This draft is deep at the power forward spot — four of these players are likely to go in the top 10, including possibly the No. 1 slot, and the national player of the year in college has a few guys in front of him.
What you’ll notice is most of these guys are more the modern power forward — they can score in the paint with power but also have a good midrange game and use their athleticism to run the floor. They blend in better with a positionless style of play.
1. Jabari Parker, Freshman, Duke, 6’8, 241
Parker may eventually move to the 3 after a few seasons, but for now, he will be his most effective as a 4 who can play inside or out. He is a tough match-up for defenders at either forward spot, having ballhandling and footwork at his size way beyond his years. He is very good facing up out of the low post or finding holes in the defense caused by penetration. While he is capable of hitting NBA-range threes, Parker showed a tendency to settle for guarded long-range shots instead of playing where he was more effective. He is a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, though he is a below-average defender, even when he puts in the effort. Parker will be the freshman most likely to make a quick impact for his new team.
2. Julius Randle, Freshman, Kentucky, 6’9, 250
Randle is a beast around the basket, using his body as well as anyone in this draft to clear space for good shots. He has strong footwork, and though he prefers to overpower players, he does show some nice moves when he gets the ball deep in the post, along with excellent shooting touch around the basket. Randle does need to continue to work on using his right hand, both handling the ball and shooting around the basket, as he goes almost exclusively to his left and defenses caught on later in the season. He’s an average defender, but he uses his body well to clean up on both the offensive and defensive boards.
3. Noah Vonleh, Freshman, Indiana, 6’9, 247
Vonleh has good length, athleticism and developing skill, but he still has to improve significantly on both ends of the floor before he can become a factor in the NBA. He needs to be more aggressive when he gets the ball around the basket, and though he has shown an ability to knock down jumpers, he needs to show he can be a consistent threat in the post. Vonleh has potential as a rim protector, but he gets taken out of plays defensively by opponents who out work him around the basket. Not even 19 years old, Vonleh has plenty of potential, but whatever team takes him will need to put in a lot of development work with him.
4. Doug McDermott Senior, Creighton, 6’8, 218
The best scorer in this draft class, or probably any draft class the past few years, McDermott will give any team an instant boost in offense with his ability to put up points from anywhere on the floor. McDermott is a career 46% shooter from three-point range, and many of the shots he was hitting would have been good from beyond the NBA arc. He is also capable of getting position in the high or low posts and making strong moves to the basket. McDermott is a capable rebounder and though he will never likely be an all-defensive player, concerns about his ability to defend in the NBA are likely exaggerated.
5. Adreian Payne, Senior, Michigan State, 6’10, 239
Payne was finally able to put together his athletic ability and skill this past season to show everyone what kind of player he can really be. He is a capable scorer in the post and the perimeter, and with a little more freedom on the offensive end, he has the potential to be a mismatch for many defenders. Payne needs to be more aggressive on the boards and when defending in the lane area, but his length helps him to alter shots, even if he isn’t blocking them. Even though he is 23 years old already, there is still some room for his game to grow before he likely hits his ceiling.
6. Aaron Gordon, Freshman, Arizona, 6’9, 220
While he is limited skill-wise so far, Gordon can be a relentless worker on the offensive end and can create a lot of opportunities on the offensive boards. He is at his best when he plays around the basket or gets out in transition, but he spends too much time out on the perimeter, either trying to create off the dribble or shoot jumpers, neither of which he is very good at. Gordon is extremely tough on defense and has the ability to guard multiple positions. Right now, he relies on his athleticism too much, but at 18 years old, there is a lot of long-term potential as he continues to develop.
7. Dario Saric, 20 years old, Croatia, 6’10, 223
Saric is an extremely skilled offensive player, able to handle the ball well for his size, showing good court vision and passing ability, and the ability to create scoring chances in the halfcourt or transition, though he needs to continue to work on his jumper. Defensively, he is going to have problems adjusting to the NBA as he needs to get stronger to defend power forwards, but lacking the lateral quickness or skill to defend small forwards. He is an intriguing prospect who can thrive in the right system, but he may need another year or two in Europe before he is ready to come over and compete in the NBA.
8. Jarnell Stokes, Junior, Tennessee, 6’8, 263
Stokes is a power forward in the classic sense, using his big body well to clear space around the basket on both ends of the floor. He is a skilled offensive player in the lane area, and he is able to absorb contact and still finish at the basket, even against longer players. One of the nation’s best rebounders, Stokes does a good job sealing off opponents, but he will also outwork everyone to make sure he secures the missed shot. Stokes moves well for his size on defense, though he is at his best when defending the post.
9. Clint Capela, 20 years old, Switzerland, 6’11, 220
Capela is coming off his breakout season in France’s Pro A League. He has good length and moves well for his size, but he needs to become much tougher before he is ready for the NBA. Capela is a good finisher around the basket and he can be a force on the offensive boards. He also has potential as a good post defender with his ability to move his feet well and defend the rim. Being outplayed in the Nike Hoop Summit showed he isn’t ready yet to play here, but if he continues developing at his current rate, he should be good to go in two to three years.
10. Khem Birch, Junior, UNLV, 6’9, 209
Birch is athletic and a skilled defender, though his offense still has a long way to go to catch up. His offense is mostly limited to offensive put backs and transition buckets, and he runs the floor as well as any big man in this class. Rebounding and shot-blocking is what he excels at, and he should be able to add a defensive presence off the bench rather quickly for teams, though he does need to add strength to compete effectively at the NBA level.