Raphielle Johnson

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Draft Power Forward Rankings

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


While there’s no lack of talented big men who stand to be taken in the top half of the 2018 NBA Draft lottery, the majority of those players are centers. One exception to this is Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr., who after a good freshman season stands to be a top five pick next month. Outside of Jackson the intrigue at power forward largely lies with four-year players coming off of highly productive collegiate careers, and a freshman in Villanova’s Omari Spellman who has a tough decision to make when it comes to remaining in the draft. Below are thoughts on some of the top power forwards in this year’s draft pool.

 

 

Marvin Bagley III, Freshman, Duke, 6’11”, 234.0 - Bagley was not measured at the combine but he did meet with teams as part of the interview process. An incredibly gifted forward who averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, Bagley showed off the ability to score at all three levels and attack defenses off the dribble in his lone season at Duke. Shooting better than 61 percent from the field overall Bagley was also a near 40 percent shooter from three-point range, and his work on the offensive glass made the freshman a threat even when he wasn’t the one shooting the ball on a given possession. While there’s still room for polish offensively, the defensive end of the floor will likely be the focus for Bagley as he prepares for the NBA. Bagley has the wingspan and athleticism needed to have a greater impact defensively than he did at Duke, were he (and his teammates) lacked consistency before head coach Mike Krzyzewski made the full-on switch to a 2-3 zone. While the focus remains on Ayton and Doncic when it comes to who will be taken first overall, don’t sleep on Bagley especially if he can perform well in his pre-draft workouts.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Freshman, Michigan State, 6’11.25”, 236.0 - Among the power forwards in this draft, Jackson, who not only was the Big Ten’s best freshman but the league’s best defender as well, is the crown jewel. Measuring out at just over 6-foot-11 in shoes with a 7’5.25” wingspan, Jackson has the physical measurements that a team looks for in a power forward. Jackson did not participate in the strength/agility drills at the combine, which is to be expected of a projected high lottery pick, but there’s no lack of examples of his high-level athleticism in Michigan State game footage. Jackson defended well around the basket and on the perimeter in ball-screen situations, something that will be asked of him at the next level. Offensively Jackson showed off the ability to step away from the basket, shooting nearly 40 percent from three on just under three attempts per game. If anything, it can be argued that Jackson, who averaged 6.6 shot attempts per game, was not used enough by the Spartans offensively. At this stage in the process it’s tough to see Jackson slipping out of the top five, a status he’ll have the opportunity to strengthen (if not improve upon) over the next month.

Robert Williams, Sophomore, Texas A&M, 6’9”, 237.0 - Williams did not attend last week’s combine, and he’s a player projected to be a mid-first round selection with the possibility of working his way into the back end of the lottery. Williams still has strides to make offensively, but he’s a high-level athlete who rebounds the basketball both within and outside of his area and also averaged 2.6 blocks per game. The athleticism and defensive abilities are what got Williams on the NBA draft radar early last season, with Williams deciding not to even test the waters, and those are the calling cards that make him an intriguing prospect this time around as well. Landing with a team that won’t need Williams to be a focal point offensively and allowing him to do the majority of his work on the offensive boards and in transition is likely the best path for the young big to take as he continues to fine-tune his game on that end of the floor.

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Omari Spellman, Freshman, Villanova, 6’9.25”, 253.8 - Like teammate Donte DiVincenzo, Spellman is currently going through the pre-draft process without an agent, thus keeping open the possibility of returning to Villanova. On a team loaded with offensive options Spellman produced solid numbers during his freshman season, averaging 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game and shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 43.3 percent from three and 70.0 percent from the foul line. Being forced to sit out a season by the NCAA helped Spellman with his physical build, but the body fat measurement of 13.75 percent was on the high end when compared to the other power forwards tested in Chicago. Spellman did participate in the 5-on-5 action, and after shooting just 4-for-12 from the field in Thursday’s opener he was better on Friday, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Spellman’s skill set is such that with a good run of team workouts he could cement a spot in the first round. He’s going to have a tough decision to make leading up to the draft withdrawal deadline, and there have already been reports of he (and DiVincenzo) leaning towards keeping their names in the pool.

Chimezie Metu, Junior, USC, 6’9.5”, 219.6 - Metu has been one of the best big men in the Pac-12 over the last two seasons, improving offensively throughout his three seasons at USC. This past season he accounted for 15.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, shooting better than 52 percent from the field and showing a bit more comfort stepping away from the basket. Metu isn’t a lights-out three-point shooter by any stretch of the imagination, shooting 30.0 percent on 40 attempts, but the willingness to take those shots (three total attempts in his first two seasons) may mean that he can develop into a more dependable jump-shooter in pick and pop situations with more skill work. If he can show in workouts over the next month both greater consistency and comfort working away from the basket, that would go a long way in helping Metu draft-wise given the fact that at his size he’d be a smaller center at the NBA level.  

Kevin Hervey, Senior, UT-Arlington, 6’7.75”, 211.6 - While Hervey may not be in the class of Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. when it comes to his draft prospects, he is in a similar boat from a medical standpoint. Hervey underwent multiple knee procedures during what had been a productive career at UT-Arlington, and that combined with his size may give some teams pause when it comes to selecting him. What helps Hervey is that his measurements were good, including a wingspan of 7’3.5” that was fourth-longest among power forwards. Moreover, there’s no denying the fact that he was a productive college player, averaging 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this past season and winning Sun Belt Player of the Year honors the prior season. There is some work to be done when it comes to his perimeter shooting accuracy (33.9 percent from three), but Hervey is a willing shooter when it comes to the mid-and long-range areas. If Hervey gets good feedback from teams when it comes to his medical testing, that would go a long way towards ensuring that his name is called on June 21.

Ray Spalding, Junior, Louisville, 6’10.25”, 215.4 - Spalding was a late addition to the combine, and he had the second-longest wingspan among power forwards at 7’4.75”. Spalding didn’t post the best numbers with regards to the strength and agility portion of the testing, with a max vertical of just 32.0 inches, but because of the height and wingspan could be a player teams consider in the second round. After two seasons in which he served as a reserve, Spalding moved into a starting role this past season at Louisville, averaging 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the field. Offensively Spalding is most comfortable working 15 feet and in, and he made just over 39 percent of his two-point jump shots according to hoop-math.com. Spalding’s path to a spot in the NBA will likely hinge upon his activity level both on the boards and defensively, because there’s still work to be done offensively.

Yante Maten, Senior, Georgia, 6’8.5”, 246.2 - Maten had a highly productive four years at Georgia, where he went from being a reserve as a freshman to being a key cog in the Bulldog attack in each of the three seasons that followed. As a senior Maten averaged 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, shooting 46.4 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from three and 80.1 percent from the foul line, nearly doubling the number of three-pointers attempted from his junior (43) to senior (85) seasons. Further, Maten doesn’t have to have the ball in his hands to make an impact offensively, as he ranked among the top offensive rebounders in the SEC with an average of 3.5 per game. He may not have posted great measurements and strength/agility numbers at the combine, but Maten’s body of work will help his cause when it comes to being selected in next month’s draft. At worst he’s a guy who won’t have to wait long for summer league opportunities should he go undrafted.



Others to Watch: Kostas Antetokounmpo, Dayton; Justin Jackson, Maryland; Alize Johnson, Missouri State; Billy Preston, Kansas (not cleared to play).



Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.
Email :Raphielle Johnson



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