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2013 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings: Top Ten Small Forwards

Kevin O'Connor gives his rankings for the top ten small forwards in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Shabazz Muhammad is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft this year.
Shabazz Muhammad is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft this year.

The NBA Draft is so fun, isn't it? I would imagine that scouting the draft as a general manager or scout is in one of the most stressful and exhausting aspects of their job. But I am willing to bet that despite all the long, sleepless hours they spend examining these players, they would agree with folks like you and I that the draft is flat out fun; that's what truly motivates them to work so hard. It's also what makes fans spend so much time learning about these players with the hopes that our favorite team selects them on draft night each and every year.ta

When I rank and assess players, I try to focus on five broad categories. Click on the 'buttons' to reveal my reasoning for each one.

With all of that in mind, here are my top ten small forward prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft. (Disclaimer: I consider Tony Snell a shooting guard, and Livio Jean-Charles as a power forward. They will not be included on this list.)

1. Otto Porter | Georgetown

HT: 6'9" | WT: 198 | AGE: 20
Projection: Top 10
Analysis: Otto Porter could very well be one of the safest picks in this draft. While he doesn't have the upside of some other players, he is close to NBA ready due to his high basketball I.Q., unstoppable motor, and intangibles. To put it simply, Porter should have a long career in the NBA as a very good role player. With the ball in his hands, Otto lacks explosiveness and the ability to create his own shot; this prevents him from reaching the next level as a basketball player. On the other hand, he does have the intellect and passing ability to make him a potential point forward. Porter is a very good spot up shooter and does a good job of cutting to the basket.

The most impressive aspect of Otto's game is his defense. Porter has a long 7'1" wingspan that allows him to get hands on passes, block shots, and rebound. Not enough can be said about Porter's ability to rotate well, help from the weak side, and potential block or bother shots. Porter only had .9 blocks and 1.8 steals per game, but statistics don't really tell the whole story on his outstanding defensive work. Porter's hustle, heart, and intelligence all will easily translate to the NBA. Otto Porter compares himself to Tayshaun Prince and rightfully so; Prince has had a long career because he is a top defender and does some good things offensively. Porter compares very favorably to him and could have a potentially more productive career.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo | Greece

HT: 6'10" | WT: 205 | AGE: 18
Projection: Late Lottery to Mid First Round

Analysis: Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft because of his lack of experience yet very appealing fundamentals. Giannis is very young and raw, but with point guard skills and small forward size, he has the versatility to be a very effective point forward in the NBA. Giannis has huge potential as a playmaker in both transition and the half-court. He dribbles and passes the ball well with both hands, giving him more freedom to make plays at the rim. Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 61.2 percent on two-point field goals last season, with the majority of his baskets coming in the lane. Giannis Antetokounmpo needs to improve his consistency, but he shows good potential, shooting 31.3 percent from three last year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has great upside on the defensive end due to his long arms, measuring in with a 7'3" wingspan. Giannis can alter shots but also has the speed to stay in front of his man on the perimeter. Antetokounmpo must improve on his off-ball awareness and is expected to as he gains experience in higher level leagues. Selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo in the middle of the first round carries a little bit of risk with the selection but he might be worth it considering he has the upside to be a well-rounded player.

3. Shabazz Muhammad | UCLA

HT: 6'6" | WT: 222 | AGE: 20
Projection: Lottery

Analysis: I followed Shabazz Muhammad during his junior and senior years in high school because I thought he was going to be the next star in college basketball. I didn't get what I expected since he was a bit of a disappointment at UCLA. Starting off with an extremely unfortunate scandal surrounding his age, Muhammad missed the first three games of his first collegiate season. Despite averaging 17.9 points, he did so on only 44.3 percent shooting, and he averaged a dismal .8 assists, .1 blocks, and .7 steals per game. These numbers are relatively disappointing but I contribute a lot of this to UCLA's offensive system. Shabazz claims that his former coach Ben Howland held him back. While that seems like an excuse; I agree with him. Muhammad shined most when he was playing fast-paced, getting baskets in transition or spot up shots as the trailer, yet UCLA seldom played that way, sticking to a more half court style of offense that doesn't work for Muhammad. Shabazz struggles off the dribble, rarely goes to his right hand, and is not a good decision maker.

However, Shabazz Muhammad has something that could be quite useful in the NBA: a killer instinct. Shabazz loves basketball and seems to come up big in late game situations. The problem is the fact that many of his weaknesses (selfishness, unwillingness to pass the ball) will get his team in those undesired situations. In spite of the red flags, I rank Muhammad as number three because I believe he has the potential to buy in to a team's system, acquiring the willingness to pass the ball to his teammates and hustle on defense. But will he? I hope so, for his sake.

