on, but again, if you’re thinking outside of the box, then you could get a Luke Walton-esque, really versatile type player in Draymond Green who is able to do a lot of little things to help his team win.

Jeff Taylor, Sr. Vanderbilt

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 7.25'', Weight: 212.8, Wingspan: 6' 6.25'', Standing Reach: 8' 3.5''

Basic stats: 16.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, .493 FG%, .605 FT%, .423 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Spot-ups: .938 ppp (56th percentile), Transition: 1.407 ppp (91st percentile), Pick-and-roll roll ball handler: .709 ppp (42nd percentile), Isolation: .948 ppp (83rd percentile), Off screen: 1.217 ppp (86th percentile), Cuts: 1.056 points per possession (37th percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .633 ppp (88th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .66 ppp (65th percentile), Isolations: .561ppp (78th percentile)

Clib's take: I actually have him ranked higher than most people seem to have him ranked. When I watch NBA role players like Thabo Sefolosha, Bruce Bowen and Shane Battier, these defensive-minded guys who find a niche because they can defend multiple positions, I just think there’s a real value in finding those guys. And when I speak of value, I also mean from a monetary perspective because those guys don’t typically command huge salaries, yet they’re so integral to the success of teams.

Really good teams with really good players find a way to manufacture minutes for a guy who doesn’t need shots.Taylor can score –- he scored more than 1900 career point sin college -– though he’s not a pure scorer, but he has this European background and an understanding of how to fit in and I think it’s really going to work for him as an NBA player. 

Khris Middleton, Jr., Texas A&M

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 8.25'', Weight: 216.2, Wingspan: 6' 10.75'', Standing Reach: 8' 9''

Basic stats: 13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg, .415 FG%, .750 FT%, .260 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Spot-ups: .853 ppp (44th percentile), Isolation: 1.043 ppp (91st percentile), Transition: 1.027 ppp (46th percentile), Off screen: .75 ppp (29th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .469 ppp (12th percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .896 ppp (55th percentile), Isolations: .556 ppp (79th percentile)

Clib’s take: He showed a good fundamental base as a sophomore. He’s battled injuries which stunted his progress somewhat. He can bring the ball up, sees the floor really well, but he’s been under the radar and never took over like some expected him to. I think he’s a guy you grab in the second round and experiment with him. He can play multiple positions, can shoot, can rebound. I just want to see more from him. 

Darius Miller, Sr., Kentucky

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 7.5'', Weight: 233.4, Wingspan: 6' 9'', Standing Reach: 8' 6.5''

Basic stats: 9.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, .474 FG%, .797 FT%, .376 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Spot-ups: 1.074 ppp (76th percentile), Transition: .982 ppp (38th percentile), Isolation: 1.286 ppp (98th percentile), Hand-off: 1.286 ppp (92nd percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .714 ppp (82nd percentile), Isolations: .559 ppp (78th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .735 ppp (51st percentile), Off screen: .78 ppp (64th percentile)

Clib’s take: There are certain guys whose luster increases because of the performance of their team; some justifiably so and then for some it’s a case of their stock being more artificially manufactured. It’s tough to say which category Miller falls into. However, there’s no question that understanding how to be a role player at the college level can actually benefit you because it teaches you how to compromise your game to fit in alongside those other guys, and as a four-year, well-seasoned player, those possibilities definitely exist with a player like Darius Miller. 

Jae Crowder, Sr., Marquette

Combine measurements: Height: 6' 6.5'', Weight: 241.2, Wingspan: 6' 9.25'', Standing Reach: 8' 3''

Basic stats: 17.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.0 bpg, .498 FG%, .735 FT%, .345 3-PT%

Synergy stats of note: Offense: Spot-ups: 1.237 ppp (90th percentile), Cuts: 1.374 ppp (86th percentile), Transition: 1.551 ppp (97th percentile), Post-ups: .958 points per possession (79th percentile), Isolation: .645 ppp (34th percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .895 ppp (55th percentile), Post-ups: .611 ppp (82nd percentile), Isolation: .444 (91st percentile)

Clib’s take: I dismissed Jae Crowder as an NBA prospect when he was a junior. I just thought he was too unconventional. But he just plays his butt off, he has a big-time motor, and he fills up a stat sheet. I don’t even know what his position is. He might be a small forward but he’s gone on record as saying he wants to lose weight and play some two guard whereas at Marquette he played a lot of four. He’s just a basketball player and you hurt yourself if you try to pencil him into one specific position. He’s a warrior. He’ll do whatever it takes to defend and though he’ll have his limitations, he’s going to be a difficult one to keep off the team because he’s going to play so hard.