The small forwards may be the best all-around group in this year’s draft class, having a nice mix of skill and athleticism, along with some very strong defensive players. Teams looking to fill a spot on the wing will have their choice of many different players who can fit varied systems. No matter where many in this group end up next season, there are some potential impact players.
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1. Andrew Wiggins, Freshman, Kansas, 6’8, 197
Wiggins dealt with overblown expectations all season and he still managed to put together a very impressive season. His next-level athleticism is what wows people, but he is also a very skilled player on both ends of the floor. Concerns about having the “tenacity” factor is probably overblown, and he handles himself maturely on and off the floor. Wiggins is still the #1 overall prospect in this draft and he will make an instant impact wherever he goes, while still having plenty of upside to justify a top pick.
2. Rodney Hood, Sophomore, Duke, 6’8, 208
Hood had a very strong season in his one year at Duke, showing the ability to score in a variety of ways, including range beyond the NBA three-point line. Hood shot almost 43% from three-point range and was often the Blue Devils’ only consistent perimeter threat. He isn’t a very strong defensive player, but he has the length and athleticism to improve if he works at it.
3. T.J. Warren, Sophomore, North Carolina State, 6’8, 220
One of the best scorers in the country, Warren is a terror in the mid-range area. He does a great job finding holes in the defense and getting off good, quick shots. Warren also has the body to score around the basket, and the athleticism to get out in transition. Long-range perimeter shooting is his biggest offensive weakness right now, but the tools are there for him to improve sooner rather than later. He’s an average defensive player, but he has no trouble playing physical defense in the post if necessary.
4. Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA, 6’8, 230
Figuring out where to put Anderson on this list, or even on the small forward list at all, was as tough a decision as there was. Anderson was UCLA’s point guard this past season and he has remarkable vision and passing ability. He uses his body and ballhandling skills to get to the basket, even without very good speed. Anderson improved his jumper immensely this past season, and he can be a very good option in pick-and-pop situations. While not a great defender, Anderson uses his length well to make plays and to rebound very well. A smart coach will find ways to use Anderson at different spots on the floor to maximize his ability.
5. K.J. McDaniels, Junior, Clemson, 6’6, 196
McDaniels was known mainly for his defensive ability and his athleticism, but he has become a good offensive threat over the past few seasons. Though he has improved as a perimeter shooter, he is inconsistent, and is much more effective looking to get to the basket off the dribble or hitting the offensive boards. McDaniels can guard multiple positions and his 2.7 blocks per game is a remarkable number for a 6’6 player. He would thrive in a system that likes to push the ball quickly up the floor.
6. Glenn Robinson III, Sophomore, Michigan, 6’7, 211
Robinson, the son of a former #1 overall pick, didn’t have the big season many expected after a strong freshman campaign, but he did show improvement in some key areas and will likely continue to get better in the near future. Robinson is at his best when making strong cuts to the rim or looking to attack off the dribble within 10-15 feet. His time at Michigan has taught him the value of spacing well, and he doesn’t force many bad shots. His perimeter shooting needs to improve, but he has shown some consistency in the mid-range area. He is athletic enough to guard out on the perimeter and he has the strength to play more physically if needed.
7. Cleanthony Early, Senior, Wichita State, 6’7, 209
Early improved his game in almost every way from his junior to senior season, and he was a major part of the Shockers’ team which made the Final Four two seasons ago, and lost just one game this past year. Early has lost weight since the season and is showing more quickness, but he was at his best when he was using his body on offense to create mismatches. He has developed into a semi-consistent perimeter threat and he should have little trouble adjusting to the NBA three-point line. Early can be a very good defender on the perimeter, using his strength to overpower other forwards, and his added quickness should help him guard other NBA small forwards.
8. Jerami Grant, Sophomore, Syracuse, 6’8, 214
Grant is still very raw skill-wise, but he is long and athletic with a lot of potential. On offense, he is at his best within 8 to 10 feet of the basket, though he started to show a decent mid-range jumper this past season. He can be a terror on the offensive boards, using his length well to get to balls or keeping them alive for teammates. His impact early on will likely come on the defensive end where his long arms allow him to alter many shots and his athletic ability will provide coaches some flexibility on who he guards.
9. DeAndre Daniels, Junior, Connecticut, 6’8, 196
This past season, Daniels finally started to show some of the promise many expected of him with his high school reputation. He is a good athlete with length that can make an impact on both ends of the floor. He has improved his shooting from most spots on the floor, though he is often plagued with poor shot selection. Daniels is an average defender at best, though his length allows him to challenge shots inside and out. Daniels is still learning many facets of the game and it may be a few years before he has any kind of impact at the NBA level, but he is worth a shot for a team with strong development.
10. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, 21 years old, Delaware 87ers, 6’6, 205
The brother of Milwaukee’s first round pick last year, and fan-favorite, Giannis, Antetokounmpo took the D-League route this season to work on his game. Like his brother, he is still raw in most areas of his game, but he is very good athlete and always looks to improve his game. His reputation has gotten a bump due to his brother’s potential, but he was really just an average D-League player this past season, and will likely need to spend another year or two there before he is close to showing he is an NBA player.