4. Sergey Karasev | Russia

HT: 6'7" | WT: 197 | AGE: 19
Projection: Mid to Late First Round

Analysis: At only 19 years old, Sergey Karasev has loads of experience playing basketball internationally. He played for Russia in the Olympics and led the PBL in scoring. Karasev's experience has probably led to his mature attitude, which could help him in his transition to the NBA. One aspect of his game that won't change is his athleticism. Karasev has the size to play both shooting guard and small forward, but lacks the strength to compete defensively at the three and is too slow to play against most guards. Sergey's defense is a concern in almost every category considering his lack of athleticism.

His weak physical attributes hurt him on the offensive end too; even in Europe, in both transition and the half court, Karasev was not very effective finishing inside. In a way, he seemed to be restricted to only perimeter jumpers. He's a "below-the-rim" athlete, so I do have concerns about his potential in the NBA. However, at only 19 years old, he possesses some basic attributes to improve his game, such has his terrific shooting release and his passing ability. Karasev is a great shooter from three-point range and that will no doubt carry over to the next level. His passing ability is also well developed for his age; he shows very strong instincts and skill when distributing the ball to his teammates. Sergey almost has some type of point guard skills but he's stuck in a small forward body. Perhaps he can become a point forward of sorts in the NBA if he continues to improve on all of his skills.

5. Glen Rice Jr. | Rio Grande Valley

HT: 6'6" | WT: 211 | AGE: 22
Projection: Late First to Early Second

Analysis: Despite being highly ranked out of high school, Glen Rice Jr. never reached his expectations at Georgia Tech. He was benched during his sophomore season for disciplinary reasons, suspended at the beginning of his junior year for a violation of team rules, and eventually kicked off the team in March of 2012 for something that happened off the court. Rice went on to the D-League and went on to have great success in the playoffs, averaging 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, as the Vipers went on to win the NBA D-League Championship.

Putting aside his character concerns, Glen Rice Jr. has almost all the tools you look for in a small forward. He has fantastic shooting ability from mid and three-point range, attacks the rim with authority, and has a post game as well. Rice also has potential as a playmaker, though he must improve his ball handling. Defensively, he appears to lack interest, saving up his energy for the offensive end. Considering his positive physical tools, the potential is there for him to be a better defender, but he must work at it, just like he must commit to his basketball team, which is something he had a hard time doing at Georgia Tech, and is the reason why there are so many red flags about his character.

6. Reggie Bullock | North Carolina

HT: 6'7" | WT: 200 | AGE: 22
Projection: Late First to Early Second Round

Analysis: Reggie Bullock should make it in the NBA as a difference making role player, specializing as a catch and shoot three-point specialist and a hard-nosed defender. Reggie has one of the most natural looking shots from the perimeter, featuring a quick, compact, and consistent release. He shot 38.2 percent from three as a freshman, but improved to a very good 43.6 percent as a sophomore. Interestingly, Bullock struggles from two-point range, shooting only 41.6 percent this past season. However, his amazing shooting form and ability to shoot off screens should make him a threat once he develops consistent from mid-range. Bullock is a very active defender, fighting hard through screens and for rebounds. What Bullock lacks (elite athleticism, dribbling skills, playmaking ability), he makes up for with traits that will keep him in the NBA for many years to come. Reggie Bullock will never be an All Star, but I believe he is a sure thing to be a contributing member on any team's bench.

7. C.J. Leslie | N.C. State

HT: 6'9" | WT: 209 | AGE: 21
Projection: Early Second Round

Analysis: C.J. Leslie is the definition of a tweener. Leslie lacks the bulk and strength required to play the power forward position but doesn't have the attributes needed to have success at small forward. As of now, I look at Leslie as more of a small forward due to his current skillset. While he lacks perimeter-shooting ability, he can get by offensively with his abilities in transition and on the drive. Leslie is your typical "above-the-rim" athlete and is often the recipient of exciting alley-oop dunks on the fast break. Leslie does a good of getting to the free throw line, averaging 6.6 this past season. However, his 61.2 free throw percentage is worrisome since his perimeter shooting isn't much better, attempting only six shots from three-point land. Leslie lacks confidence and fundamentals in his outside shot, which is the reason there are concerns he can ever make it as a small forward. He gets most of his points from transition, penetrating the basket, and from the post, fitting more of a power forward skillset, but he lacks the size, weighing in at only 209 pounds.

8. Solomon Hill | Arizona

HT: 6'7" | WT: 226 | AGE: 22
Projection: Second Round

Analysis: Solomon Hill is a hard working player, fighting for boards and boxing out on every possession. To make up for his lack of athleticism, Hill plays with a high motor, using his wide body and strength to make plays for his team. From all reports, Hill seems to be a highly intelligent individual, helping his teammates get better, and willing to work hard to improve his own game. Hill lacked a perimeter game came to Arizona but each year he has managed to improve, making himself a threat from three-point range. As a freshman, Hill shot only 18 three-pointers, averaging 22.2 percent, but as a senior he upped his percentage to 39 percent on 146 attempts. Overall, Hill lacks the necessary athleticism and skills to be a starting forward, but if he continues to work hard in the NBA, he could become a solid energy player off the bench for a contending team's roster.

9. James Ennis | Long Beach State

HT: 6'7" | WT: 201 | AGE: 22
Projection: Mid Second Round

Analysis: James Ennis is one of the more interesting potential second round picks in this year's draft. Ennis has only played two years of Division I basketball but had some good success at Long Beach State. He managed to improve his all around game, including his defense and his jump shot. Ennis still looks a bit unnatural when taking a jumper, but he improved his free throw percentage from 71.1 to 83.4 percent and his three-point percentage from 35 to 35.7 percent.

Ennis' improvements in those categories are nice, but the reason he should be selected on draft night is his elite athleticism. Ennis has an incredible vertical, making him a huge threat on the fast break. James Ennis is the type of player that could show up on the "SportsCenter Top Ten" on a nightly basis if he manages to get playing time in the NBA. I probably would've ranked Ennis higher had he performed like this against better competition. Regardless, James Ennis is the type of player that could perform at a similar level no matter the competition, if that's the case; he's a potential sleeper this year.

10. DeShaun Thomas | Ohio State

HT: 6'7" | WT: 220 | AGE: 21
Projection: Mid to Late Second Round

Analysis: The fact DeShaun Thomas won't even give the San Antonio Spurs his phone number says a lot about his character. While this might seem insignificant and silly, it could also signal that he lacks the maturity and intellect to play in the NBA. If he's not willing to give out his phone number, who says he'd be willing to play in the developmental league for a year? Or how about riding the pine, taking time to learn from veteran players? I don't understand it but this concern is just the tip of the iceberg. Thomas is not a good defensive player and often got beat to the basket at the college level, meaning many forwards in the NBA will dominate him. Thomas simply lacks the foot speed and athleticism to stay with small forwards, and the size to defend power forwards. Not to mention the fact he was a terrible defensive rebounder in college. He doesn't box out and lacks the leaping ability to elevate over other players.
Offensively, he was able to use his amazing strength to score at a high rate in the paint, but I'm not sold on this translating to the NBA, where he will face off against bigger and stronger players every night. However, one offensive skill that Thomas will no doubt retain is his perimeter shooting. DeShaun has a great, clean shooting stroke that will carry over to the next level. Despite some of my concerns, DeShaun Thomas deserves to get drafted based on his success at Ohio State, but to expect him to come close to matching that production would be a mistake.


Overall Small Forward Class Analysis

I believe that this small forward class is quite deep. While it lacks star power at the top of the draft, it does run about eight or nine players deep. Though things drop off after the top three, almost every player on this list has a chance to contribute something to an NBA roster, so that is saying something. Even at the bottom of the list, a guy like Solomon Hill or James Ennis could be energy players off the bench if they continue to improve their games. I think Otto Porter is a sure bet to very good role player and potential one or two-time All Star. Reggie Bullock is another guy that has a lot of the same talents as Porter but unfortunately not nearly the amount of upside.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is easily my personal favorite in this class. I think he possesses all the raw tools needed in order to be a good player in the NBA. Will he make it? Well, I don't know, nobody does. But I do like what I see. There is limited footage out there and I wish there was more out there, but in the two to three full games that I have watched pieces of, he has a lot of raw talent. Shabazz Muhammad is another player to watch for in the NBA. Like Giannis, he has many of the tools needed to succeed in the NBA -- but he didn't do it like he should've in college -- which could mean things won't translate to the NBA either.

Like many players coming into the league in recent years, this draft features many tweener forwards. Some weren't included on this list because I felt they were more of a shooting guard or power forward, but on this list a few names that come to mind are: C.J. Leslie, Solomon Hill, Shabazz Muhammad, Glen Rice Jr., and Sergey Karasev. Leslie and Hill could also play the four, and Muhammad, Rice, and Karasev could all start their careers at the two. It's interesting to see such a high frequency of players come in without a true position. Sometimes being a tweener means a player is more of a liability than it does a versatile asset to a team.


What do you think of the small forwards in the draft this year? Please comment below or follow and tweet @Kevin__OConnor with your thoughts. Also be sure to let me know what players you'd like to see profiled next! 2013 NBA Draft Player Profiles:

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